Do Acne Creams Work?

by Rebekah Scott
(last updated December 7, 2009)

Acne sufferers don't want to waste any time on products that aren't going to deliver on the promises of their manufacturers. People with acne are always trying to find the cream that will clear up their blemishes and prevent them from ever surfacing again. The truth is, however, that creams only deal with part of the problem behind acne.

Acne is more than skin deep. The cause of acne begins on the cellular level when increases in certain hormones cause the sebaceous glands in hair follicles to begin producing more oil. Because hair follicles aren't built to handle so much oil, it builds up and becomes trapped in the follicle. The oil then attracts dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria, which form the visible manifestations of acne in the form of pimples, white heads, black heads, and redness and swelling. While it is true that creams and cleansers can help remove all of the foreign substances trapped inside of hair follicles, unfortunately no topical treatment can address the underlying hormonal problems because creams only address what is happening near the surface of your skin.

It's good to have realistic expectations of what an acne cream can do. A good cream, one with benzoyl peroxide or some type of acid to clear out the oil, and an antibiotic to kill bacteria will bring about noticeable results within one to two weeks. You should also look for a product that has a moisturizer in it, since drying out your skin will only trigger and increase in oil production.

Be aware that after a short time your acne cream may seem to lose its effectiveness. At that point, you may want to switch to a new cream, but it is important to understand that your old cream wasn't necessarily defective. This is a normal cycle when treating acne with topical creams. No matter what product you try, after a certain amount of time your acne can return and you may need to switch to another product to restart the treatment cycle. Acne fights back, and you will need to switch your game plan accordingly.

The bottom line is that no cream is a foolproof cure for acne. Even if a cream does make problem areas disappear, the root issues behind your acne are still present and in full effect underneath your skin. In severe cases dermatologists and doctors can prescribe prescription strength creams that are more powerful than creams that are found in drugstores, or may even advise an oral medication that will address the deeply rooted causes of acne. Even with these prescription strength medications, however, there is no silver bullet for treating acne. The most effective thing you can do is to stay on top of your treatment plan and not pick at or pop any blemishes that surface on your skin.

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