Why your ACNE medication is NOT working

PhotoCredit: esngent.be

So a pimple erupts in your face and you run out to your closest pharmacy to buy an acne cream. After a few months of applying this cream, NOTHING happens, the acne is still there, or WORSE there’s more. Or how about after years of using a particular brand of acne medication, it suddenly stops working. Your pimples come out recharged and ready to attack.

What happened? Why is your Acne cream NOT working?

Here’s one reason: You are using the WRONG cream for your TYPE of Acne.

When it comes to treating Acne, there is no ONE magic product that treats it all. Depending on the size, location and cause of Acne, a single breakout might need multiple solutions. While there are many causes of Acne, the 5 main causes are: inflammation, Hormonal imbalance, p.acnes bacteria, buildup of dead skin cells, and overproduction of sebum.

Below are a list of the 5 main causes of acne and solutions to treating them:

  1. Inflammation: This can be as a result of irritation from new products, environmental changes or over manipulation of the skin. It is unclear whether inflammation comes first in causing acne, or occurs as a result of other factors. If inflammation is a cause of your Acne, it can be treated with Antibiotics
  2. Acne Baceteria (Propionibacterium acnes, P acnes): P acnes is a type of bacteria on the skin,  people with acne have higher amounts of it. If P. acnes is the cause of your acne, products like Benzoyl Peroxide and Antibiotics can greatly reduce the amount of P acnes on the Skin.
  3. Altered maturation of cells in hair follicles: This basically means dead skin cells that plug the hair follicles. The skin on our face is made up of tiny hair follicles that we call pores, these follicles or pores need to be clear and open or else we “breakout”. Some of the initial signs of this type of clogged hair follicle acne, are white and blackheads. To treat clogged hair follicles, Exfoliation is important. Retinoids or Chemical Exfoliation is key to combatting this type of acne.
  4.  Increased Sebum: Sebum is the oily substance that coats the skin. An excess of sebum or change in its composition is associated with acne. The key to treating acne caused by overactivity by the sebaceous glands is exfoliating with Retinoids or Chemical Exfoliation.
  5.  Testosterone or Androgen hormones: We often hear that Acne is hormonal, and this is because of the androgen or testosterone hormone, which are thought to be the initial trigger of acne. There levels increase at puberty, which is when acne first presents itself. There are receptors for these hormones on the hair follicles and glands that produce sebum. The hormonal component of acne allows for other treatment options that alter hormones. To treat acne caused by a hormonal imbalance, oral contraceptives that contain the estrogen- like hormone  estradiol are used for women with acne. Spironolactone is another hormonal treatment option for women and works by decreasing the amount and effectiveness of the androgen hormone.


So now you know the causes of Acne, how do you find out which causes  your type of acne?

I was able to clear this cystic type of breakout in a month with the help of chemical exfoliation.
I was able to clear this cystic type of breakout in a month with the help of chemical exfoliation.

Sometimes you know the cause of your breakout, other times you have to experiment with products to know what works best for you.  It is important to remember that if you are trying a new acne cream or lotion, you have to give it at least 30 days (1 month) to determine its efficacy. Our skin cells have a renewal period of 28 days, so after this period, if nothing happens, you might want to try another product.

One good way of analyzing your type of Acne is by examining your face. Where and what size is your Acne?

Based on my experience of working with clients, I’ve narrowed down the following:

  1. Acne located on the forehead, that tends to be tiny and clustered like a rash are congestion. Your pores are congested or blocked by not properly cleansing your face, wearing a hairstyle like bangs that trap sweat, heat and dirt on your forehead, or change in environment. For this type of Acne, I consider Cause 3 and 4 to be a factor, so therefore it is important to treat with Exfoliation.
  2. Acne located on the Chin or cheeks, that tend to be bigger than normal are most likely hormonal. Also note Acne that occurs around your time of the month is also hormonal. Therefore to treat this type of Acne, maintaining a balanced hormone is important.
    1. Other than hormonal medication like birth control, oftentimes, a change of diet can achieve this. Research shows that a diet of excess sugar and dairy affects the hormonal balance. So eating a rich diet of healthy fruits and vegetables, hydrating yourself with water and exercising to get rid of toxins can help keep you balanced hormonally.
  3. Acne that is huge and all over the face, or on chest and back are often caused by Hormonal imbalance or P.acnes bacteria. Using products with Benzoyl Peroxide, Tea tree oil and sulfur will be effective in treating these types of acne.
  4. Acne that props up randomly from using medication, using a new product, are often acne caused by inflammation and “CAN” be treated by antibiotics. But be sure to get a recommendation from a Dermatologist or doctor before taking any antibiotics.


Overall, as we get older, our skin changes. The cells ability to renew itself slows down, so don’t be surprised if the pimple cream you used in your 20’s fails to work its magic in your 30’s. It is very important we pay attention to how we take care of ourselves.

For your acne related questions, be sure to email info@myHairmyBeautyNG.com