Over The Counter Medications
Acne is best treated with medications. The fact that there are 100s of soaps/medications for the treatment of acne should lead one to suspect that no one really knows what the best treatment is. The majority of medications, herbs, nutrients, oils, soaps and minerals on the market to treat acne, all lack any scientific data or clinical proof of their effectiveness. The majority of these agents are expensive and do not cure acne.
However, there are a few medical products which may help acne. There are both prescription and non prescription drugs available for the treatment of acne.
Benzyl peroxide has been used to treat acne for many years. It can kill the bacteria that are known to cause acne and also acts as an abrasive agent. It is the only topical agent that is most effective against the bacteria which is commonly found in acne pustules.
Benzyl peroxide is available in various strengths (2.5 to 10 percent), although there is no evidence that using higher concentrations result in better treatment. The water-based products result in less drying of the skin than the alcohol-based formulations. Benzyl peroxide gels are applied once or twice daily.
The most common side effect of the agent is skin irritation. This effect occurs more often at higher concentrations and tends to decrease with continued use. Some individuals develop contact allergy. All patients using benzyl peroxide formulations should test the skin to make sure they do not have contact allergy. The acid is also a strong oxidizing agent and can irreversibly stain clothing and linen. The drug is best applied in the morning so it will be dry by night time and so the risk of staining is reduced.
Mild acidic solutions like glycolic acids are available for the treatment of acne, and are effective in some cases of mild acne. These acids act as peeling agents and open up the pores by removing the accumulated oil on top of the skin. However, the effectiveness of these acids is variable and they do not work for the moderate to severe cases of acne. Skin dryness is a common problem with these peeling acids.
Salicylic acid is a mild acid available in various concentrations for the treatment of acne. This agent inhibits the formation of black heads by acting as peeling agent. It is just as effective as benzyl peroxide in the treatment of acne. Salicylic acid is well tolerated and should be applied once or twice daily.
Sulfur products have been used to treat acne for many decades. Sulfur products are routinely combined with other over counter acne medications. Sulfur products acts as keratolytic (black head thinner) agents. Sulfur products do have an unpleasant smell and are known to cause skin discoloration. Today, sulfur medications are rarely used in the treatment of acne because of the availability of better and more effective agents.
Azelaic acid is a decarboxylic acid is sometimes used to treat mild acne. It is not known how it works but appears to be as effective as salicylic acid and tretinoin in the treatment of mild to moderate acne.
Azelaic acid is a cream which is applied twice a day. Most individuals have no complaints but some may develop skin irritation and redness at the site of application. Because the agent also has the ability to cause skin pigmentation, it should be used with caution in dark skinned individuals.
What can one do at home for Acne?
All individuals with acne should indulge in some basic skin hygiene at home. The ultimate aim of all acne treatment is to prevent the development of the ugly scars on the face.
It is highly recommended that one wash the face at least 2-3 times daily to rid the skin of excess oil. Even though there are hundreds of acne cleansing soaps on the market, it makes absolutely no difference which product is used. One should be aware that the more expensive brand is not always the best. A simple bland soap without any fragrances and perfumes will do just as well. Do not scrub the skin too hard as this may lead to further irritation.