Like most people, I used to have acne as a teenager. Unlike my friends, however, I did not have only a couple of pimples at a time that partly cleared up after frequent washing with a cheap over-the-counter face wash. My mom tried everything from laser therapy (then still in its infancy), to the oral contraceptive Diane (generic called Minerva), to Isotretinoin pills (originally marketed as Accutane.) The latter two worked, but their side effects were worse than the acne itself and almost killed me, quite literally. My acne continued into my adulthood, until now when I believe I have killed it for good.
What is Acne?
To understand how acne forms, you need a quick physiology lesson. I’ll keep it short, I promise.
Your skin consists of three layers: the epidermis (outer layer), the dermis (middle layer), and the hypodermis (inner layer.) The hypodermis is not important here, so forget about it.
Of the two top layers, the problems arise in the dermis that host your sweat glands, hair follicles, blood vessels, and sebaceous glands (oil glands.) The oil that is secreted here keeps the two outer layers of your skin moisturized, soft, and flexible. The sweat produced here must leave your body to cool you down and to release toxins. The hair that grow here must also pass through to the outside.
The oil, the sweat, and the hair pass from the dermis to the epidermis via small openings, or pores. Blackheads and whiteheads occur when these pores become blocked by oil, sweat, dead skin cells shed by the dermis, or by dirt from inside or outside. Your skin usually deposit some skin pigment on top of the blocked pores, which is the blackheads and whiteheads that you see. Scrubbing off the blackhead removes only this pigment, the pores below it remain blocked and new pigment will soon enough be placed over it again.
This is not the worst part of acne. Bacteria called propionibacterium acnes normally live on your skin without doing harm. When your pores are blocked with oil and dead skin cells, however, these bacteria proliferate out of control inside these chunks of decaying biological matter (yuck!) Your immune system then responds by causing inflammation which, in turn, causes red skin and large pimples with pus. It is these pimples that can cause the big scars.
Acne normally gets worse during adolescence because of the increase in the sex hormones called androgens. Testosterone is the main androgen, which is why boys tend to have worse acne than girls. Androgens stimulate your skin’s oil glands to produce more oil. More oil means more blocked pores, more bacteria, more inflammation, and more pimples.
Scarring usually occurs when the inflammation and pimple damage your skin so much that your body cannot form enough of the appropriate new skin cells to repair the damage. Your body either deposits too much collagen in your dermis, resulting in a bump, or it cannot form enough collagen, leaving a crater. Red marks that are left on your skin after pimples have cleared up indicate that your dermis is still inflamed. You can learn how to deal with scars from acne and pimples here.
An Effective Acne Treatment
From this summary, you can see that any treatment that clears up acne successfully must:
- Decrease the amount of oil your skin secretes or absorbs if it is secreted.
- Remove dead skin from your dermis and epidermis.
- Remove dead skin, oil, and dirt from your pores.
- Kill the propionibacterium acnes bacteria.
- Counter the inflammatory chemicals your immune system secretes.
- Reduce your production of androgen hormones or block some of their biological effects.
- Moisturize your skin without causing oiliness.
- Promote healthy skin cell growth to combat scarring.
This is a lot of work that cannot be done by one product alone. That is why so many people are left disappointed by their acne face washes and creams. One or two products alone leave some causes of acne untreated and can, thus, not stop it completely.
How to Get Rid Of Acne & Pimples Fast
After much research, I picked a comprehensive solution by Exposed Skin Care for my 14-year-old twins. It lasts for two months and contains nine different products. They also sell more basic five and six product kits. Since I no longer have acute acne, I use the six product kit to prevent occasional breakouts, such as those that come with menstruation. It works better than you will ever believe for all of us.
The nine product kit contains the following:
- A facial cleanser. This is a face wash that removes sweat, dirt, and oil from the surface of your skin and from your pores. We wash our faces with it in the morning and at night. It contains no soap, oil, or other ingredients that can cause allergies, dry skin, or block pores, so it is the very best soap substitute.
