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Acne Treatments
Acne Treatments

Acne Treatments Almost all of us have suffered the embarrassment of acne at one time or another in our lives, either as a teenager or as an adult. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 80 percent of people between 11 and 30 report having had some form of acne. It is one of the most common skin conditions, and a full thirty percent of all visits to dermatologists involve acne or acne-related treatments. Acne is caused by the propionibacteriumacnes bacteria, or "p.acnes," which occur normally in the body and are usually released when your skin sheds the outermost layer of dead skin cells. Sometimes, however, the bacteria become trapped within the skin and a pimple forms.

Common forms include moderate and inflammatory acne. Many adults are left with disfiguring acne scars caused by incomplete treatment in their youth. Whiteheads, blackhead and pustules, after treatment, also often leave acne scars which can be just as devastating to the patient as was the acne it replaced.

There are many myths about acne, such as eating chocolate, pizza or other foods will bring on the condition. Actually, there have been no scientific links made between food and acne. Other myths say that poor hygiene is the cause while sunlight cures it. The actual cause of acne is an increased level of androgens, first encountered in puberty. Androgens, which are also responsible for an increased sex drive, cause more production of a type of facial oil, known as sebum. When the bacteria p.acnes is also present, acne forms. Here how it happens: Sebum brings skin cells to the surface of the skin but when it meets excess oil, the opening of the gland becomes clogged. Excess oil and old cells plug the duct and a whitehead results. After it enlarges, its dark tip forms a blackhead. Bacteria may then multiple in the clogged pores to cause red, inflamed pimples and the start of acne. The condition is also associated with the hormonal changes associated with a woman’s period, pregnancy or menopause.

"There have been no scientific

links made between food and acne; however,
some scientists say stress and acne are related."

Additionally, overuse of makeup and masking creams can affect the skin by removing its protective coating of helpful bacteria or causing too much dryness. Moreover, some scientists say stress and acne are related.

Acne scars include raised (hypertropic) and depressed (atrophic,) scars which are the most common. Their appearance ranges from looking like a scar caused by an ice pick to a wide saucer type scar.

Because there are different types of ace and acne scars, surgical revisions will depend on the type you have. Your physician can lead you through the many options to the best treatment option for your case.

Who would best Represent an Ideal Candidate for Acne Treatments?

If your self-confidence is diminished because of acne or acne scars and they hold you back from a full social life, you may be a candidate for treatment or
scar removal.

Acne, moderately severe acne and acne scars are also treated by dermatologists. Your physician can best evaluate your condition and make the appropriate referral, if necessary.

Candidates for treatment are those who have blackheads, whiteheads and larger spots on face and sometimes on the neck, upper chest, back and upper arms.

Where do I begin?

Begin by researching the surgeon you want to use and the procedure you desire. It’s important that prospective patients research and understand different aspects of cosmetic surgery before going ahead with the procedure. has created an easy and effective way for likely patients to find a cosmetic surgeon online. Use our
doctor search tool to locate a plastic surgeon or dermatologist near you.

How are Acne Treatments Performed?

There are several ways cosmetic and plastic surgeons commonly treat acne and acne scars. They are: chemical peels, laser skin resurfacing, dermabrasion and microdermabrasion.

Chemical peels: strong chemicals remove the top layer of skin to smooth depressed acne scars and give the skin a more even color. Peels are most helpful in treating shallow and superficial acne scars. The surgeon applies the chemical to the skin with ordinary cotton tipped applicator, starting at the forehead and moving over the cheeks to the chin. Various chemicals are used for different depth peels. Light peels require no healing time while deeper peels often need up to two weeks to heal.

Laser skin resurfacing: Another technique for treating superficial scars is by laser, a device which uses a high-energy, amplified light to vaporize the top layer of skin, allowing new skin to grow. The ultrapulsed carbon dioxide laser, the erbium YAG laser and the pulsed dye yellow light laser are most commonly used for treating acne scarring.

Dermabrasion: the mechanical sanding of the upper layers of the scar. A new layer of skin replaces the ground down (or, abraded, as a physician would say) layer of skin.

Microdermabrasion: tiny particles passing through a vacuum tube gently scrape away the top layer of scarred skin and stimulate new cell growth. Patients with mild scarring are the best candidates; multiple treatments are usually required to achieve the best results.

For deep pitted scars, the physician cuts out the core of scar tissue with a small needle and stitches up the hole. During one session, many of these scars are usually treated. Or, the practitioner may replace the excised part with a small graft of normal skin, (often taken from behind the ear) and then taping it in place.

Soft tissue augmentation with an injectable filler is yet another option, useful for shallower acne scars. The fillers last anywhere from a few weeks to nine months. Some of the newer fillers, like Restylane, Juvederm and Hylaform last two to six years after the injections. Most work by stimulating your body’s natural collagen around the filler and plumps up the area injected.

Some scars are treated with fat grafting, a technique that takes fat from other areas of your body and then injects it into the scars, filling out the depressed areas.

