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Pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, zits – whatever you call them, they’re one of the main symptoms of acne, a disorder that affects the oil glands in your skin and causes eruptions and lesions that can affect your appearance and your self-confidence.
If you have acne, you’re not alone. An estimated $100 million will be spent this year by people looking for an acne treatment that really works. A major portion of that amount will pay for over the counter acne treatment cremes, lotions, soaps and ointments. Another major portion will pay for consultations with dermatologists (skin doctors) and prescription medications to help control or treat acne. The remainder will be spent on nutritional supplements and oral medications that may have an effect on acne.
Because acne is a complex condition that may have any one (or several) of many different causes, choosing an acne treatment that works for you isn’t always easy. A dermatologist can help determine what kind of acne you have, and prescribe the best choices of acne treatment for your particular skin type and acne problem. Dermatologists can be helpful even in mild cases of acne, because a course of treatment that works to clear up acne in one person may actually worsen the condition in another.
When you see a dermatologist, he may prescribe an acne treatment with either vitamin A (retinol) or benzoyl peroxide. These two ingredients have been proven effective in reducing the effects of acne in multiple laboratory and human tests. They each work in different ways to help control existing acne lesions and prevent more.
Retinol is the form of vitamin A most often used as an acne treatment. When it’s applied to the skin, it’s a mild irritant that encourages your body to shed old cells and generate new ones. It works on the same principle as many forms of acne treatment that use dermabrasion or laser to exoliate and encourage new skin cells.
Benzoyl peroxide is available in over the counter and prescription strengths. Unlike vitamin A, which encourages a change in the skin itself, benzoyl peroxide helps prevent infection by killing off bacteria on your skin and in your skin cells. While dirt doesn’t actually cause acne, bacteria can worsen the condition by causing infection.
Many dermatologist now combine both retinol and benzoyl peroxide when treating acne. Most often, they’ll prescribe one acne treatment to be used in the morning and the other at night. In additio