- A clearing tonic. This lotion specializes in dead skin cells. It removes all the dead skin shed in the past 24 hours from your skin and pores. We apply this in the afternoon when we get home. The main ingredient is salicylic acid, made from the bark of the willow tree. Salicylic acid is included in some of the best acne, calluses, and warts products because of its well-documented ability to remove abnormal skin layers and dead cells. Unsurprisingly, as it is one of the main ingredients in aspirin, it can also fight inflammation and pain by inhibiting the enzymes that produce anti-inflammatory chemicals. This is crucial to tackle large pimples. There is a consensus in the scientific community that it works well for acne. The clearing tonic also contains several other skin-healthy ingredients like green tea extract, found to protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, found to have antioxitive, anti-aging effects, proved to make your skin more elastic, proved to decrease the production and biological actions of androgens and thereby prevent androgen -related conditions like acne and baldness, and shown to reduce mild to moderate acne by almost 60 percent in just two weeks. The sage and passion flower extracts it includes have also been proved to be useful anti-inflammatories when applied topically.
- An acne treatment serum. This cream kills the propionibacterium acnes bacteria, making it one of the most important products in the treatment regime. We apply it in the morning and early evening. It works well as a foundation for my makeup. The chief ingredient is benzoyl peroxide, which plenty of academic studies have proved to reduce pimples in as little as two weeks. This acne treatment serum is superior to other treatments based on it, however, as it also includes other antibacterial agents that studies have demonstrated to be antibacterial and able to get rid of acne. The most powerful of these are tea tree oil and azelaic acid. It also contains natural antioxidants like aloe barbadensis leaf to promote healthy skin growth to keep scarring to a minimum.
- A clear pore serum. A gel that combats your sweat, oil, dead skin, and bacteria during the night. A lot of crud will otherwise build on your skin and in your pores during the eight hours you sleep. It is a third of every day for which you leave your skin untreated. If you leave this and address it only in the morning, your pores will already be jammed with oil and bacteria and the inflammatory response to these will be well on its way. The two main ingredients are green tea and salicylic acid whose benefits you can find in the clearing tonic section above.
- A moisture complex. This oil free cream moisturizes your skin, not by adding oil, but via silicon-based oils that form a protective barrier on your skin and prevent its natural oil from escaping. It thereby prevents the dryness, redness, and skin irritation that the benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid in the other products may cause. It can replace all your other creams and moisturizers, and it also works well as a makeup foundation. Silicon-based gels like dimethicone are safe, by the way, as ruled by both the American federal drug administration and the independent Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel.
- A clarifying mask. This mask contains sulfur and resorcinol that can kill bacteria, together with activated charcoal and bentonite to absorb toxins and excess oil. My twins apply it as a whole face mask once or twice a week and throughout the day on the occasional large pimples that still appear.
- A microderm scrub. With plenty of natural extracts like chamomile, mango seed butter, and grape seed oil, it is a gentle scrub that removes dead and damaged skin without causing dryness and redness. It leaves our skins feeling silky and looking smooth afterwards.
- A derm-x cloth. A slightly scratchy face cloth that removes dead skin, oil, and dirt without damaging your skin. If you are frustrated by your face cloth that is too smooth to scrub your face, and your nail brush that damages and dries your skin, this is the ideal solution.
- A probiotic complex. These capsules contain some essential skin-healthy vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to ensure that your body can successfully absorb nutrients and to boost your immune system.
The best approach in my opinion is to buy the nine product kit first, and to buy the smaller kits later if you use the primary products more than the clarifying mask and the microderm scrub.
In case you are worried about an Internet scam, Exposed Skin Care is a credible company, in business since 2002. It is a member of the Better Business Bureau®, where it carries an A+ rating for service and consumer complaints resolution. It also offers a full money back guarantee if your acne does not improve in 30 days. Therefore, you will not waste your money. You can learn more from the official website here.
If you are horrified at the idea of buying so many different anti-acne products, I was too, until I compared it with other available treatments and skin products. The full kit costs less than $50 per month, which is almost certainly less than you currently pay for an acne product, a scrub, a moisturizer, and a makeup base altogether. In fact, a quick browse through some websites reveals that many moisturizers alone cost that much. More importantly, as all these are acne specialist products, it is guaranteed that you will not accidentally buy a soap or moisturizer that irritates your skin or clogs your pores.
To show just how far other products fall short, consider some of the popular acne remedies.
Alternative Home Remedies for Acne
- Regular face washing. Washing is not much more effective for acne as it is for cellulite. Since all the causes of acne occur below the outer layer of the skin, you cannot reach them with a face cloth. Even worse, frequent scrubbing of your skin and the use of soap can dry your skin out and cause redness, and eventually bring about inflammation and the pimples that usually follow it.
- Healthy dieting. While most studies appear to show that it helps to refrain from cow’s milk and sugar if you want to avoid acne, other dietary habits seem not to be relevant.
