Blemishes are marks or areas of discolouration/dark spots on the skin, generally caused by acne breakouts. They can also be attributed to factors like hormonal imbalance, genetics, improper skincare, poor diet, sun exposure, and ageing. Pimples, pustules, blackheads and whiteheads can also be categorized as blemishes caused by clogged pores. The unsightly blemishes can appear anywhere on the body but are most common on the face, neck, shoulders and back. They can be raised off of the skin or flat and in a range of colours. Since there are many different types of blemishes with many different causes, the treatment for each is a little different. Common types include acne, scars, birthmarks, age spots, and an uneven skin tone.
One of the most common blemish-causing conditions is acne. This can cause raised pustules and pimples as well as flat blackheads and whiteheads. These appear when a hair follicle gets clogged with a naturally-produced oily substance called sebum, dirt, or bacteria, and can also be caused by ingrown hairs. Most people have acne during puberty when hormonal changes cause the body to produce too much sebum, which increases the chances of clogs. Over-the-counter cleansers and medications can reduce sebum, soothe inflammation, and clean out pores for people with mild or moderate acne, but those with severe acne may need prescription anti-inflammatory therapy and medications to regulate hormonal changes.
Scarring is another of the most common blemishes. It’s caused by too much collagen building up after an injury and can range widely in size, colour, and texture. Though most scars fade over time, using skin oils containing vitamin C, chemical peels, dermabrasion, and laser therapy can reduce the appearance of large or brightly-coloured scars. One exception to this is keloid scarring, which continues to grow even after the skin has healed, and does not respond well to many types of treatment. Radiation therapy, corticosteroid injections, and cryosurgery may reduce the appearance of these types of scars.
Blemishes that appear as flat patches of discolouration that are present at birth or develop when a person is very young are called birthmarks. They can range widely in size, and are typically black or brown, as in the case of moles; or red, as in the case of port wine stains and stork bites. They’re almost always benign and are caused by too much pigmentation in one particular area, or blood vessels coming close to the surface of the skin. Since they’re usually just a cosmetic problem, they can usually be treated with steroids or laser treatments or can be frozen off or surgically removed.
Sun exposure may cause age spots or liver spots in older people or younger people who tan a lot. Like birthmarks, they’re generally flat and can be found anywhere on the body, though they’re most common on the face and hands. They usually look like small grey, black, or brown marks, and can be treated with skin-bleaching creams.
Uneven Skin Tone
A blotchy skin tone is also a very common, though the often more subtle, form of blemish. Also known as hyperpigmentation, it’s caused by an irregular overproduction of melanin. Since melanin production is influenced by sun exposure, hormones, and skin injury, too much of any of these things can change skin tone for the worse. Depending on the type of discolouration and the underlying cause, an uneven skin tone can be treated by exfoliation, topical creams, and medications affecting hormone production.
Though it is impossible to prevent birthmarks, the chances of getting other types of blemishes can be greatly reduced through proper skincare. Various homemade remedies and commercial products help reduce blemishes (Table.1). Wearing sunscreen and avoiding tanning can help to prevent age spots and can help with an uneven skin tone, and staying hydrated can help to keep skin looking healthy. Washing the face regularly with a cleanser that matches a person’s skin type is also important, as is regularly moisturizing the face. Additionally, proper wound care, breathable bandages, and anti-scarring cream can all reduce the chances of noticeable scars.
Table.1: Remedies for blemishes
These remedies work best when used as soon as the acne breakout occurs or immediately after the blemish surfaces. However, prevention is better than cure. Once the blemishes appear, it is difficult to get rid of them and is a time-consuming process that eventually affects the self-confidence of the person. So keep acne and blemishes at bay.
Other Preventive Measures
- Gently exfoliate the skin every day to remove excess oils and prevent spotting. Consult a dermatologist before using any harsh scrubs on the skin.
- Do not use rough washcloths, alcohol-soaked pads or sponges on your skin. These can cause irritation that increases the production of oil and creates new blemishes.
- Make the Cleansing-Toning-Moisturizing routine a part of your daily schedule, especially if one has oily skin.
- Moisturize the skin with an oil-free and alcohol-free moisturizer every day after you rinse off the cleanser and before putting on any makeup. A moisturizer with α-AHA is recommended.
- Do not poke, probe, squeeze, or otherwise manipulate blemishes or pimples with fingers, especially if they are dirty. Let the cleanser and exfoliants do the work.
- Use a good sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher whenever one steps outside. The sun can make blemishes worse and interfere with certain acne medications and treatments.
- Improve diet. Consume fibre-rich fruits and vegetables in plenty. Consuming ginger and garlic is good.
- Detoxify the body by drinking about 6-10 glasses of water daily and moderate exercise.
- Change the pillow cover every day as the perspiration on it can contain bacteria.
In certain cases of extreme acne, one might need microdermabrasion, chemical peel or even laser surgery to control sebum secretion. But in a lot of cases, this form of treatment fails, hence the best would be to adopt a prevention approach.
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