- Acne can range widely from mild to severe breakouts, and is typically caused by a variety of factors.
- It is possible for people of all ages and skin types to develop mild acne.
- Usually, mild acne is relatively easy to treat, and often responds positively to over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatments.
Those suffering from mild acne vulgaris, more commonly known as acne, are likely to develop a few blackheads or whiteheads which do not cover an entire affected area. Commonly affected areas include the face, chest, shoulders, upper arms, or back.
There are many different causes of mild acne, and typically there is more than one factor at play in its development. These can include hormonal changes, diet, and stress.
Mild Acne Symptoms
Those with mild acne will typically notice occasional minor breakouts, but will not notice larger areas that are red or inflamed. Mild acne breakouts are most likely to occur on the chin, nose, forehead, or shoulders.
If left untreated, mild acne can become develop into more severe forms of acne over time.
Mild acne vs moderate acne
If your breakouts are moderate rather than mild, they may involve more areas of the body, and may result in pustules (red pimples with white tops, similar to whiteheads but more inflamed), or cystic acne, which can manifest as large and even painful bumps beneath the skin. Moderate acne also has a higher likelihood of scarring than the minor blemishes associated with mild acne.
Causes of Mild Acne
There are a wide range of contributing causes associated with acne. These can include hormonal changes, stress, or more superficial factors like clothing or certain medications. Mild acne may be caused by any of the following factors:
Hormonal acne is most commonly caused by hormonal fluctuations which occur as a result of puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. Some women experience acne as their hormones fluctuate throughout their menstrual cycle. Your doctor may opt to prescribe oral contraceptives (birth control pills) to treat this type of acne.
HIgher androgen levels (male sex hormones present in both men and women) cause skin to produce excess sebum, which can plug pores and promote bacteria that cause acne. In women, higher androgen levels can sometimes be connected to conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Research has shown that emotional stressors can also affect your complexion. Depression, anxiety, and stress can all affect your skin. When you are stressed, a rush of hormones (including androgens) are released, which sends sebum production into overdrive, causing or worsening existing acne.
Some research has shown that eating too much high-glycemic food (i.e. soda, white bread, candy, sugary cereals) can increase your likelihood of developing acne. In other instances, dairy products (specifically milk or skim milk) can cause acne. Cutting out or reducing the consumption of these foods may help reduce your mild acne.
Acne prone individuals (and those with oily skin in particular) should take care to avoid skin or hair care products that are oily and likely to clog pores (comedogenic), as these substances can cause mild acne. Ingredients to avoid include coconut oil, shea butter and beeswax. It is always best to opt for oil-free skin care products.
Can You Get Rid of Mild Acne?
If you have mild acne, there are several things you can try at home to improve your skin. If these approaches don’t work for you or if your acne only worsens despite your efforts, be sure to consult with your dermatologist to find the acne treatment best-suited for you and your skin.
Over the Counter Treatments for Mild Acne
Mild acne is often treated successfully with topical treatments or products. Treating your acne with OTC products is highly convenient, since they are inexpensive, easy to obtain at your local pharmacy, and do not require the effort that DIY natural recipes require. Some of the most effective OTC ingredients for treatment of acne include:
Retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A, come in different forms, including gels, lotions, and creams. They possess anti-inflammatory properties and help to unplug hair follicles and accelerate cell turnover. Retinol can reduce existing acne as well as prevent new acne. With continual use, expect it to take 8-12 weeks for visible results.
Cleansers and topical ointments containing benzoyl peroxide can effectively treat mild acne. It works to remove dead skin cells on the surface of the skin and prevent clogging. It also destroys acne-causing bacteria. With continual use, expect it to take about a month for visible results.
OTC skin products which contain salicylic acid may come in the form of lotions, creams or pads. Salicylic acid doesn’t have any effect on sebum or bacteria, but instead works to unclog pores, thus reducing acne preventatively. Much like benzoyl peroxide, use it continuously for the best results.
Prescription Treatments and Procedures
If you have mild acne but are finding OTC treatments ineffective, there are several prescription treatments and procedures available which may produce more successful results. Ask your doctor or dermatologist about any of the following prescription treatments for treating your mild acne:
Accutane, also known as isotretinoin, is a medication most well known for treating cases of severe acne. Although Accutane has traditionally been associated with dry skin and a number of more serious side effects, more recent trials with lower dosages have been found effective for mild to moderate cases of acne with fewer side effects.
LED light treatments
LED light treatment is widely considered one of the best noninvasive treatments for mild or moderate acne. The most common type, blue light therapy, has an antimicrobial effect, making it effective at killing several types of bacteria which collect in the pores. One study found blue light therapy improved acne in 77 percent of cases.
Chemical peels may be an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne. Such peels typically use either alpha or beta-hydroxy acids as their main ingredients. Salicylic acid is a commonly used beta-hydroxy acid with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, making it effective for comedonal acne, while glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid which can loosen and lift away excess oil from clogged follicles.
Natural Treatments for Mild Acne
If you do not tolerate OTC treatments well and would prefer not to opt for the higher expenses associated with prescription treatments, clearing your skin naturally can also be effective. The following remedies use natural ingredients commonly found in the home to treat your mild acne:
At-home face masks
Face masks for mild acne work to draw oil and impurities from your skin’s surface, clear pores, reduce inflammation, and exfoliate gently. At-home face masks can soothe an existing breakout, reduce its severity, or prevent future breakouts.
Try a cucumber mask for treating your mild acne from the comfort of your own home:
- 2 tbsp aloe vera gel
- 1/2 cucumber
- Puree cucumber in a blender
- Mix aloe vera gel and cucumber together in a bowl
- Apply formula to your face
- Leave on for approximately 30 minutes
- Gently wash your face with warm water
Aloe and cucumber are both noncomedogenic (not pore-clogging) and are considered safe for use on most skin types.
Other natural acne-fighting ingredients to look for in DIY face mask recipes include:
- Tea tree oil, shown to fight fungus and bacteria
- Zinc, shown effective against inflammatory acne
- Witch hazel, a mild astringent and anti-inflammatory
- Green tea for inflammation of the sebaceous glands (sebum-producing glands)
Change your diet
Eliminating high-carb, sugary foods and dairy products can help lower the production of acne-causing androgens, effectively treating your mild acne. Research has shown a connection between the consumption of these foods with blood sugar fluctuations, which, in turn, can worsen acne.
Alleviating stress looks different to different people, and tactics may include spending more time with friends, doing yoga, or working toward a better work life balance. Proper stress management may help reduce your mild acne.
Mild acne is characterized by minor breakouts which don’t cover an entire area, however, if left untreated, it can develop into more severe acne over time.
Typically, mild acne responds well to at-home treatments, such DIY face masks and OTC skin care products. Lifestyle modifications such as changes to your diet, or stress reduction techniques may also help, and in certain cases, prescription treatments may be effective too.
If mild acne fails to clear up, or worsens, consult your doctor or dermatologist for treatment options tailored to your unique needs.
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