Acne has plagued generations of people, from embarrassed teens to adults who still suffer from chronic acne or scarring. Fortunately, acne has come a long way since the days of mixing honey and sulfur as was done back in ancient Greece.
Modern medical technology has produced an impressive assortment of non-surgical treatments and therapies that can help defeat the plague of bumpy skin and acne scarring. Let's dive in!
The History of Acne Treatments
Back in the Bronze Era, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) used temperature-lowering herbs (such as echinacea and burdock) as an acne remedy, since it was believed at that time that acne was the result of excess heat that made its way into the bloodstream. TCM also prescribed peach blossoms for curing acne-damaged skin.
Meanwhile, ancient Egyptians used patchouli oil to support the health of skin tissue as a way to relieve acne. Sour milk was also used as an exfoliant to fight back against breakouts, as well as signs of aging. Like the ancient Greeks, the ancient Romans believed that sulfur was a great way to treat acne; specifically, by taking a hot bath in water mixed with sulfur in order to clear skin pores.
Much later, in 1902, American scientist W. A. Pusay discovered that concentrated X-rays could be used to help manage the bacteria and overactive glands that contribute to acne breakouts. Obviously, this treatment fell out of fashion when it was discovered that X-rays can cause cancer. However, a lighter form of light emission is used nowadays to help treat acne (more on that below!).
By the 1970s and '80s, creams and oral medications such as Retinol-A and Accutane were developed to help heal severe acne sufferers.
Since the 1970s, several successful topical treatments have been developed for acne treatment. As we've already said, Retinol-A was a big development when it came onto the market. Other topical and oral retinoids have since been produced.
These products share one thing in common: exfoliating the skin to prevent the buildup of dead skin cells within your hair follicles. Topical retinoids are available in either cream or gel form and can be applied directly to the areas affected by acne.
Another common topical agent for treating acne is benzoyl peroxide, which is used as an antiseptic that kills acne-causing bacteria on the skin's surface. Benzoyl peroxide is also helpful for fighting against inflammation caused by acne, as well as cutting down on the amount of blackheads or whiteheads you might develop.
Like with topical retinoids, benzoyl peroxide can be purchased as either a gel or a cream. Both of these treatments can create a sense of dry skin or stinging.
Topical antibiotics are another acne treatment popular with modern-day acne sufferers. These lotions or gels also help kill acne-causing bacteria. Acne-fighting medication is also available in the form of oral antibiotics. In either case, acne sufferers are given specific instructions about when to stop taking the medication in order to prevent the bacteria from developing antibiotic resistance.
Finally, azelaic acid can be used as an alternative topical agent if the above treatments cause too much skin irritation during use. It clears out dead skin cells (like retinoids) while killing bacteria (like benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics).
Chemical peels have become increasingly common for treating specific skin issues, as well as improving the overall appearance of a person's skin. For instance, chemical peels can treat skin conditions ranging from acne scars and spots to freckles and wrinkles.
Unlike topical treatments, chemical peels need to be performed by a dermatological professional. Depending on the severity of your acne, you could be prescribed either a mild, moderate, or deep chemical peel.
A chemical peel works by a chemical solution being applied directly to your skin in order to cause skin blistering. As the skin blisters, the top layer peels off and exposes the younger skin beneath it. While chemical peels can be highly effective, they do come with some downsides. For example, you'll need to keep your skin bandaged for up to a week after the treatment to avoid any skin infections.
However, despite these somewhat adverse effects, the results of chemical peels can last for a year or even several years, depending on the selected depth of the given treatment.
Light-Based and Laser Therapies
Medical and scientific experts have developed a broad array of lasers and light-based acne treatments in recent decades. The beauty of this variety is that different forms of lasers and light therapies can be used to treat acne conditions of varying degrees.
Light-Based Acne Therapy
Light-based therapy, also known as photodynamic treatment, uses high-energy light to reduce or outright eliminate the symptoms of many acne ailments. Optical devices are used to provide treatment in a safer way than the X-ray treatments pioneered at the beginning of the 20th century.
Credible medical studies suggest that one of the theories behind the success of light-based therapy is that certain organic compounds in the skin called porphyrins absorb energy from certain light sources that then create a bacteria-killing effect that eliminates the bacteria causing your acne.
Laser Therapy for Acne
Similar to light-based therapy, laser treatments for acne are intended to treat acne symptoms in a safe and relatively gentle fashion. However, the light-based energy of laser treatment is strong enough to remove the hardened outer layer of skin (which allows fresh new skin to develop) while stimulating the production of collagen in the layers of skin beneath the surface.
Laser therapy is effective not only for acne but also for removing wrinkles, fine lines, and other signs of aging. However, light therapies that use a high enough energy level can make the skin sensitive for a few days after treatment.
Contact Altaire Clinic Today to Schedule a Consult
Want to cut through the fads and receive acne treatment that will actually work and provide lasting results? Altaire Clinic's full staff of board-certified medical professionals, including dermatological specialists, is here to help! Contact us today to schedule an appointment and find out how much we can do for you!