- Over-the-counter remedies that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These substances can clear dead cells and combat bacteria and inflammation, but they cannot decrease your production of androgen hormones, reduce your skin’s oil secretion, and block oxidative damage and, thereby, prevent scarring. The same is true for tea tree oil. Since they address only half the causes, you can expect their effects to be limited. Moreover, you will still need an exfoliating scrub, an exfoliating cloth and, most importantly, a moisturizer to counter the dryness they cause.
- Topical alcohol. While this may kill the bacteria, it causes severe skin irritation, dryness, inflammation, and all this without necessarily reducing the amount of oil your skin produces. In fact, I am not even keen on antibacterial hand washes that consist mostly of alcohol because it dries the skin on my hands.
- Coconut oil. This too can kill bacteria, but on its own it is probably too oily and will clog your pores and cause acne.
- Apple cider vinegar. Must this really pop up on the home remedy for every ailment? In this case it probably won’t do any harm if you dilute it with water, but it won’t work very well either. There certainly is evidence that acetic acid, at approximately the same levels found in vinegar, can kill bacteria. However, beyond the fact that this strong acid dries out the outer layer of your skin, there is no evidence that it can do anything about oil, dead skin cells, hormones, and inflammation. To reiterate, drying your skin can cause irritation and inflammation if it is not mixed with the appropriate non-oil-based moisturizers.
Medical Treatments for Pimples And Acne
- Oral antibiotics like tetracycline. Antibiotic tablets are prescription drugs that will certainly kill the bacteria… for a while anyway. The problem with antibiotics is that the bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotic, and return with a vengeance. Antibiotics are, therefore, time-limited and of no use if your acne problem continues for years. Bacteria never become resistant to benzoyl peroxide. Furthermore, since tetracyclines work on many different bacteria, you might find that there is no treatment available for some bacterial disease you develop sometime in the future because those bacteria would then already be resistant to them. Lastly, antibiotics make the contraceptive pill less effective, so if you are sexually active, you will have to use condoms for many months.
- Retinoid cream like Tretinoin, adapalene, and Retin-A. These creams only clear clogged pores, they do nothing else. Doctors must usually prescribe an antibiotic to go along with it. Once again, while it does its job well, it does not do enough to treat acne on its own.
- Contraceptive pills like Yaz, Estrostep, and Ortho Tri-Cyclen. Such a high amount of estrogen is not so helpful for the boys, is it? For women, they do decrease androgen hormones, and thereby the amount of oil your skin secretes. They take anything from 3 to 6 months before they reduce your acne and, as with any oral contraceptive, they do increase your risk of developing blood clots, as I can testify from a particularly traumatic experience when I was 18. Moreover, the contraceptive will not clear dead skin from your pores, which will allow some acne to continue.
- Spironolactone. This drug blocks the biological activity of androgen hormones which are the majority of male sex hormones. In other words, boys, it does cause erectile dysfunction which is, when all things are balanced, probably worse than acne. It is also a diuretic, which means that women who use it can never move too far away from a toilet. Not terribly convenient, is it? Other possible side effects include headaches, irregular menstrual periods, nausea, and drowsiness. Once again, dead skin cells will still get trapped in your pores and cause some pimples.
- Isotretinoin tablets. These tablets reduce the amount of oil secreted by your skin’s oil glands. It certainly does its job extremely well. I used it when I was 15, and my skin dried up so completely that it cracked open, bled, and formed scabs all over my face and lips. While most people were too polite to comment on my acne, everyone asked me about the skin disease that was causing my open, bloody sores. It was emotionally terribly distressing, but it did work as a last resort when everything else that was available in the 1990s had failed. It may also cause liver damage, ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and impaired wound healing of existing acne, resulting in bad scarring. I am incredibly relieved that the Exposed Skin Care kit is saving my children the traumatic experience that I had with it.
- Laser or light treatment. This temporarily kills the bacteria and it constricts your skin’s oil glands. Your medical insurance will probably not pay for it, as it is cosmetic. Moreover, it is still so ineffective that medical organizations like the British National Health Service do not recommended at all.
Acne is a horrible skin problem whose multiple causes render it resistant to any one or even two products alone, unless you want synthetic medication with dire side-effects. If you want to keep it approximately natural and free of side-effects while still guaranteeing its effectiveness, the Exposed Skin Care kit is it. As I demonstrated above, there is plenty of scientific research that explains why it works, and as I testified above, it has finally ended my lifelong struggle and transformed my children into popular, self-confident young adults. This is something that’s hard to put a price on, and delightful when there actually is one, and an affordable one at that.