`It is a myth that acne will clear on its own once a person reaches adulthood`

As the festive season is here, skin problems tend to escalate due to pollution and wrong eating habits. Acne or Acne vulgaris is amongst the most common skin problem that is encountered by people of all age groups, especially teenagers. Dr. Uma Singh, who was associated for 25 years with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi and is now the Medical Director of Ozone Group, talked to Shruti Saxena of Zeenews.com to elaborate about the acne problem and its treatment.

Shruti: What is the major reason behind acne problem?

Dr. Uma Singh: Some factors that may be attributed as the cause for acne are:

a) Change in hormone levels like during puberty or menopause.
b) Stress factor.
c) As a result of the reaction of some particular type of medication.
d) Hereditary.
e) Moderate to severe acne vulgaris is often associated with virulent strains of Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that live deep within follicles and pores, away from the surface of the skin. In these follicles, P. acnes bacteria use sebum and cellular debris as nutrients. Elevated production of sebum by hyperactive sebaceous glands (during teenage) and blockage of the follicle results in acne and infection.

Acne can be mild, moderate or severe. For severe cases of acne, you should consult a dermatologist.

Shruti: What part do hormones play in causing acne breakout?

Dr. Uma Singh: One of the main causes of acne is the production of sex hormone that begins at puberty. This explains why most acne sufferers are adolescents and teens. When the sebaceous gland is stimulated by androgens, the male hormones (which are present in both males and females) produce extra sebum or oil. When the oil gets mixed with the grime, dirt and dead skin cells, they plug up the skin pores. Clogged pores will eventually lead to blackheads or whiteheads. This produces a perfect environment for acne bacteria to thrive, leading to inflammation and painful acne flare-ups.

Shruti: Does unhealthy lifestyle and stress also aggravate acne problem?

Dr. Uma Singh: Yes, they do. Therefore, make sure to follow these tips to avoid acne:

a. Restrict your sugar intake because, high blood glucose levels result in cellular inflammation, overactive oil glands and acne.
b. Drink 7-8 glasses of water daily and avoid aerated drinks.
c. Add healthy foods like fresh fruits, greens, nuts and omega-3 fatty acids; that is, ‘good fats’ to your diet. Avoid oily snacks and trans-fat food.
d. Exercise regularly.
e. Sound sleep is a must for healthy skin.
f. Sunscreens are a must for avoiding acne.
g. Keep your hair clean and dandruff-free to avoid occurrence of acne. Keep your pillow-case, cell phone or any other article that may come in contact with your face clean and sanitized.

Shruti: What is the best treatment for acne? Does the problem return after medication stops?

Dr. Uma Singh: A very common myth is that acne will clear on its own once a person reaches adulthood. Sometimes this is true. However, in most cases acne persists as late as the middle age.
Since acne is a multi-factorial skin problem, its treatment modality should take many factors into consideration. A plethora of over-the-counter (OTC) medications and washes are sold and marketed for acne (many with harmful chemicals), along with strong prescription medications (usually prescribed by a dermatologist).

While evaluating a treatment option for acne, it is necessary to elicit the subject’s opinion about treatment success. Current treatment options for Acne vulgaris include many effective topical and oral therapies.

Conventional Treatment Options

Most of the Conventional Acne Treatments such as gels, creams, antibiotics, and other treatments often do not work because they do not treat the root cause of acne. Worst of all, the acne treatment drugs that you are taking may cause significant harm to your body and skin.
It is best to find out natural remedies for your acne problems.

Natural Topical Products

A wide range of natural products, from facial scrubs and moisturizers to antiseptics and facial masks, are available for acne and skin care.

a. Skin healing: These ingredients reportedly repair damaged tissue and mitigate free-radical damage.
b. Inflammation and redness: These products reduce inflammation from infection or irritating topical medications.
c. Cleansers: Facial washes containing fruit and vegetable extracts and herbal extracts offer deep-pore cleansing.
d. Antibacterial/antifungal: Tea tree oil, extracts of neem, turmeric and calendula possess potent antibacterial activity.
e. Astringents: With hazel, herbal extracts, citrus seed extracts, and calendula remove excess facial oil.
f. Facial masks: Multani mitti, lemon and turmeric extract pull out oils and toxins from the skin.
Thus, in planning acne therapy, synergistic effects should be considered by selecting anti-acne agents which have different mechanisms of action and targets on the pathogenesis of acne. It will be useful to prefer at least one antioxidant featured herb drug along with the combined (polyherbal) acne treatment.

Shruti: Which home remedies can naturally heal acne problem?

Dr. Uma Singh: I can suggest the following home remedies:

- Mix together a few basil leaves, honey, lemon juice and baking soda. Apply to face with a cotton ball. Leave for 20-30 minutes and wash off. [WARNING: Lemon juice and baking soda will cause a small chemical reaction; be careful of the quantity you use of each].

-Beat an egg white, once you get it to a nice foamy texture add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, honey, and vinegar. Apply the mixture on clean face, then wait for around 10-30 minutes depending on how much time you have and rinse it off with warm water.

-Make a mixture of cinnamon powder and honey and apply on your pimples before you go to bed in the night. Wash it with warm water when you wake up in the morning. Do this for a fortnight and watch your pimples disappear.

-Orange peels are a good remedy for pimples. Grind the peels, mix them with a few drops of rosewater and apply them on your face. Leave the mixture on the face for about 30 minutes and wash it off.

-Grind some neem leaves and mix this paste with a little turmeric powder. Apply the mixture on your pimples. Leave it on your face for about half an hour and then wash it off.

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