Acne is perhaps one of the most common skin ailments in the world caused by clogged hair follicles. It occurs most commonly in pubescent teenagers, but it can affect people of any age. This is especially so in the past year, as wearing a mask has essentially become part of daily life, which has inevitably led to many faces erupting in acne outbreaks.
If you are one of the many who is being bothered by acne, look no further than this one-stop guide to preventing and treating them!
Causes of acne
Acne arises when pores on skin become clogged with debris such as dead skin cells, sebum or bacteria. This typically results from a combination of several abnormal processes in the skin.
- Increased sebum secretion
- Excessive deposition of skin tissue
- Bacterial infection
- Natural inflammation of the skin
In regular, healthy skin, dead skin tissue and sebum naturally sheds from the pores. However, increased sebum production and deposition of dead skin tissue can clump together easily. The clump eventually becomes too bulky to shed naturally from the pores, clogging them after they accumulate. The clogged pores provide the ideal anoxic environment for acne causing bacteria to proliferate. Acne outbreaks occur when these bacteria infected pores become inflamed.
Acne outbreaks can potentially last for weeks, or even months in severe case. Hence, it is always important to take good care of your skin and reduce the likelihood of these outbreaks.
Here are some things you can do to prevent and manage your acne.
- Keep your face clean
Even though this is pretty obvious, the importance of washing your face regularly cannot be emphasised more. Cleaning your face daily with a gentle acne cleanser goes a long way in preventing acne by removing excess oil and debris that may clog your pores. This is particularly important if you frequently put on makeup, especially heavy cosmetic products like concealers and foundations. These products can introduce more debris to clog pores when they are not removed properly at the end of the day. Additionally, having to wear a mask consistently only complicates this, as the mask traps moisture and oil under it, making it more likely for the make up particles to clump together.
Diet is also a big contributing factor to acne. Certain foods promote the processes in the skin that can lead to acne outbreaks. Specifically, avoid these foods as much as possible if you have acne-prone skin.
– Sugary foods, refined carbohydrates and other foods with high glycaemic index.
Many common staple foods are known to have a high glycaemic index or high in sugar content. This means that they release their sugar/carbohydrate content faster than other starchy foods.
After consuming them, blood sugar levels surge. In response to this, the body produces insulin, a blood sugar regulating hormone in order to lower these blood sugar levels. However, insulin also has the effect of increasing activity of androgens, which in turn accelerates skin cell growth and sebum production.
Reducing intake of high glycaemic index foods can reduce the “insulin surge” post meals, reducing the likelihood of acne outbreaks.
Although the exact reason is still unknown, milk and other dairy products are shown to be closely correlated to acne occurrences, especially in teenagers. It is possible that milk proteins and sugars trigger a similar response in the body as sugars, by stimulating the production of insulin. However, this has yet to be definitively proven. Still, we would advise you to try avoiding dairy products if you are acne-prone, given the close correlation.
– Spicy foods
Many people have been taught to avoid spicy foods in order to reduce acne outbreaks. While it is true that consumption of these foods is correlated to acne outbreaks, the spice itself actually has no direct effect on acne. Instead, it is because spicy foods tend to make you perspire, which is what causes the acne.
– Greasy/oily foods
Similar to spicy foods, greasy and oily foods are relatively harmless in terms of acne when consumed (still, we would advise you to eat less of them for your general health). However, the oil can get onto your face directly around your mouth, or indirectly when you accidentally touch your face with greasy hands. Once on the face, the oil behaves just like excess sebum, clogging pores together with dead skin cells.
- Pay attention to your face mask
The COVID-19 pandemic has made face masks part of daily life. As face masks are supposed to form an effective barrier to prevent cross infection, they are by nature somewhat impermeable and hence, unintentionally effective at trapping moisture and bacteria around the nose and mouth area. The trapped moisture and bacteria creates an ideal environment to develop, leading to what is known as Mask Acne or “Maskne”.
To prevent this from happening, you should always pay close attention to your face masks. Disposable masks should be changed at least once daily and should never be reused. On the other hand, reusable masks should be washed after 1 day of use, and completely dried between each use. For those with sensitive skin, wearing masks made of smooth silk to reduce the abrasion and irritation to your skin can help with Maskne as well.
Treatment for persistent acne
Acne has always been a persistent problem that has affected many people. As such, there are many well-documented and well-developed acne treatments on the market. Nonetheless, new and more effective treatments are consistently being developed as technologies evolve. At Clifford, we offer a variety of different acne treatments in Singapore, both traditional and new, for our patients.
- Oral and topical medication
If the acne is mild to moderate, doctors may prescribe simple topical and oral medication to keep it under control. This is usually a combination of retinoids/tretinoin, antibiotics, salicylic acids. Occasionally, certain hormonal drugs like contraceptives and anti-androgens may also be prescribed. Antibiotics prevent the proliferation of acne-causing bacteria in your skin while the others work via different mechanisms to prevent the clogging of pores.
Oral and topical may work on their own, but they are usually prescribed to supplement other treatment procedures. In most cases, other more long-term solutions are recommended.
- Q-switch Laser treatment
One of the treatment procedures offered is Q-switch laser treatment. Each session takes about 10 minutes, with minimal to no downtime. The treatment uses laser energy to kill acne-causing bacteria, at the same time reducing sebum production from the sebaceous glands, and also shrinks enlarged pores. All these together reduces the likelihood of debris getting trapped in the pores and clogging them, reducing acne outbreaks.
Q-switch laser treatment also addresses skin pigmentation, making it effective in treating skin discolouration from acne scars as well.
- AGNES Radiofrequency
Another treatment you can consider is AGNES Radiofrequency (AGNES RF). Like the name suggests, this treatment involves using radiofrequency energy to collapse oil producing sebaceous glands in the pores. During treatment, our doctors will first examine your face to find specific acne-prone pores. Next, using the AGNES handpiece, radiofrequency energy is delivered deep into your dermis with specialised microneedles. This causes the overactive sebaceous glands to collapse, permanently reducing their secretion, making it less likely for pores to become clogged and effectively alleviates active acne.
- Gold Photothermal Therapy
Finally, you can consider Gold Photothermal Therapy (Gold PTT) acne treatment, Clifford’s latest acne treatment procedure. Gold PTT works similarly to AGNES in some ways, by targeting overactive sebaceous glands, but using specialised gold nanoparticles instead of radiofrequency microneedling.
During treatment, an ampoule of gold nanoparticles is first applied onto your skin, which is then delivered into your pores via sonophoresis, a form of ultrasound drug delivery. This is performed using Bellasonic, an ultrasound therapy device imported from South Korea specially designed for this purpose. Our doctors will then use the 808nm Diode Laser and the 1064nm Long-pulsed Laser to excite these nanoparticles. The nanoparticles act as focal points for the laser energy, heating up and lysing overactive sebaceous glands, at the same time killing acne-causing bacteria.
Gold PTT sets itself apart from other laser treatments by using the gold nanoparticles to focus laser energy into small, precise points, targeting only the acne-prone pores and leaving surrounding tissue largely undisturbed. This makes it a highly effective treatment which addresses acne at the core.
If you are troubled by persistent acne, do not hesitate to contact us and consult our doctors at Clifford Clinic. With their years of experience in helping patients manage their acne, they are more than willing provide you with professional advice and a customised regimen to help you manage your acne.