Patients first receive a topical anesthetic, which works for about an hour before the device goes on. "When you’re done," she explains, "it looks like your skin has tiny holes — almost pixelated or grid-like — and I follow with SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic Acid, a hyaluronic acid serum, and Luxamend (a prescription wound-healing cream that speeds up healing). Finally, we apply Aquaphor to create a barrier for the skin." Depending on the intensity of the laser, patients can expect anywhere from a few days of ruddiness to up to 10 to 14 for very high-intensity treatment. There is a risk of bleeding, infection, or scarring. As always, you'll need to consult with your dermatologist about whether this treatment is right for you.
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People who escaped their teen years almost pimple-free may develop persistent adult-onset acne as they get older. Despite the normal increase in androgen levels during puberty, some doctors believe that flare-ups of acne have less to do with androgen levels than with how a person's skin responds to an increase in sebum production or to the bacteria that causes acne. The bacteria Propionibacterium acnes occurs naturally in healthy hair follicles. If too many of them accumulate in plugged follicles, they may secrete enzymes that break down sebum and cause inflammation. Some people are simply more sensitive than others to this reaction. Sebum levels that might cause a pimple or two in one person may result in widespread outbreaks -- or even acute cystic acne -- in another person.
Another source of hormonal changes: stress. Whether you work full time, are a full-time mom, or juggle both, chances are, your stress levels are high. "When you're stressed, you have an organ called the adrenal gland that makes the stress hormone cortisol, and puts it out into the body to help the body deal with stress," Dr. Schultz explains. Unfortunately, a tiny bit of testosterone leaks out with it. For a woman, this male hormone can drive the oil glands to produce more oil—the root cause of breakouts. (Thanks a lot, hormones!)
Topical (external) applications: Antibacterial cleansers come in the form of gels, creams, and lotions that are applied to the affected area. The active ingredients that kill surface bacteria include benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, and resorcinol. Some brands promoted on the Internet and cable TV (such as ProActiv) are much more costly than identical and sometimes more potent products one can buy in the drugstore.