Acne in Men
Acne is a skin condition that is treatable. It is common and usually present with pimples (zits). Approximately, 70-90% of teenagers (male and female) will experience some type of acne breakout. Acne usually shows up on the face, chest, and back. However, it is not limited to those body parts. It can also affect the shoulders, neck, upper arms, and buttocks.
What causes acne?
Acne is triggered by clogged pores (hair follicles). These are small skin openings where hair grows through. Each follicle contains a hair shaft that is attached to the sebaceous glands. These glands can be found in a person’s face, chest, neck, upper back, and arms. They produce sebum which is an oily substance that moisturizes both skin and hair. When too much sebum is produced, it combines with dead skin cells forming a tacky plug that blocks the hair follicle. Fluctuating hormone levels are responsible for the high occurrence of acne during the teenage years. It is recommended that the following be avoided to decrease acne:
- Tight wool hats, helmets, and headbands
- Squeezing and picking of the skin
- Greasy hair products and lotions
- Oil-based makeup
- Grease filled restaurant kitchens- The oil and grease tend to permeate the air. You should wash your face as soon as you get home.
- Emotional stress (try to employ relaxation techniques)
How is acne form?
Increased hormonal levels (androgens) cause sebaceous glands to enlarge, increasing sebum production. This occurrence caused clogged pores.
The bacteria that are trapped in the clogged hair follicles create chemicals that cause redness, swelling, and irritation. Eventually, the clogged follicle may rupture spilling out the dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria. In this way, different categories of acne-like pimples, cysts, whiteheads, and blackheads occur.
Different types of Acne includes:
- Whiteheads are filled with dead white cells and sebum.
- Blackheads occur when the clogged pore is open, and the surface darkens due to a chemical reaction in the skin. You should know that the blackhead is not dirt but a build-up of melanin (a skin pigment).
- Pimples are caused by infected clogged pores. As such a red sometimes pus-filled bump appears on the skin. They are often painful to the touch.
- Cysts occur when plugged pores pop below the skin causing large painful bumps. They may cause scarring if they are untreated.
Why do we get acne on our face, back, and chest?
There are several sebaceous glands on your face, chest, and back as such, some people get acne in the aforementioned areas.
Who gets acne?
A Singapore community-based study revealed that 88% of teenagers between the age of 13 and 19 years suffered from acne. Separate research disclosed that approximately 41% of adults suffered from adult-onset acne.
Most teens experience acne episodes during their teenage years because of the hormonal changes caused by puberty. Hormones are organic chemicals that precipitate physical changes as a child matures into an adult. Acne tends to be hereditary, if your parents had acne chances are, you may suffer from it as well. However, by the time a person reaches adulthood, acne improves significantly.
Is over-the-counter medication effective?
Yes, over-the-counter medications that contain resorcinol, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sulphur can help alleviate the symptoms of mild acne. Products come in cleansing pads, soaps, gels, and lotions and may work slightly differently. Acne medicine may cause redness and irritation, especially if it is too strong.
If you decide to use over the counter acne medicine, you should remember the following:
- Stop using acne medication if you experience side effects.
- It may take up to 2-3 months of product use to see improvement.
- Keep the medicine away from your nostrils, eyes, and mouth.
- Be gentle with cleansing your skin.
- Avoid products that dry out your skin since this will aggravate acne.
- If after about 2 months of good skincare and non-prescription acne medication, you do not observe any positive results. You should make an appointment with a doctor to discuss stronger treatment options.
What prescription medications are available for acne?
You may be prescribed the following medications by your doctor:
Benzoyl Peroxide: Teens are started out slowly on this medication, usually prescribed 2-3 times a week and eventually increase to every night. You should wash and dry your face thoroughly before application. A small dime size amount is recommended. There is usually a bit of redness and dry skin at the beginning. If peeling occurs, your doctor may decrease your dosage. You should be aware that benzoyl peroxide has bleach-like properties and it may cause white marks on clothing, pillowcases, and towels. You should use a white pillowcase if you decide to leave the medication on overnight.
Retinoid: These products are highly effective on mild to moderate acne (blackheads or whiteheads). A thin layer of cream applied once a day after washing and drying your face is all that is required. Sometimes acne worsens before it improves.
Antibiotics: Can be taken orally or applied to the face in the form of a lotion or gel. Some products combine a topic antibiotic and benzoyl peroxide. These can help treat the bacteria that cause cysts and pimples.
If you are prescribed oral antibiotics follow the prescription instructions carefully. i.e., check if the antibiotic needs to be taken on an empty stomach or if it can be taken at any time.
You should stop acne medication and call your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Stomach pains
Acne medication and Antibiotics may cause your skin to burn faster if you are out in the sun or use tanning booths/beds. We recommend avoiding tanning booths and apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or more. If you do sustain a severe sunburn, call your doctor for expert advice.
How is acute acne treated?
If your acne is not improving with over-the-counter medications or the standard prescription medicines, your doctor may prescribe oral acne tablets.
Isotretinoin is a pill that you take twice a day approximately 15-20 weeks. Your exact prescription will depend on your weight. Please note that this type of medication is reserved for acute acne (the type that causes scarring) that does not get better with the usual treatments.
Here are some recommendations for the men who use Isotretinoin:
- Avoid direct sunlight and tanning beds as much as possible.
- Use 30 SPF sunscreen or higher. Isotretinoincan facilitates skin burn. Sunburns also exacerbate acne.
- Regular doctor check-ups.
Adequate skin care remains of the utmost importance, here are tips:
- Wash your skin in the morning and night before bed with a gentle soap-free cleanser.
- Wash your face after exercise since oil builds up, clogging pores after sweating.
- If you work in a fast-food restaurant where a lot of frying takes place, wash your face thoroughly. We recommend using your fingertips instead of a facecloth or sponge and warm/cool water instead of hot.
- Try to keep your hands away from your face during the day and wash your hand before touching/rubbing your face. Breaking the “face touching” habit could help eliminate most of your skin issues.
- Wash your hair frequently since oils from your hair can be transferred to your face and neck easily.
- Always use an oil-free sunscreen.
- Never use harsh soaps or scrub your face. All these measures do is aggravate your already existing problems.
- Avoid alcohol-based cleansers. These products have a high alcohol content which dries out your skin leading to further irritation. Essentially alcohol-based products trigger your skin causing it to produce more oil. Of course, this worsens acne.
- Don’t pop, pick or squeeze pimples or anything for that matter on your face. This cannot be stressed enough. Any extensive manipulation of pimples produces more inflammation. You also increase your risk of scarring.
- Avoid oil-based moisturizers and sunscreen. Pay attention to your labels, choose oil-free products. Also, be sure to purchase a “facial moisturizer” and not a “body” moisturizer.
- Keep hairspray, hair gels, and other hair products from your face. These products are notorious for clogging pores. Washing your face after styling your hair will help eliminate these excess oils.
Does consuming chocolate cause acne?
No, this is a myth. It has long been believed that chocolate, greasy food, soda, and dirt all cause acne. This is not true. However, if you notice that certain foods seem to aggravate your acne, you should avoid them.
Most men will have an acne breakout during their teenage years. We recommend that you take good care of your skin. If you have been using OTC medication without favorable results, or you notice dark spots and scars from your acne, we encourage you to speak to your doctor. Some people with acne often feel embarrassed or self-conscious. If your acne is taking a mental toll on you, seek help.
We will be more than happy to help you with any acne issues you may have.
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