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Best Home Treatments for Acne

Updated on December 5, 2012

The Scarlet Pimple

Acne is a skin condition that most people are familiar with.

Even if we haven’t suffered with it ourselves, the chances are that we know somebody who has. Acne is most commonly associated with teenagers, but people of any age can get it – from babies to octogenarians.

Symptoms can range from a few simple pimples to vast patches of angry red bumps and affects mainly the back, shoulders, face and neck.

An acne outbreak can be very distressing for teenagers, because it can be unsightly and very easily affects a sufferer’s self-esteem, especially in those developing teenage years.

Contrary to popular belief, eating greasy food and chocolate does not contribute to an acne outbreak. Acne occurs when the body’s sebaceous glands produce too much oil. Sebaceous glands are located in the follicles or pores of the skin and, when they overproduce, the pores get clogged up and bacteria starts to grow.

There are two main types of acne: non-inflammatory acne, resulting in whiteheads and blackheads and inflammatory acne, which can produce pustules, nodules and cysts.

1. Non-inflammatory acne – the two types of acne are really quite self-explanatory so, therefore, this first kind of acne produces whiteheads and blackheads without any inflammation.

a. Whiteheads are formed when the blockage of bacteria and sebum remain beneath the skin. Sometimes they are too small to be seen, but otherwise appear as small white spots on the skin.

b. Blackheads happen when the blockage breaks through to the surface of the skin. The blackness is not dirt, but oxidised melanin, the skin’s pigment that is contained within the sebum. Blackheads are generally longer lasting than whiteheads.

2. Inflammatory acne – this is probably the more upsetting of the two and can result in painful, unsightly flare-ups in the form of papules, pustules, nodules and cysts.

a. Papules occur when something causes the follicular wall to collapse or break and the area gets inflamed when white blood cells spring into action.

b. In time these papules develop into pustules when the white blood cells make it to the surface of the skin. A more common name for these pustules is ‘pimple’ or zits.

c. When the white blood cells don’t make the trip to the surface of the skin because the follicle or pore collapses at the bottom, then nodules or cysts may form causing greater inflammation. Nodules are large red bumps that can be painful to the touch. Cysts are severe inflammatory reactions and materialise as large pus-filled lesions

To avoid the inconvenience of inflammatory acne, a good word of advice would be to leave whiteheads and blackheads alone. Squeezing or picking them could lead to the collapse of the follicular wall and that will, of course, lead to inflammation.

Help Is At Hand

So what triggers the overproduction of sebum in the follicles and how can it be prevented or treated? It has been noted that acne can run in families, but other things that trigger off an acne outbreak include:

· Environment – Pollutants in the environment could be enough to trigger an acne outbreak

· Stress – A person’s well-being has significant effects on their susceptibility to certain conditions such as acne. Emotional and physical stress could be a contributory factor to acne outbreaks

· Cosmetics – These may aggravate the condition particularly if a person is prone to acne.

· Fatigue – This is another form of stress and when a person is run down, their bodily functions are not working at optimal levels.

As yet there is no cure for acne; however, there are many ways that it can be treated, not least of which is personal hygiene. Looking after the skin can help to prevent acne outbreaks happening.

A popular home remedy is to use magnesium sulfate (epsom salt). Salt, in general, has been very popular over the years for treating acne because of its low cost and the fact that it is readily available without the need for a prescription. Epsom salt is believed to be better than table salt or sea salt because of its chemical composition. Whereas sea salt and table salt derive from sodium, Epsom salt comes from magnesium which is beneficial to the promotion of better health.

There is little or no research into the benefits of Epsom salts on acne, but popular anecdotal evidence suggests that it works. Some theories put forward on how Epsom salts work in the treatment of acne include:

· There is less magnesium in the diet in modern times and Epsom salts may serve to bridge that gap in building skin and body health.

· Bacteria love dead skin and Epsom salts are believed to be good for exfoliating reducing the likelihood of infection.

· Epsom salts may be instrumental in reducing inflammation by helping to create enzymes that are effective against inflammation.

· As a salt, Epsom salt has the capacity to remove moisture from your skin and removing excess oils.

· It also has the effect of removing moisture from the bacteria that cause acne, killing them and preventing them from entering the pores.

Epsom salts can be used when bathing or mixed with water or a moisturiser and applied directly to the affected area. Care should be taken not to make contact with the eyes or broken skin as this could be quite painful.

With little or no research into Epsom salts as a treatment for acne, its effectiveness in that role can neither be confirmed nor denied. Because Epsom salts are readily available, inexpensive and free from side effects, it is possibly worth giving it a try to see if it works on your acne. All skin types vary and what works on one person may not necessarily work on another. With nothing to lose it is worth trying and, you never know, it might just work for you.

More Scientific Approach

It’s all very well trying out remedies that are only effective by hearsay, but some people may be more interested in following the advice of dermatologists in the treatment of their acne; after all, dermatologists know about how to treat the skin. Recommendations from dermatologists are likely to include Hydrogen Peroxide for acne which works in several ways to tackle acne outbreaks.

You are probably more familiar with peroxide as a bleaching agent for hairdressers, but it is very useful in the fight against acne because it not only attacks the bacteria that causes the outbreaks, but it also cleanses the skin and unclogs the pores that were the source of the problem.

When using Hydrogen Peroxide to treat acne it is important to remember to dilute it down to no stronger than 3 per cent. It is a bleaching agent and higher concentrations could have adverse effects on the skin. The diluted solution will act on the skin’s surface as an exfoliator and has antiseptic properties against bacteria, because it breaks down on contact with the skin into oxygen and water. The bacteria concerned are anaerobic and oxygen is like a kiss of death to it.

If you have particularly dry skin you may experience some mild side effects such as dry skin, irritation, burning or itching. Diluting the Hydrogen Peroxide solution further, to about 2.5 per cent, may eliminate these side effects.

What’s The Verdict?

Acne is an unfortunate fact of life for many people, especially teenagers, which can have a huge impact on self-esteem, self-confidence and general psychological well-being. It is brought on by excess sebaceous oil being produced and clogging up the follicles. The condition can be worsened by the irresistible urge people have to squeeze and pick at the whiteheads and blackheads that form, risking collapse of the follicle and leading to full blown zits, pimples, nodules and cysts.

Events that can trigger an outbreak of acne include hormone imbalance, feeling run down, too much stress and environmental conditions.

Looking after the skin by washing regularly, cleansing and moisturising may lead to prevention of acne and although the condition is not curable, it is relatively easy to treat.

The use of Epsom Salts to treat acne may not have been clinically proven, but there is a vast amount of anecdotal evidence that suggests that it is effective and with easy availability, low cost and few if any side effects, it is an obvious choice for people to consider when they are looking for something cheap and effective to control their acne, particularly if this is the first occurrence of the condition.

The use of peroxides in the treatment of acne is well known and, indeed, Benzoyl peroxide features in many proprietary acne treatments. However, Hydrogen Peroxide is not used in commercially available remedies and so it is necessary to visit your pharmacist to purchase a bottle to start off with. If the Hydrogen Peroxide you purchased is stronger than 3 per cent it will be necessary to dilute it further in order to avoid adverse effects on your skin.

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