Acne and its telltale signs - blackheads, whitehead and pimples – is a problem most of us have faced. In some cases, acne lesions can develop into nodules or cysts, leading to permanent scars. That’s reason enough to seek out solutions.
Fortunately, there is a wide range of acne products available at the pharmacy, with or without a prescription. Here is an overview of the different treatment options offered.
A few words about acne
Acne is caused by an inflammation of the sebaceous glands. These glands, located beneath the skin, contain an oily substance called sebum. When pores are clogged by a layer of dead skin, they trap sebum, bacteria and dirt, which causes blackheads and pimples.
The basic routine for acne care
Any acne treatment starts with a good skin care routine. Your first line of defence involves cleaning your face daily using a gentle cleanser or a wash formulated for acne-prone skin. It can also be helpful to exfoliate once a week with a product made for this skin condition.
Follow with a good quality, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer in gel, lotion or cream form. Your family pharmacist or beauty consultant can guide you through the maze of skin care products offered.
But even the best skin care routine will not be enough to solve all cases of acne. That’s when you need to turn to medication.
Over-the-counter acne products
The most common active ingredients used in topical over-the-counter acne products are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
Salicylic acid works in two ways: it helps to eliminate dead skin cells and reduces the obstruction of follicles. This, in turn, prevents the development of blackheads. It is generally used in a concentration of 0.5 to 2 percent and can be found in a great many cleansers, exfoliants and products, such as gels, lotions, creams and so on. Consumers appreciate its effectiveness.
Benzoyl peroxide, another classic ingredient in acne-fighting formulas, works by halting the proliferation of Propionibacterium acnes, bacteria that cause acne. It also reduces the inflammation of follicles and dries up excess oil, both of which contribute to its effectiveness. As is the case with salicylic acid, it can be found in a significant number of products in various forms.
Other active ingredients used in over-the-counter formulas include sulphur, resorcinol, glycolic acid and lactic acid.
Keep in mind that most acne products need to be used every day over several weeks to be effective. You also need to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Prescription medication for acne
For moderate to severe acne, it may be best to consult a doctor or even a dermatologist, who can conduct a full evaluation of your skin condition and prescribe acne medication.
Some medications are intended for topical use – in other words, they are applied to the skin. They generally contain antibiotics and retinoids.
Other products are taken orally, like antibiotics. Isotretinoin, better known by its brand name ACCUTANETM, is usually reserved for more severe cases of acne. It comes with many precautions and contraindications. The benefits of using this treatment must always be weighed against its potential risks.
Here’s an important point: many prescription acne medications make skin more sensitive to the sun. It is essential, in such cases, to use sunscreen.
Your family pharmacist can give you all the information you need about the medications used to treat acne. Just ask!
Do you have questions about acne? Talk to your family pharmacists. They can help you achieve healthy, radiant skin. They can prescribe* medications for certain minor health problems, including acne, when the treatment and diagnosis are already known. A consultation will also be required so the pharmacist can make sure you meet the prescribing criteria.
To avail yourself of this service, you may need to book an appointment with your family pharmacist. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more details. Some Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies also offer an online appointment booking service. To locate the store nearest you providing this service, click here.
*Certain conditions must be respected. Fees may apply. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more information. Pharmacists alone are responsible for the practice of pharmacy. They offer related services only on behalf of pharmacist-owners.