A Guide to Treating Mild Acne

From the WebMD Archives

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Getting to the Root of the Problem

If you've noticed any symptoms of acne, the first step is to set up an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist. There are a variety of treatments available today so you don't have to rely on expensive cover-ups.

Typically, mild acne is treated with topical medications such as benzoyl peroxide, salicyclic acid, or azelaic acid. Topical antibiotics such as erythromycin, metronidazole, or clindamycin may be used to treat mild inflammatory acne. Your dermatologist may prescribe retinoids, such as Retin-A, Differin, or Tazorac, which are derived from vitamin A, that help unplug follicles and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Some research shows that for mild acne, combining a topical retinoid with an antimicrobial agent is more effective than using either agent alone.

Topical medications come in different forms, including gels, lotions, and creams. Talk to your dermatologist to determine which type will be the best fit for your skin. Individuals with dry or sensitive skin may be better served by creams and lotions, while those with oil-prone complexions may benefit from gels.

Most adult acne sufferers have dry skin, as opposed to oily-skinned teens, explains Farris, so creams and lotions can be less irritating than gels.

It's critical to the success of your treatment that you follow the prescribed instructions carefully. For example, you may only need to apply a pea-sized amount of your topical medication to your face. You should apply the topical treatment to the entire affected area, not only the lesions. Certain medications should only be applied at night.

Common procedures to improve the appearance of mild scars include microdermabrasion and chemical peels, which physically remold scars. As a byproduct, these can stimulate collagen secretion which can also improve scars. These procedures take away the surface dead skin cell layers, allowing your topical medications to penetrate more deeply and be more effective in treating acne.

There's No Quick Fix

You should set a realistic expectation for the time it takes to see improvements. Know that it takes approximately eight weeks for acne to develop, so therapy must be continued for at least this long for it to be effective.

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