Nov 11

Using Benzoyl Peroxide to Treat Acne

Acne is caused by many things, but the main physical mechanism of acne creation is that pores are clogged by oil, bacteria then flourishes in the clogged pore, and that creates swelling and redness. By attacking the root physical causes of acne, Benzoyl Peroxide is one of the most effective, and most used ingredients for treating acne.

What is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Benzoyl Peroxide is one of the most popular active ingredients used to fight acne. It is in almost every acne fighting system available. Many times it is combined with salicylic acid for maximum results. Benzoyl Peroxide can also help clear up minor acne scars, and speed up the removal of marks left on skin healing from pimples.

How does it work?

Benzoyl Peroxide is available in concentrations from 2.5% to 10%, the highest percentage obviously being the strongest. It works as a peeling agent, this means that it dries out skin on the top layer, accelerating production and replacement of skin cells. This helps get rid of dead skin cells that are clogging pores, and replaces them with healthy skin that is less prone to being clogged, and therefore prone to acne.

By increasing skin cell replacement, Benzoyl Peroxide is effective at keeping acne breakouts from returning. If skin cells stay fresh and healthy, pores have less chance to become clogged and infected. Another reason that Benzoyl Peroxide is so effective as an acne fighting ingredient is that it is also a antimicrobial; antimicrobials kill and reduce concentrations of bacteria. This means that while Benzoyl Peroxide is helping to produce new skin cells, it is also keeping them clear of bacteria, another of the major causes of acne.

What are side effects? And how can I avoid them?

One of the main side effects of using a product with Benzoyl Peroxide in it is drying of the skin. Because, as mentioned above, Benzoyl Peroxide is a peeling agent, this is a natural reaction that skin has to application of skin treatments with Benzoyl Peroxide. Dead skin cells are being replaced with new ones, and this can contribute to feelings of dryness and tightness in the skin. Skin acclimates to Benzoyl Peroxide within about a week, and most feeling of dryness goes away during that time. There are several ways to lessen the discomfort caused by skin’s reaction to Benzoyl Peroxide. One way is to start with a product that has a lower concentration of Benzoyl Peroxide ; many doctors and dermatologists recommend starting with a 2.5% concentration, and then working up to higher concentrations as skin becomes accustomed to the treatment. Additionally, starting off using a product with Benzoyl Peroxide in it once a day, rather than twice, and working up to more frequent use, can also help skin feel less dry. Finally, using an oil free lotion can help skin feel more comfortable as it adjusts to Benzoyl Peroxide.

Be aware, that in some cases, people with sensitive or dry skin can have severe negative reactions to Benzoyl Peroxide. If skin is extremely sore, or a rash occurs, discontinue use of the product. While some discomfort and peeling is normal, pain is not, and this means either that the concentration of Benzoyl Peroxide in the product is to high, or skin is too delicate to handle Benzoyl Peroxide at all. This is not common, but can occur, and it is important that people who are having severe reactions stop using products that cause them; using products that irritate the skin can make acne worse.

Should I look for a product with Benzoyl Peroxide in it?

Absolutely. Keep in mind, there is initial discomfort for most people who use a product with Benzoyl Peroxide in it, but it goes away after a week, and results are usually excellent. There is a reason that Benzoyl Peroxide is so popular, and it is because it is effective. For people with less severe acne, or sensitive or dry skin, starting out with a concentration of 2.5% is recommended to lessen reaction and discomfort. For people with extreme cases of acne, or very oily skin, 5% may be a good starting place. Finally, keep in mind, most acne products take 2 to 3 weeks to truly show results, so do not be discouraged if results are not immediate. Benzoyl Peroxide has an excellent track record, and chances are, it will help you get rid of your acne.

Nov 11

Retin-A Micro: The Cure to Your Acne?

If you have severe acne, that does not respond to over the counter medications, your doctor may prescribe you a stronger acne medication than available in stores. One of those medications is Retin-A Micro. Retin-A Micro is a retinoid, which is a form of vitamin A. (Another succesful acne treating drug that is part of the retinoid family is Accutane.) Retina-A is a gel that is spread over the skin once a day, after you have washed your face, usually in the evening.

How does Retin-A Micro work?

