Acne is one of the most common skin conditions known to mankind. Due to this plus its relatively harmless nature, most people don’t think much of it. This is made even truer when there is an anti-acne cream for different breakouts.
But not everyone knows what acne really is and what causes it. And not everyone knows which anti-acne cream would work best for them. Hence, choosing one can be tedious.
Therefore, this buying guide will walk you through what to look out for when next you go shopping for an anti-acne cream.
But before we go ahead to help your choice-making, let us briefly discuss acne and its types.
What Is Acne?
Acne occurs when the follicles of your hair get blocked with oil and skin cells that are dead. It can be found on different parts of the body such as the face, chest, forehead, shoulders and upper back. It could lead to skin scars and emotional grief although this is dependent on how serious it is.
Causes of Acne
Understanding the cause of a thing will enable you prevent it effectively. But there is no known definite factor that leads to acne.
However, there are four things within the skin which aggravate it:
i. Acne bacteria production
iii. Excess sebum production
iv. Presence of excess dead skin cells.
Types of Acne
Acne manifests itself in different ways. The blackheads and pimples you see are differing degrees of acne. So here, we take a look at each type and how to know them.
These are the commonest types and show up in two ways: blackheads and whiteheads. Your skin is constantly producing its own oil known as sebum. This oil , when in excess, tends to mix with dead skin cells to clog up pores. This activity leads to the appearance of comedones.
How do you distinguish a blackhead from a whitehead?
If the breakout is under the skin and only shows as a tiny closed bump with a creamy or white center, then it is a whitehead.
If the breakout is on the skin, showing as a small bump with an open head, air on it causes it to oxidize, causing it to grow very dark. Then you have a blackhead.
Anyone who has had to deal with this condition has dealt with a lot. This is because seborrhea can be truly terrible as it only happens in severe acne cases. Basic sign of this is scaly red skin which is more visible on the face. It is recommended you see a dermatologist for professional help.
The sebum produced by your skin can get all trapped as one with the dead skin. This prevents the sebum itself from passing through to the top of the skin because the pores are already clogged.
When this happens, the skin becomes irritated and inflamed which leads to the formation of pimples. Basically we can say that pimples are comedones that get inflamed.
Some people believe pimples only plague teenagers; this is so untrue. It can happen at any age.
These are severe acne that are large and painful. They form as huge bumps under the skin and show up atop, without having any heads. Usually, they require medical help to treat because of their severity and the pain involved.
Much like cysts, these don’t appear on top of the skin. Instead, they stay under it but are no less painful. They also require medical help to handle because over-the-counter creams and lotions usually don’t work on them.
Ingredients your Anti-Acne Cream Should Contain
When treating acne, anti-acne creams are used based on the severity of the condition. Certain products are only sold on prescription while others can easily be gotten over the counter.
The ingredients in the anti-acne cream usually determine if it is a prescription product or over-the-counter cream. So we’ll divide the ingredients into the two categories we have mentioned…
Benzoyl Peroxide in Anti-Acne Cream
Regarded as one of the most efficient ingredients that are used in dealing with acne and getting rid of it completely. It does this by performing three important functions.
i. It serves as an exfoliator. An exfoliator is an ingredient that removes the upper skin layer, especially the dead skin cells. Benzoyl Peroxide performs this function thereby preventing the pores from being blocked.
ii. It gets rid of surplus oil in the skin.
iii. It destroys bacteria that cause acne. The proprioni bacterium causes acne and benzoyl peroxide destroys it by adding oxygen to the skin.This bacterium cannot live in an environment that has oxygen.
However, benzoyl peroxide can have a drying, peeling and irritating effect. To some, it might cause certain allergies such as redness and swelling. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to use it carefully.
Salicylic Acid in Anti-Acne Cream
A group of acids that are excellent exfoliators are beta-hydroxy acids and salicylic acid is in this category.
Salicylic acid exfoliates by working in the follicle of the skin’s hair thereby keeping the pores clean. This causes the skin to become smoother, ridding it of acne blemishes and skin discoloration. Its anti-aging properties also remove fine lines and dark spots.
It also inhibits bacterial growth by stopping the production of bacteria protein and metabolism. Most times it is preferable to glycolic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid) and benzoyl peroxide because it is better tolerated. Those with sensitive skin may find this a better option.
It is important to note here that some anti-acne cream products list salicylic acid as willow bark. This is the natural form of the acid.
Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) in Anti-Acne Cream
Alpha-hydroxy acids are excellent skin exfoliators that remove those dead skin cells. Examples of alpha-hydroxy acids are lactic acid and glycolic acid.
Sulfur in Anti-Acne Cream
Sulfur is an ingredient that can be regarded as multi-talented if it were human. It functions as an anti-inflammatory ingredient and an exfoliator to rid the skin of cells that are dead. Furthermore it reduces surplus oil in the skin.
