Education and proper treatment of the common skin care problem is essential in obtaining clearer skin and gaining confidence back.

What causes acne?

A major myth surrounding acne is that people develop it due to poor hygiene. “While people with acne tend to have oilier skin and have increased bacterial growth related to that, there are various factors that can cause and trigger acne,” explains Dr. Benjamin Barankin, Dermatologist, Founder and Medical Director of Toronto Dermatology Centre.

In reality, hormone levels in women and teens and a person’s genetics play a major part in oil production and in turn, acne development. Other causes can aggravate acne including diet, particularly dairy, like skim milk, as well as stress.

The importance of proper treatment

While the severity, length, and point in life when someone is affected will vary, a healthy skin care routine along with treatment and consulting with a dermatologist is crucial in preventing scarring and discolouration. Most importantly, it will help make patients feel confident and look good. “A problem I see a lot is people who have bad acne trying various over-the-counter products thinking they can fix it themselves, while in the meantime not only are they spending a lot of money, they are developing scarring which is painful, expensive to repair, and your skin will never be the same,” says Dr. Barankin.

How to treat acne

Dr. Barankin recommends a standard routine of cleansing once or twice a day followed by moisturizing and SPF, and exfoliating once or twice a week. If you experience occasional, mild breakouts or early acne, prescription topical creams and gels that include any of the following ingredients: Benzoyl Peroxide, Retinol, Salicylic Acid, or Glycolic Acid can help heal breakouts.

For deep,  hormonal acne, Dr. Barankin suggests prescription-grade topical products with higher concentrations of ingredients that are available in topical creams and gels  in combination with antibiotic pills, birth control for some women, and Accutane or Isotrentinoin in severe cases.

In adjunction with topical creams, gels or prescription pills, treatments like microdermabrasion, laser treatment, chemical peels, photodynamic therapy, facials, and extractions can speed up healing.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic creams and pills may aid in calming acne, but if taken for long periods of time, there is risk of the bacteria being treated, building a resistance to the antibiotic and in turn, no longer responding to the medication. Not only will a patient’s acne not clear up but instead of P.acnes, the bacteria that causes acne, other important bacteria the body needs will be killed.

After seeing a recent rise in antibiotic resistance, Dr. Barankin says that, “we’ve tried over the years to use less antibiotics or combine them with things like Benzoyl Peroxide. The typical course of antibiotic treatment would be two to three months after which we would reassess your case and could potentially extend it to six months.” Combining Benzoyl Peroxide with antibiotic treatments won’t guarantee that antibiotic resistance will be avoided, but it’s a precautionary step for patients to combat acne without sacrificing their health.

Take action

While there is no way to predict the future health of a person’s skin, it is important to manage acne and be aware of the available treatment options in order to keep skin clear and eliminate the chance of scarring and discolouration.