It works on increasing the rate of skin cell turn over, which helps keep pores clear of dead skin cells, and reducing the chance of them becoming clogged and turning into acne. Retina-A also gets rid of not just the top layer of dead skin cells, but increases production deep inside the top layers of skin. This helps not just get rid of current acne, but prevents future outbreaks from occurring.

Retin-A also helps collagen synthesis; creating new collagen helps to reduce the appearance of acne scars, and improves the smoothness of skin. There are many laser therapies that are focused on causing the body to create and replace damaged collagen as a way to remove and diminish acne scars, and Retin-A works on the same principle.

What are side effects of Retin-A Micro?

Please be aware, if you have sensitive skin, this is probably not the acne treatment for you. I used it when I was about seventeen, when my skin was at its oiliest and worst. Within two days of use I had what looked like a sunburn on my skin, and it was bright red. By the third day, it hurt to touch my face, and it was swollen. I have very sensitive skin, and most products that people have no problems with are torture to my skin. So be aware that if you have delicate skin, this may not be the best product for you, or you may want to ask your doctor to start you off with the lowest concentration.

As with most acne treatments, you may see your acne worsening after the first few weeks of use. This is normal, your skin is changing, and Retin-A in particular is increasing the rate of skin cell production, which is pushing dead and older skin cells to the surface. As your skin is releasing toxins, it has nowhere to go but out, so even though it doesn’t feel that way, increased breakouts mean that the treatment is working.

Your skin, even if it is not as sensitive as mine, will probably be increasingly sensitive, and you will want to avoid sunlight; a high SPF sunscreen or lotion is recommended. Additionally, dryness is a regular side effect, so you may want to stop using other medications with drying agents in them (such as salicylic acid or sulfur) to keep from drying your skin out. Using a good oil free moisturizer will help lessen irritation and prevent drying from becoming excessive.

More severe reactions (such as mine) include blistering, crusting and swelling of the skin. If any of these things occur, stop using Retin-A and contact your doctor. Mild discomfort is normal, severe pain and swelling are not.

Will it work for me?

Barring a severe reaction, the answer is probably yes. The great thing about Retin-A is that not only does it prevent future acne, but because of the aforementioned increased collagen production due to using it, it also helps reduce the appearance of acne scars. While the first few weeks can be rough to get through with drying and breakouts, if you are able to make it through, people report amazing results.

Nov 11

Could Differin Make the Difference With Your Acne?

If you have severe acne, that does not respond to over the counter medications, no matter how strong, you doctor may choose to try a prescription medication to treat your acne. One of the prescription medications they might choose is Differin. Differin (also known as Adapalene) is a gel medication that is a form of Vitamin A, and is also a retinoid. Retinoids are known for changing the rate of skin cell growth and replacement. By increasing the rate of skin cell turnover, retinoids can help cure and prevent acne.

Differin is a gel formula that is applied daily, after cleaning your face, at night. It should only be applied as prescribed by your doctor or dermatologist. Applying too much, or too often, will irritate skin and make acne worse, not improve it faster.

What does Differin do?

Differin, as mentioned, is focused on improving skin cell replacement. By speeding up the replacement of skin cells, dead skin cells are sloughed off, keeping pores from becoming clogged. Not only does Differin speed up skin cell replacement, it also has exfoliating properties, which work bacteria and impurities out of the skin. This helps prevent bacteria and impurities from staying in pores, and therefore keeps pores from clogging. Differin also has anti-inflammatory properties, that help reduce swelling of current acne. By changing the way that skin replaces itself, Differin will help prevent future breakouts from happening, and lead to clear skin.

What are the side effects?

One of the largest side effects of Differin is causing break outs to become worse, at least at first. This is actually a sign that the acne treatment is working. Because Differin causes skin cells to replace themselves faster, and has exfoliating properties, dead skin cells rise to the surface faster than before. This can cause flaky, dry skin. Impurities are being forced out of pores and are also rising to the surface. This all works to create more acne, but only temporarily. Skin has to do a major turnaround to rid itself of the acne causing bacteria that has already built up. Once the bacteria and dead skin cells on the surface have been cleared out, skin will begin to improve, usually with dramatic results.

