You may have been told that what you eat affects your skin and that it can be the cause of pimples and outbreaks, but the debate about diet playing a role in acne frequency still rages on. Many dermatologists will vehemently dismiss the claims that food and acne are linked, as so much of the research surrounding this aspect of skin care has been inconclusive. Studies either yielded weak results, or were flawed with too few subjects or lack of control groups.
Common acne, known medically as Acne Vulgaris, is generally caused by hormonal changes in the body, and its onset usually can be found in teenage years when puberty rears its head. Acne is directly attributed to the rise of androgen hormone levels. The production of these hormones rise when a child begins puberty, and is the reason much acne is prevalent in adolescence. As androgen levels rise, the oil glands sitting directly underneath the skin enlarge and produce increased levels of oil, also known as sebum. When pores are filled with excessive sebum, it can cause surrounding skin cells’ walls to rupture and create a breeding ground of P. acnes bacteria. As the sebum attempts to push out of the pore, it can attach to this infectious bacteria and dead skin cells, causing a blockage that begins the formation of a pimple. According to Medical News Today, dermatologists purport that almost three quarters of 11 to 30-year-olds will deal with acne at some point, but acne breakouts can continue on into adulthood, and have been observed in patients in their fifties.
Acne appears when a pore in our skin clogs. This clog begins with dead skin cells. Normally, dead skin cells rise to surface of the pore, and the body sheds the cells. When the body starts to make lots of sebum (see-bum), oil that keeps our skin from drying out, the dead skin cells can stick together inside the pore. Instead of rising to the surface, the cells become trapped inside the pore.
If you’ve made a concerted effort with over-the-counter regimens and/or diet and still aren’t seeing results, a dermatologist is absolutely worth it. There are many levels of care: Prescription retinoids (Retin A, Tazorac, Differin et al) and/or topical antibiotics are the mildest, along with blue-light treatments like Isolaze, which kill bacteria and clear pores, with virtually no downtime. Light lasers like Clear and Brilliant can clear pores and treat the red and brown tones left by old acne lesions. “Some patients think they’ve got a severe problem, when they really only have a few pimples, surrounded by red and brown marks from old breakouts,” notes Anolik. Oral antibiotics represent a more aggressive (and unsustainable long-term) solution; birth control pills and hormone-mitigating medications like Spironalactone and Deldactone can get many more-severe patients’ acne under control. Most aggressive is Accutane; while it can be severely drying and can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy, it represents a cure for truly-severe acne cases, says Anolik. “Used correctly, it is something of a miracle for people who’ve tried everything and failed,” he says.
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Oral antibiotics: Doctors may start treatment with tetracycline (Sumycin) or one of the related "cyclines," such as doxycycline (Vibramycin, Oracea, Adoxa, Atridox, and others) and minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin). Other oral antibiotics that are useful for treating acne are cefadroxil (Duricef), amoxicillin (Amoxil, DisperMox, Trimox), and the sulfa drugs.
When it comes to scarring, many doctors will tell you that prevention is key. Wearing sunscreen daily is critical, says Heidi Waldorf, a New York City-based dermatologist, and this one from Elta MD is her favorite. "It contains niacinamide, which reduces inflammation, and it's oil-free, which makes it excellent for daily use for acne-prone patients," she says.
The best way to fix them: You have a few options with these. The first would be to visit an aesthetician or a dermatologist for a deep-cleaning in a sterile environment. The second? Use an exfoliator. That could be a face scrub, retinol—which boosts skin cell turnover—or even facial cleansing brushes. If you go this route, just pick one. "You just don’t want to combine all them, since that’ll make skin sensitive," adds Dr. Hale.
The nose is typically one of the first facial areas affected in rosacea. It can become red and bumpy and develop noticeable dilated small blood vessels. Left untreated, advanced stages of rosacea can cause a disfiguring nose condition called rhinophyma (ryno-fy-ma), literally growth of the nose, characterized by a bulbous, enlarged red nose and puffy cheeks (like the classic comedian W.C. Fields). There may also be thick bumps on the lower half of the nose and the nearby cheek areas. Rhinophyma occurs mainly in men. Severe rhinophyma can require surgical correction and repair.
"You want to calm the inflammation right away," Chiu says of treating newly popped pimples prone to scarring. She suggested asking your dermatologist to prescribe an anti-inflammatory acne medication like Aczone Gel. For a prescription-free solution, dermatologist Ronald Moy suggests treating newer scars with a product containing innovative growth factors that "stimulate collagen production immediately" and "should prevent any new scars from becoming old scars." This serum from Moy's product line, DNA EGF, uses growth factors clinically proven to speed up the growth of healthy skin cells. Both hyperpigmentation (not true scarring, but the spotty aftermath of a breakout) and atrophic scars (those crater marks more deep and sunken) benefit from a stimulating collagen boost because thickening the skin leads to less visibility of existing scars, Moy says.
Your doctor might recommend an injectable treatment called a filler. "Mainly, I treat acne scars with hyaluronic acid fillers, such as Restylane, but not all acne scars respond to this sort of treatment," Schlessinger says. "Additionally, I personally find that Accutane has a remarkable effect on acne scars if it is prescribed early on in the course of a scarring acne."
