Acne is only helped minimally by facial cleansing. It is not dirt that is responsible for acne; it’s a problem deep down in the oil glands. So washing frequently helps only insofar as it removes dead skin cells and surface oil.
Washing too vigorously or too frequently can even cause new acne, a problem now dubbed “acne mechanica.” Washing with the correct anti-acne soaps, however, can result in some drying of the skin and opening up of oil gland openings, which can be beneficial, but just don’t overdo it, or expect washing alone to solve your acne problem.
Many different soaps are used in treating the oily skin that usually accompanies acne. Regular glycerine soap is really quite mild. In many cases of severe acne, it’s much too mild. And for some people it’s been found to be frankly comedogenic (whitehead-causing).
Usually for patients, mild drying soaps containing sulfur or benzoyl peroxide are being recommended. Mild general drying soap tends to dehydrate the oil gland opening, temporarily enlarging it, allowing normal passage of oil to occur.
That’s why many of the medications that dermatologists recommend do cause surface drying. One popular manufacturer (Neutrogena) does make a great glycerine acne soap in bar and liquid pump forms, and these special formulations work quite well according to the users.
Is Acne Contagious?
Absolutely not. There is no contagious form of acne. Some people interpret genetic passage of the tendency to form acne bumps as a type of contagion, but it is not. However, if both your parents had severe acne and you do, too, this bears out the generally accepted theory that if each of your parents had bad acne you have about an 80 percent chance of having it also.
Other Factors in Acne Care
Changing pillowcases and towels will not aid in the resolution of acne. Again, this old saw that acne is due to dirt is completely untrue. However, the sulfur medications sometimes used at night tend to flake off on the pillow and it may be necessary for that reason to change pillowcases.
Nose “Blackheads and Whiteheads”
The nose is characteristic place for blackheads to occur, but most children do not have true blackheads. Most of them have simple dots at the top of columns of oil that lead down into the oil glands on the nose.
These are usually quite deep but are not the massively obstructed oil glands represented in blackheads. It’s often possible to squeeze the nasal skin gently and coax these tiny dots to the surface where they can be wiped off.
Certainly you should not be doing your own acne surgery, but this can show you the type of lesion or spot that these are.
Treatment is very difficult. The black dot is not dirt, but a pigment called melanin picked up from the surrounding skin cells. All the washing in the world will help this only slightly. Agents such as the potent forms of benzoyl peroxide can help lighten these lesions chronically.
However, the tiny dots (even in the middle-aged patient) are usually not visible at a conversational distance, so the sufferer need not feel too self-conscious about them.
The Sun and Acne
Sunlight usually helps acne, but reports over the last several years indicate that intense sunlight or sunlamp exposure can actually induce new bumps. This is becoming more and more a problem because of the desire of adolescents for a dark suntan.
Some of these kids have tremendous crop of acne lesions just because of excess sun exposure. Keep in mind that the sun actually damages the skin. This damage consists not only of wrinkles but of the induction of premalignant spots and actual malignant skin cancers.
Most dermatologists do not prescribe sunlight for the treatment of acne. The major exception is in widespread acne of the back and trunk in which phototherapy is sometimes used as an adjunct in treatment.
There was a case of a lady who used 10-W-30 motor oil for sun tanning. It did its job for a rapid tan for her but not without suffering from some really bad side effects! She had terrible nodulocystic and bleeding lesions on the nape of her neck, all over her face, the front of her neck, and the chest and back all the way to the beltline. She was in total mess.
When she approached a dermatologist for her serious condition, the doctor had no problem figuring out that it wasn’t entirely the sun that had caused her acne. Motor oil on the skin of a human being can cause acne almost anywhere!
Shots for Acne
Some patients develop huge knots on the face that are actually acne cysts. They are spots of tremendous inflammation that can be decreased by injecting medicine right into them.
The medicine used is a type of cortisone, usually one called triamcinolone. Triamcinolone in small quantities inside the cyst can make it shrink until the body’s natural defenses reabsorb the cystic sac. You should certainly discuss these injections with your doctor as they are usually very desirable in order to decrease the healing time of these scarring lesions.
You should know, however, that there is a risk of atrophy in the area below the cyst injected with this material. This means that in some cases the fat layer beneath the cyst is caused to thin out at least temporarily.
This can leave a small sunken spot for a few weeks. This is why most of us choose to use a very low-strength medicine that may have to be repeatedly injected every three to four weeks. Usually this low-strength dilution of triamcinolone will not cause the fat atrophy.
Ordinary acne bumps have no cavity within them to speak of so that there is no room to put the steroid material. Any attempt to inject a small papule or bump usually results in leakage of the medicine out into the surrounding skin, causing more problems with sunken spots.
Thus its best to avoid this procedure and just play safe by following the general procedure of cleansing your face with water-based facial solutions or mild soaps.