Other side effects are extreme drying of the skin, again this is usually temporary, and associated with getting rid of older skin cells. Using an oil free moisturizer can help relieve some of the dryness that occurs with using Differin. Another side effect of using Differin is that newer skin cells are more sensitive to sunlight, so many people find that they need to use sunblock when they did not before, even just to go outside for a few minutes. Additionally, people may notice that their skin becomes red, peels, or appears to be sunburned. These are normal side effects, but if swelling or pain occurs speak to your doctor immediately.

Will Differin work for me?

Differin is a very potent acne medication, and because of this, many people with dry or sensitive skin may have problems using it. I personally cannot use these types of topical medications because within two or three days it’s painful to even touch my face lightly. However, many people do have good results with Differin. The main issue that people have using the product is how long it takes to show results. Waiting two or three months after you start using a product to have skin clear up seems to be a rather long time. There are many other topical retinoid based medications that can be prescribed, and most have a faster turn around time. So, Differin will probably work for you, but the issue is if you can deal with dry, peeling, broken out skin for a month waiting for it to do so.

Nov 11

Can Azelex Get Rid of Your Acne?

If you have been struggling with acne, you’ve probably tried all kinds of different over the counter medications. If you still have not had success with these medications, sometimes a doctor or dermatologist will prescribe acne medication that is stronger than what you can buy at the store. One of these medications is Azelex. It is a gel that is applied twice a day, in the morning and evening, to skin that has been washed.

How does it work?

Azelex works a bit differently than most topical prescription acne medications. Most acne medications, even the over counter kind, focus on speeding up skin cell regeneration and replacement. However, Azelex works mainly through killing bacteria in the oil on your face that causes acne. Because it does not impact the way that the skin regenerates, it is somewhat less harsh than its counterparts, and side effects tend to not be as severe, or frequent.

Another way that Azelex is different from other prescription acne medications is that it reduces the amount of keratin present. Keratin is a naturally occurring protein that is found in skin; however, if there is an excess of keratin present, skin cells are not sloughed off as they should be, and pores become clogged. By working to keep pores clear of bacteria that cause acne, and keeping pores clear of dead skin, Azelex can help prevent breakouts from occurring.

What are the side effects?

As mentioned, the side effects for Azelex are less severe and frequent than other prescription treatments, but there are still side effects, because you are changing the way that your skin behaves. The first, as with most acne treatments, is that you may start breaking out, or see your acne become worse when you first begin using Azelex. This is normal, as the skin is adjusting to the medication, a breakout is part of the treatment process. Part of the reason for this is because as you are working bacteria and dead tissue from your pores, they have to go somewhere, and that is the top layer of your skin. So while a breakout may make it appear that skin is not getting better, it is actually an indication that the medication is working.

Aside from the initial breakout that may occur when you first begin using Azelex, you may also experience redness and drying of your skin, in addition to peeling or itching. As with many acne medications, Azelex forces new skin cells to be created, which are sensitive. Additionally, all the dead skin being removed from your face is now going to have to peel off, as it would if you had a sunburn. By using a high SPF sunscreen, and an oil free moisturizer, you can limit the irritation of most side effects caused by taking Azelex. Another rather uncommon side effect that people experience when taking the drug is hypopigmentation, or the lightening of the color of skin. This is most obvious on dark complected individuals, so be aware of this issue before you consider Azelex.

Most of these side effects are annoying, but they usually are not severe. If you have extreme pain, or an allergic reaction, stop using the medication and consult your doctor.

Will it work for me?

Azelex is very effective, and many people see better results from it than other topical prescription acne medications. It is not as harsh as many other prescription medications, and people are better able to stick with it; one of the main reasons acne products do not work is because people give up using them before results can begin to show. People that used Azelex usually saw results within two to four weeks, and skin then cleared up dramatically.

Nov 09

Could Accutane Fix Your Acne?

If you have severe acne, that has not responded to over the counter or prescription treatments, there is still one option that may clear up your acne. Accutane (also know and sold as Roaccutane or Isotretinoin) is a prescription strength acne medication that is prescribed when almost all other acne medications have failed.

What is Accutane? And how does it work?