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So if popping pimples doesn't cause scarring, what does? Long-lasting scars typically turn up after a recurring bout with cystic acne. Cystic acne is a breakout that burrows deep into the skin. These red, painful nodules occur when clogged pores are filled with pus and bacteria, which causes inflammation. Cystic breakouts are often tied to an internal fluctuation of hormones like testosterone (that's why they're common during puberty, monthly menstruation, and perimenopause). "If there is a cyst in the skin, it's going to cause a scar the longer it sits there because pus or bacteria deeper inside the pores cause surrounding inflammation," says Dr. Karolak. And as a result, the inflammation affects the collagen production as well as the fat stores under the skin, creating a visible scar on the surface.
13. You're still a sun-worshipper. You're probably already aware that lying out in the sun and going to tanning beds cause skin cancer, but if that still hasn't stopped you from hitting the beach without sunscreen or the proper protective gear (aka that chic sun hat), perhaps this will. Contrary to popular belief, the sun isn't healing your acne, it's actually making it worse. What happens is, as your face gets red from the sun, it makes any breakouts you might already have blend in, creating the appearance of clearer skin. But what's really going on is the sun causing your skin to dry out and triggering more oil production, which can lead to more zits.
Not for those with moderate to severe acne: Facials are effective in removing comedones (whiteheads and blackheads), but aren’t for those with many pimples, or inflammatory acne. Exfoliants help reduce comedones, but they frequently irritate pimples — causing them to become more inflamed and noticeable. Also, extracting inflammatory acne, like nodules and cysts, can be very challenging and when done improperly, can lead to scarring or further inflammation.
The two laser treatment options above are great for acne scar removal, but aren't generally recommended as acne treatment. If you're still experiencing active acne breakouts and wondering how to get rid of acne with laser treatments, check out photodynamic therapy. It combats active moderate to severe acne while also diminishing older acne scars by using light energy to activate a powerful acne-fighting solution. Patients may require 2 or 3 treatments over several weeks and should expect some redness, peeling, and sun sensitivity. This treatment will cost between $2000 to $3500 per series.
Acne is a condition of the skin that shows up as different types of bumps. These bumps can be blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, or cysts. Teens get acne because of the hormonal changes that come with puberty. If your parents had acne as teens, it's more likely that you will, too. The good news is that, for most people, acne goes away almost completely by the time they are out of their teens.
If a pore gets clogged up and closes but bulges out from the skin, you're left with a whitehead. If a pore gets clogged up but stays open, the top surface can darken and you're left with a blackhead. Sometimes the wall of the pore opens, allowing sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells to make their way under the skin — and you're left with a small, red bump called a pimple (sometimes pimples have a pus-filled top from the body's reaction to the bacterial infection).
The process involves first removing makeup with an emollient formula—I use her Soothing Aloe Cleansing Milk, which looks and feels like lotion—on dry skin for 30 seconds, then rinsing and follow with another cleanser. Rouleau's AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser has been my lifesaver, it's a blend of salicylic, lactic, and glycolic acids, plus jojoba beads for physical exfoliation. It sloughs away residue and oil and targets pimples, blackheads, and leftover scarring. I always followed this with Rouleau's Balancing Skin Tonic before applying any other layers.
The bad news: There's no secret ingredient or miracle gadget that makes scars totally disappear. Don't get discouraged, though. A lot of what you think is acne scarring is really just hyperpigmentation or erythema (brown or red spots) rather than an actual change in the texture of the skin. Plus, there's a bevy of gels, creams, and treatments that can bring that discoloration down. We asked top dermatologists to recommend the most effective of the bunch.
"Put it this way: It is so common that pimples are meeting wrinkles," dermatologist Neal Schultz, M.D., creator of Beauty Rx Skincare, tells SELF. "For the last 10 to 20 years, adult acne has been increasing. It can even go into your 50s, right to menopause." If you had acne as a teen, chances are, you've got oily skin that's prone to breakouts. But even if you didn't, it's still possible you'll end up with adult acne.
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Severe acne. Severe acne consists of deep cysts, redness, swelling, extreme damage to the skin and scarring. You should see a dermatologist to care for this type of acne. Scarring can be prevented with appropriate treatments. Your dermatologist can prescribe oral antibiotics and oral contraceptives. Large inflamed cysts can be treated with an injection of a drug that lessens the redness, swelling, and irritation, and promotes healing.
Patients with moderate rosacea may have periodic flares that require treatment with oral antibiotics, lasers, and other therapies. They may require oral antibiotic therapy for years. Some patients complain of looking like they have been drinking alcohol when in fact they don't drink at all. Although rosacea is not a grave medical situation, severe cases may damage some patient's lives. It is important for these patients to express their concerns with their physician and to get professional help in treating their rosacea.
Yes. Although rosacea has a variable course and is not predictable in everyone, it gradually worsens with age, especially if untreated. In small studies, many rosacea sufferers have reported that without treatment their condition had advanced from early to middle stage within a year. With good therapy, it is possible to prevent progression of rosacea.
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Acne occurs when the small pores on the surface of the skin become blocked with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Each individual pore on the skin opens up to a follicle beneath the epidermis. Within these follicles lie a singular hair and a sebaceous gland. The sebaceous gland produces sebum, an oil designed to keep your skin lubricated and soft. However, when hormonal changes and other factors cause the gland to produce an excess of sebum, the oil will be pumped through the follicle, and may pick up dead skin cells and P. acnes bacteria on its way out. Should these substances clump together, a plug will form. As this plug starts to press up against the surface of the skin, the body responds with an accumulation of red and white blood cells to combat any infection, and this results in inflammation and redness. Acne can occur on the face, back, neck, chest, arms, and buttocks, and any other skin area with a saturation of sebaceous pores.