Taking Care of Pimples and Acne the Right Way

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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Many people, especially, women with pimples or acne on the face are worried and sometimes, feel depressed, about this condition, and they are desperately looking for remedies that can make their faces smooth again.

Acne, also called pimples, develops following an increase in the level of some hormones in the body which occurs at certain phases in life: during and in the few years after puberty when both boys and girls produce high amounts of the hormone testosterone; just before a woman menstruates in each menstrual cycle; and during pregnancy for some women. Acne can also be genetic, meaning it runs in some families and children of parents who have or had acne can inherit it.

How do pimples occur?

-An increase in the level of the hormone testosterone during puberty and in the few years after it causes the oil-producing structures in the skin (especially in the face) to start secreting more oil than usual. The result is more oil on the skin.

-The outer layer of the skin constantly removes dead skin cells that have been replaced by new ones from the deeper layer.

-Now, the excess oil on the skin can mix with these dead skin cells, with the resulting mixture filling the tiny holes (from which sweat comes) in the skin.

-If some of the germs on the skin enter these tiny holes filled by the mixture, the surrounding tissues can react leading to swelling, redness, and formation of pus within the tissues, and this is known as pimples or acne.

Acne or pimples can be mild (very few pimples), moderate (many raised red pimples) or severe (many swollen bumps which are hard or filled with fluid). The face is the most affected part of the body, but acne can also occur on the neck, chest and even on the back. They can last for a few months, years or occur periodically (before a woman sees her menses, during pregnancy, or come and go for a man) throughout one's life.

If you have acne or pimples, avoid doing the following as they can worsen the acne:

-using a hard sponge to scrub the face or scrubbing the affected area too hard

-washing the face too much; using very hot water to wash the face

-going through a lot of stress; sweating a lot; or touching the face a lot

-abusing medications such as corticosteroids (for example prednisolone or steroids used by bodybuilders)

-popping or picking at the pimples

-women using heavy makeup and related cosmetic products that block the tiny holes in the skin.

What is the best way to go about treating pimples or acne?

1. Mild pimples may clear on their own after a few weeks without any medical treatment. However, you don't have to wait for weeks before seeking medical treatment for your acne especially if you are not comfortable with it.

2. Before visiting a doctor, you can try the following remedies at home:

-Wash your face or any other affected part of the body gently once or at most twice a day. Don't scrub it too hard. Also, avoid touching your face.

-Don't burst those pimples as this can lead to infection of the area and worsen the pimples

-Take your bath after activities that make you sweat heavily

-Use a moisturizer (the one with "noncomedogenic" written on the label) to prevent your skin from drying out

-Don't stay under the sun for long and avoid exposure to oils and other chemicals like petroleum

-Women should avoid heavy makeup as this blocks the tiny holes in the skin of the face, worsening the acne. Instead, they should use oil-free foundations.

-You can buy some over-the-counter topical products which have been shown to be effective in treating acne or pimples from a good pharmacy near you. These include facial cleansers containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, for example, Brevoxyl and Stridex

3. If you don't notice any improvement after all these measures or there is a history of acne in your family, you should see a dermatologist, a medical doctor with expertise in treating skin conditions. This doctor will administer the appropriate treatment after interacting with you and examining the acne. The doctor will also advise you to keep using some of the prescribed medications after the acne has cleared to keep it under control.

Pregnant women who have acne should see their doctors before using any medications.

Continue taking the necessary precautions and measures even after your acne has cleared because that is the only way to prevent it from coming back.

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For more advice and help, consult a doctor online.
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Published Thursday, April 27th 2017

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