Accutane is a vitamin A derivative that is taken in pill form. Oddly, while doctors do know what Accutane does, it is not sure how it does it, at least not on the cellular level. However, Accutante directly combats the way acne forms in the skin, clearing infections, and preventing future breakouts. It does this by reducing the size of the oil glands in the skin by up to 50%, and restricts the production of oil in these glands by around 80%. Because the bacteria that causes acne lives in oil produced by the skin, reduction of the oil produced greatly reduces the amount of acne causing bacteria in and on skin cells. Accutane also prevents clogging of pores by slowing the rate of skin cell production, thusly helping them keep from becoming clogged. Finally, Accutane has anti-inflammatory properties, which reduce swelling and appearance of acne.

As with most acne treatments, many people see an initial worsening of acne as the product starts to work. As skin changes, due to the medication, impurities in the skin are pushed out, and cause new breakouts to occur. Once this has completed, results are usually impressive. Acne is reduced partially or completely in 95% of Accutane users, a success rate unheard of in any other acne product. Acne recurrence after a course of Accutane is only about 33%, and can be treated successfully with another course of Accutane.

What are the side effects?

Hearing the incredible rate of success that Accutane offers, you may be wondering why doctors aren’t just prescribing Accutane to anyone that suffers from acne. The reason that Accutane is usually one of the last treatment methods is because the side effects from Accutane can be incredibly severe.

To begin with, Accutane causes a very high instance of birth defects. Accutane is not prescribed until a female patient can prove that they are on two birth control methods. People that take Accutane are told to not donate blood until they have stopped taking the medication for at least thirty days, because if they do, and a pregnant woman is the recipient of transfusion, this can lead to birth defects.

But the side effects from Accutane are not limited to birth defects. Accutane can cause depression like symptoms in patients taking it, and even cause people to consider taking their lives. Additionally, Accutane can cause convulsions, rectal bleeding, and weakness in bones that can lead to fractures. Less severe Accutane side effects include sensitivity to sunlight, poor night vision, problems hearing, loss of appetite, jaundice, flu like symptoms, and extreme drying of skin.

Is Accutane right for me?

If you have severe, apparently untreatable acne, Accutane will almost surely clear it up. The main question that anyone considering Accutane as their acne treatment method is if the benefits of taking Accutane would outweigh the risks of taking the medication. As you can see, the list of less severe side effects caused by Accutane would usually end up on the severe side effect list of almost any other drug. Because doctors understand what Accutane does, but not why, the side effects are numerous and can be difficult to combat effectively. So if you are thinking that Accutane may be right for you, be sure to have conversations with your doctor, and understand the risks before asking for a prescription.

Nov 09

Could a Birth Control Pill be Your Answer to Acne?

Most people are aware of what causes acne; pores are clogged, usually by an excess of oil, the oil traps bacteria in the pore, and that causes redness and swelling. However, the causes that trigger acne are not the same for every person. This is why a product may work wonders on one person’s acne, and has no impact on another person’s acne.

One of the major causes of acne in adults, especially women, is a hormonal imbalance. Because hormones are not balanced, this causes an excess of oil to be produced, which leads to breakouts. In addition to balancing hormones, birth control pills are known for limiting androgens, which also lead to increased oil production. Because birth control pills can help balance hormones, and reduce androgens, they are now being commonly prescribed to help combat acne in adult women. Many times when they are being prescribed for women needing acne treatment, rather than to prevent pregnancy, they can be prescribed in lower doses, which reduces the risk and severity of side effects.

Two of the most popular birth control acne medications are Yazmin and Ortho Tri-Cyclin. Both types of birth control are taken daily in the form of a pill, for twenty-one days a month, and then for seven days, a placebo is taken. It is recommended that this be taken at the same time every day for the medication to be most effective.

What are side effects?

The downside of taking birth control pills to treat acne is that there is a risk of side effects, and birth control methods tend to have a lot of them. While they are usually prescribed in lower dosages in cases when they are being used to treat acne, rather than prevent a woman from getting pregnant, side effects can still be an issue. Birth control generally tricks the body into believing it is already pregnant, which means the body stops trying to get pregnant. However, this can create a lot of changes in the way the body behaves, once it believes it is carrying a child.

Common side effects of most acne treating birth control methods include: stomach sensitivity and nausea, fluid retention and swelling of feet and ankles, weight gain, and spotting or irregular periods.

More serious, but rare, side effects are: blood clot related medical issues (stroke, heart attack, or a pulmonary embolism), coughing up blood, fainting, vision changes, and severe headaches. If any of these symptoms occur, you should get medical attention immediately.

