What Causes Acne and What Can you do About It?

What Causes Acne and What Can you do About It?

Acne is a skin disorder that plagues so many of us, from teenagers to adults. Not only is acne vast in who it impacts, but it’s also vast in the type of acne that can impact you.

In order to learn more about what causes acne, and how to treat it, we’ve got some answers to common acne questions from Dr. Aziza Wahby, of APEX Dermatology.

What causes acne?

That is a very complicated question as acne is a multi-factorial disease. We do know that it tends to cluster in families, so there could be a genetic component. We do know the mechanism of the cause of the lesion, but we don’t know why it happens. There are three basic things that go on that cause acne:

  • The skin is not shedding off properly
  • Increased sebum production — often accelerated by hormones
  • Bacteria — feeds on oil and causes inflammation

Can stress cause acne?

Stress is a very amorphous thing in medicine; we don’t know exactly how stress works in contributing to disease states. Certainly it doesn’t cause acne, but it can make it worse if you have it already.

We recommend reducing stress for a number of reasons, along with a prescribed treatment plan in order to get rid of stress-induced acne.

What impact does a person’s diet have on acne?

There have been no proven studies that say if you eat a certain food, you will get acne.  However, some people will notice that if they eat something in particular, let’s say chocolate or ice cream, they will get acne. But overall, I’m not a huge believer in changing a diet to prevent acne. It’s too difficult to eliminate things from the diet, and you could cause nutritional deficits.

The two closest associations though, are:

  • Sugary foods
  • Dairy

These groups have associations, with acne, but again, causality has not been proven.

Can popping pimples cause acne scars?

Yes. If you damage the tissue to the level of the dermis you can cause a scar. If you are playing with something and picking enough, you can definitely cause something that will stay forever.

Can you treat acne scars?

Yes, there are a variety of treatments for acne scars, including lasers, microneedling, minor surgical procedures and even some topical retinoids have now been shown to reverse acne scarring.  

Is Accutane safe?

Accutane is safe and works beautifully. It’s one of my very favorite medications. I took Accutane myself and several of my family members also have. Many of the side effects that have been attributed to Accutane have been proven to be untrue.

However, in order to use Accutane, a dermatologist has to prescribe it. Make sure to book an appointment if you think Accutane is the right treatment method for your acne.

What common medications do you use to treat acne?

  • Retinoid/Vitamin A
  • Antibiotic
  • Hormone balancing drugs

I find the best combination of medications for each patient. Everyone is different, and everyone’s goals are different. So I look at how severe is the acne, how much is it really bothering the person, and what level of aggressiveness with regard to treatment are they comfortable with to develop a treatment plan.

What is your favorite group of products used to treat acne?

Just about every acne patient will benefit from a combination of prescription medication and medical-grade acne products and treatments.

The cornerstone of acne treatment is a topical medication from the retinoid family.

We also use topical antibiotics and acids, such as glycolic and salicylic, to encourage skin turnover and decrease sebum production.

Benzoyl peroxide can be useful in certain skin types.

There are systemic medications we use for moderate to severe acne, such as antibiotics, anti-androgens and systemic retinoids.

Salicylic acid chemical peels performed by our Medical Aestheticians in our own offices. We use a higher strength of acid than would be available over-the-counter or at a spa, and the quality of the product is slightly different as well. Salicylic acid is known to target oil glands, which is one of the causes of acne. Adding this treatment in can speed up the process of clearing acne.

Top ways we treat acne:

  • Retinoid
  • Antibiotics and acids
  • Benzoyl peroxide (for certain skin types)
  • Prescription medications
  • Salicylic acid chemical peels
  • Medical-grade products

Ultimately, the causes of acne can differ from person to person. The only real way to diagnose the issue and come up with a long-term solution is to meet with your dermatologist in order to devise a treatment plan that’s right for you.

Dr. Wahby earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in violin performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music. She furthered her education at Columbia University in New York City, completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and pre-medical sciences. Following a one-year general medicine internship at Largo Medical Center in Largo, Fla., Wahby completed her dermatology training at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. A board certified dermatologist, Wahby enjoys providing the full range of general medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatologic services to the Northeast Ohio community in private practice. Her passion lies in utilizing the most current dermatologic advances to create individualized therapies for common skin conditions. For more information, visit apexskin.com.

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