Periodic acne or breakouts impose a great cosmetic concern for teenagers and adults. And although some cystic acne cases need a prescription medication, most people who suffer from mild to moderate acne prefer to use over the counter medications, acne gels, lotions, foams or leave in treatments.
Typical Chemicals Found in Acne Treatments
Benzoyl Peroxide: This ingredient kills the bacteria that cause acne when trapped in the skin pores. It also clears the skin by removing excess oil and dead skin cells that usually clog the pores and cause acne and breakouts. Benzoyl Peroxide is found in Over the Counter medications and creams with strengths ranging from 2.5 to 10%.
Benzoyl Peroxide works by drying the skin until it peels, removing the bacteria and clearing the clogged pores as it forces the skin to regenerate itself by creating new healthy cells. It also dries the oil found on the skin surface which further clogs the pores and causes breakouts. But some people suffer from severe skin irritation, skin swelling and burning when they use benzoyl peroxide. Also the excessive oil removal makes the skin dry and scaly as it is healthy for the skin to maintain a percentage of oil that acts as a natural protector. The prolonged use of
Benzoyl Peroxide over dries the skin and causes it look dull and prematurely aging. Too much peeling doesn’t help the skin, but actually makes it more venerable and more prone to be affected and infected by bacteria.
Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid is another ingredient that helps to unclog the pores by removing dead skin cells that get trapped in pores. But this strong acid can cause skin itchiness, nasal and breathing problems in addition to stomach pain. Salicylic acid can be too much for sensitive skin and cause too much irritation and flakiness. In some cases of chronic diseases the side effects of using salicylic acid can be fatal.
People who suffer from asthma should generally avoid salicylic acid as it can cause serious problems. Salicylic acid is also absorbed through the skin and could enter the milk of a breastfeeding mother. That is why, it is safe to advise nursing mothers to avoid salicylic products while breast feeding as they can harm babies who are very sensitive to salicylic acid and its derivatives. Salicylates are blood thinners, so if a person is already on a medication that thins that blood, he is widely advised to stay away from any acne product that contains salicylic acid. Both medications can react together affecting the patient’s blood clotting process.
Alpha Hydroxy acids: These are natural acids that are found in different kinds of food including citric acid, glycolic and lactic acid. These acids are used to remove dead skin cells that clog the pores and cause periodic acne and breakouts. They also help with the treatment of acne scars and minimize the appearance of pores. When used in a concentration of 10% or less, alpha hydroxyl acids are somehow safe but can cause a higher sensitivity to sunlight. It is always advised to wear sun protection if you are using products that contain alpha hydroxyl acids to avoid brown spots and further skin problems. They can also cause skin irritation and itchiness. People who have sensitive skin can experience swelling and redness. In some cases, using alpha hydroxyl acids can cause skin discoloration. Excessive use of glycolic acid can cause skin scarring which will be very difficult to fix. People with sensitive skin can suffer from skin crusting due to the excessive peeling caused by the acid.
Glycolic should be used in small amounts and only once or twice a week to avoid these side effects. The same applies to lactic acid which also peels the skin to reveal a layer of new healthy skin. If used excessively, it can cause strong skin irritation. Alpha hydroxyl acids shouldn’t be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women as they get absorbed by the skin and can affect the health of babies.
Sulfur: Sulfur is widely used in acne creams and ointments for its antibacterial and cell turnover properties. Sulfur renews the skin by allowing the skin to dry and flake, revealing a new layer of healthy skin. This however can cause skin irritation and excessive dryness which can worsen the condition and look of your skin. That is why it is wise to start with a small dose and more frequent application until the skin becomes more tolerant. The cell turnover can cause some skin discoloration that won’t go away. The sulfur has a strong smell that is quite unpleasant and can cause headache. The side effects of sulfur can range from mild skin irritation to swelling of the face and difficulty breathing.
Retinoids: Retoinds exfoliate your skin to remove a layer of old unhealthy skin cells to reveal a new layer of clean healthy skin. During this process, the skin becomes extra sensitive and turns red while flaking and peeling. Some people also deal with an initial excessive breakout as the skin is still adjusting to retinoid. On initial application, many users report that retinoid makes their skin tingly and slightly reddish. Some even find that they can’t tolerate their other products like their usual skin moisturizers. It is always advised to avoid using retinoid around the eyes as the skin under eyes is more sensitive than the rest of the skin on your face. Retinoid has to be gradually introduced to the skin. This will help the skin to get used to it and the flaking will gradually subside. Retinoid also increases sun sensitivity and you have to be careful wearing sun protection all the time you are using it as it may cause discoloration.