Depending on the medication you are prescribed, and the dosage, you may also experience diminished (or non-existent) sex drive, increased appetite, mood swings, and mild depression. (These, as mentioned above, are related to the way your body changes to accommodate the fact that it believes you are pregnant.)

Does it work?

In most cases, birth control as an acne treatment is successful. The level of success tends to change from person to person, but most people saw a lessening of their acne. The issue that many people have, that keep them from continuing to use a birth control prescription as an acne medication, is that side effects often are worse than the issue they are treating.

I personally saw a reduction of my acne after taking Ortho Tri-Cyclin, but I also saw a twenty pound water weight gain, and started having wild mood swings. The Ortho Tri-Cyclin did work for my acne as it said it would, but I was miserable with my weight, and no one wanted to be around me because I was so grouchy.

Many people who had the best results from a birth control prescription as an acne treatment said they stuck with the birth control for several months, and then their body started to regulate, and many side effects went away. I will be honest, I couldn’t stand the side effects, but if you stick with it, this can be a very effective acne treatment.

As with any prescription medication, talk to your doctor about whether it’s right for you. Take things like family medical history in mind, and make sure you are prepared to deal with some side effects that may last for several months.

Nov 06

Oral Antibiotics: Now Used to Treat Acne

If you have been dealing with acne that does not respond to regular treatment, there are a few stronger options that may still help you get rid of your acne. One of those options is to use an oral antibiotic to treat your acne. One of the main causes of acne is bacteria getting trapped in pores. This inflames the pore, and causes swelling and redness. Because antibiotics can kill bacteria, some doctors and dermatologists have begun prescribing antibiotics to treat acne. One of the advantages of an oral, rather than a topical application, is that it treats all skin, including acne on the back and other parts of the body. Other advantages of oral antibiotics for acne treatment are that it is very effective, and in most cases improvements are visable within a few weeks.

How does it work?

Antibiotics reduce the number of bacteria in and around pores. They also lower the concentration of free fatty acids in sebum, so there is less swelling and inflammation of the affected areas. Additionally, antibiotics reduce chemicals produced by white blood cells that can cause swelling and irritate the skin. Antibiotics not only treat current acne, but also help prevent outbreaks from returning, and reduce their severity when they do occur.

Oral antibiotics usually start out with higher dosages, that decrease after a few weeks of use. The most common antibiotic prescribed for acne is Tetracycline. Dosages range from 250 mg to 500 mg twice a day, depending on the severity of the acne. It is most effective when taken on an empty stomach. Another popular antibiotic is Erythromycin; you do not have to take it on an empty stomach, but it has been known to cause nausea and upset stomachs. Other common antibiotics prescribed to treat acne are Minocycline, Doxycycline and Clindamycin.

Pros and Cons?

Most people who use oral antibiotics to treat their acne have very good results. This method is used frequently for people who do not respond to over the counter or prescription topical acne treatments. Many people, even with cystic acne, report that within weeks their skin is incredibly clear, and breakouts have almost completely stopped.

There are some downsides to taking antibiotics to treat acne though. To begin with taking antibiotics can interfere with birth control, and pregnant women are recommended not to take them. The most common issues people run into are upset and sensitive stomachs, but this can be combated by following instructions given for when and how to take the medication. Additionally, people have found that eating probiotic foods help combat associated nausea. People may experience sensitivity to the sun, and need to wear sunscreen in situations where it was not needed before. Depending on the strength and type of antibiotic prescribed, some women experience yeast infections, because the antibiotic kills all bacteria.

Additionally, the body and bacteria that causes acne will eventually become immune to the antibiotics. So this solution, though usually effective, is not permanent. Stronger prescriptions may extend the effectiveness of the treatment, but it is not a good idea to have large doses of daily antibiotics. Long term, high dose, antibiotic use can lead to liver problems, and a weakened immune system.


Oral antibiotics are a very effective solution for getting rid of acne, and they work in many cases that other treatments do not. However, the remedy is only a short-term solution, and there are a range of side effects from minor to rather serious. Long term antibiotic usage is not a good idea, and after several months the treatments become less effective. Anyone looking into using oral antibiotics should make sure they weigh the possible risks of taking them, versus the high success rate this acne cure has.