Benefits of Acne Treatments

Benefits of
laser and light treatments include not having to remember to apply or take any medication and the ability to treat hard-to-reach areas, like the back. However, laser and light treatments can be quite expensive and long-term effectiveness has not been proven.

What Are the Risks and Limitations of Acne Treatments?

Your surgeon needs to know about any prescription or non-prescription medications you are taking well in advance of the operation.
Laser skin resurfacing may not sufficiently tighten the skin and surgical excision may be necessary to get the results you want. Oral and topical drugs have mixed results. The medications may contain harmful side effects and take a long time to work. Lumpiness, firmness, inflammation and even migration of the material may occur.

How Much Pain is Associated with Acne Treatments?

As with any surgery, you can expect some swelling, mild bruising and minimal pain. Usually, your doctor gives you prescription medications to control any discomfort. The operation is usually performed in the surgeon’s office or in an outpatient surgical center.

Dermabrasion requires anesthesia and most patients heal within one to two weeks.

Laser resurfacing treatments work instantly and with minimal bleeding although you may hear it zapping and smell smoke. It is usually done with a local anesthetic or light sedation, depending on the sites to be treated. Afterwards, the treated skin feels like it has mild sunburn. Initial healing takes a week while the redness created on your face continues to fade for several months. Darker skinned patients are susceptible to pigment changes after laser therapy and the changes are usually permanent so the procedure may not be appropriate for all patients. However, another type laser, the YAG laser, treats acne scars of patients with all skin types, from very dark to very light and with no downtime at all for the patient. Moreover, no anesthesia is required with the YAG laser.

With light chemical peels, the patient only feels some stinging or irritation and sees some redness on the face. It can also cause facial puffiness which subsides after several days. Medium peels usually do not require anesthesia while the deeper peels usually require intravenous sedation. Temporary flaking or scaling, redness and dryness are normal after effects. Ointments, used for seven to ten days following surgery, keep the skin supple.

Soft tissue injections usually involve minimal pain because the needles are so fine and because a topical anesthetic is sometimes used.

What are The Long-Term Effects of Acne Treatments?

Fat injecting is more permanent and there is no chance of an allergic reaction because the cells injected are your own. Moreover, the results are more permanent. Short term results from laser treatments laser treatments will be pronounced for mild to severe acne and 50 percent clearance observed after just one treatment. Long term results are expected to last a year or more but often depend on how regularly you take prescribed medications and follow a good skin care regimen. Most patients treated with laser stay out of direct sunlight.

What Are the Typical Costs Associated With Acne Treatments?

According to data supplied by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in 2010, the average cost of chemical peels in the U.S. averaged $706; laser skin resurfacing was $2,040 for ablative and $1,156 for a non-ablative procedure. Dermabrasion averaged $1,200. Soft tissue fillers cost an average of $650, while fat injections ran a little over $1,700. Additional costs vary, depending on the general economic conditions in the region where you live and can include anesthesia, operating room facilities and other related expenses.

Ten Questions Acne Treatment Patients Should Ask Their Surgeons

Prior to all procedures, a consultation should occur between the prospective patient and the providing surgeon. During this consultation, the surgeon and patient will discuss the treatment plan like the desired outcome, various options that are available to achieve it, the procedure itself as well as various risks and limitations. The surgeon will also provide information regarding anesthesia options, the location and description of where the procedure will be performed (i.e., hospital vs. office surgical suite) and associated costs. A discussion regarding the patient’s medical history, as well as a physical examination of the area to be treated will also take place during the consultation.

To learn more about acne treatments and acne scarring removal and have realistic expectations about the outcome, it is recommended that the patient look at before and after photographs, speak with previous acne patients, (you are always welcome to ask your doctor for referrals to previous patients and where to contact them) and get answers to the following questions:
  1. Are the desired results I described realistic?
  2. Where are the acne procedures to be performed and how long will it take?
  3. In my case, what technique and which operation are most appropriate?
  4. What kind of anesthesia will the surgeon use during the surgery?
  5. How much does acne and acne scaring treatment cost and what other elements factor into that cost (i.e., hospital fee, anesthesia, etc)?
  6. What is the surgeon’s level of experience in performing the procedure?
  7. What percentage of patients experience complications?
  8. What is the surgeon’s policy in regards to correcting or repeating the procedure if the treatment does not meet agreed upon goals?
  9. What should I expect, post-operatively, in terms of soreness, additional scaring, activity level and so on?
  10. Have you ever had your malpractice insurance coverage denied, revoked or suspended?
In addition to the previously mentioned questions, it is important that acne patients relay to their surgeon information regarding any allergies and serious medical conditions they may have. Furthermore, patients should inform the surgeon of any medications they are taking.

This site provides information about plastic/cosmetic surgery and is designed to help users make decisions regarding their own treatment options. But medical information is not the same as medical advice--the application of medical treatment to a person's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a qualified medical practitioner if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

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