However, the rotten-egg odor sulfur produces doesn’t make it everyone’s choice. Yet some anti-acne creams employ other ingredients to reduce or eliminate this odor.
Tea Tree Oil in Anti-Acne Cream
Equipped with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, tea tree oil was born to battle acne with no mercy. This ferocity might be the reason it tends to be somewhat harsh for certain skin types.
You may want to tread carefully with it if your skin is eczema-plagued or sensitive.
Witch Hazel in Anti-Acne Cream
It regulates the production of sebum and gives the skin a complexion that is shine-free.
Antibiotics in Anti-Acne Cream
Antibiotics are not only meant to be taken orally for infections and diseases. They are also used in anti-acne creams and applied topically upon the skin.
These antibiotics get rid of those P. acnes bacteria that cause acne breakouts. Examples of such antibiotics used in anti-acne cream include clindamycin and erythromycin.
Azelaic Acid in Anti-Acne Cream
This is used in exfoliating the skin cells that are dead and it also gets rid of P. acnes bacteria.
Retinoids in Anti-Acne Cream
These are derivatives of vitamin A. Examples of these retinoids include adapalene (Differin), tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac) and tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A).
They are exfoliators that rid the skin of old cells which readily block the pores. However, they may cause redness, dryness and irritations if used in very high concentrations. This is especially a problem for those with sensitive skin
Percentage of your Anti-Acne Cream Ingredients
In treating acne with an anti-acne cream, the right ingredient percentage is important. Why?
A low percentage may have no effect; it may just be a waste of money. A high percentage can have a serious effect on not just acne but also your skin. High percentage can lead to serious skin damage such as irritation and burning.
Most times, serious cases require a high percentage and dermatologists recommend it.
In a good anti-acne cream there are two major active and highly effective ingredients your cream should have. These are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Therefore, we will look at what percentage is right for each of them.
Benzoyl Peroxide in Anti-Acne Cream
In anti-acne creams, benzoyl peroxide usually comes in a percentage of 2.5 percent to 10 percent.
Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria and once killed, using a higher percentage does nothing extra.
So what percentage do we recommend? Keep the percentage range between 2.5 percent and 4 percent benzoyl peroxide.
Salicylic Acid in Anti-Acne Cream
Although salicylic acid isn’t hard on skin, using a higher percentage doesn’t make it more effective.
0.5 percent to 3 percent is the percentage of salicylic acid in most anti-acne creams. So what percentage range do we recommend? We suggest choosing an anti-acne cream that falls into 0.5 percent to 1 percent. Buying an anti-acne cream that has more salicylic percentage is more expensive. This is a waste since lower percentage has the same results.
Ingredients That Balance the Negative Effects of your Anti-Acne Cream
The major ingredients used in an anti-acne cream usually have side effects such as irritation and dryness. Therefore, some brands include certain ingredients into the creams that will balance out these effects.
So look out for anti-acne creams that contain ingredients like glycerin, vitamin B5, aloe vera, arnica, chamomile, passion flower extract and calendula.
A good anti-acne cream would combine both the main ingredients we listed above and these balancing ingredients. This does the job of effectively ridding your skin of acne but still ensures your skin is not damaged while doing so.
Ingredients to Keep Away From in your Anti-Acne Cream
Most anti-acne cream lists their ingredients in descending order, according to their concentration level. Top-placed ingredients are more concentrated than bottom-placed ones.
Why is this important? When certain harmful ingredients are at the top, it gives you an idea about the magnitude of damage they’ll cause.
Therefore, beware of:
Ingredients that Clog Pores
There are certain ingredients that can clog your pores, preventing the skin from excreting sebum effectively. Examples of such ingredients include silicone and paraffin.
However, this is an advantage to those who have dry skin. If you have dry skin, then you need to lock moisture up in your skin. Nevertheless, you have to do this with caution.
But remember that we only recommend minimal usage by those with really
Alcohol has the ability to give your anti-acne cream a comfortable feel. It is also very good at removing excess oil.
However, it can destructive in the long term. It could cause dryness and lead your skin to produce more oil than it needs to keep it hydrated.
Furthermore, the combination of alcohol and either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide will leave your skin very dry.
Tips to Remember
i. If the negative effects of your anti-acne cream seem excessive, add a bit of the gel from aloe vera. The aloe vera added should be either twice or thrice the original amount of your anti-acne cream. For instance you should add aloe-vera of 1 ml. to 2 ml. or 3 ml. of your anti-acne cream.
ii. Use the cream constantly until you get a complete solution.
iii. Stick to one brand of anti-acne cream. Don’t use two or more brands of anti-acne cream at once.
iv. If your acne case persists after three or four months of using a good anti-acne cream, it is best you see a dermatologist.