The Facts for a Clear Complexion
by Cathy Ulrich
A scourge of teenagers and adults alike, acne is one of the least understood of all skin conditions--and one of the most common. Usually associated with youth, acne can last well into the adult years and sometimes throughout life. It's tough to treat, especially if approached as a dirty skin problem. And if not cared for properly, acne can produce scarring on the face and body that is difficult, if not impossible, to clear. Let's look at some of the myths surrounding acne and replace them with the facts.
Myth: Any skin condition that causes pimples, blackheads, and redness is a form of acne.
Fact: There are other conditions that look like acne but aren't.
Several other skin conditions look like acne. Rosacea is a hereditary skin condition that causes redness and can eventually develop tiny whiteheads and pimples if left untreated. Contact dermatitis can occur when the skin is exposed to harsh soaps or even sheets or pillowcases washed in harsh chemicals. It, too, can cause whiteheads, tiny pimples, and redness.
Gram negative folliculitis also looks like severe acne, producing pustules and deep cysts, but it's caused by a different kind of bacteria than common acne. This is a severe skin infection requiring medical treatment. It's usually the result of long-term tetracycline or topical antibiotic use, which sets up an environment for drug resistant bacteria. It can be treated with proper testing and administration of gram negative-specific antibiotics. It's important to see a dermatologist for appropriate testing and diagnosis before assuming that your skin condition is common acne.
Myth: If I have acne, it means my skin is dirty. I should use a stronger cleanser.
Fact: Harsh cleansers and excessive washing can make acne worse.
It's true that excessive oil on the skin can clog pores, but harsh cleansers and soaps will irritate the skin, making acne worse. Use a mild cleanser that doesn't dry your skin. Wash twice a day--before applying makeup in the morning and before bed. It's essential to cleanse your skin prior to going to sleep to remove makeup, dirt, and pollutants. Use a makeup that is water-based and noncomedogenic (non-clogging), and avoid cold creams or lotions that leave a greasy film. Your skin care professional is trained to evaluate your skin type and offer guidance about proper daily skin care and products. Consult your esthetician about the skin care and makeup that's right for you.
Myth: Eating chocolate and fried foods makes me break out.
Fact: A healthy diet greatly contributes to healthy skin, but eating foods, such as chocolate, doesn't by itself cause acne breakouts.
Research has never been able to prove that eating specific foods--even fried foods--causes acne. However, certain foods may aggravate it. On the other hand, eating a healthy diet contributes to better skin, especially foods rich in beta-carotene, such as spinach, apricots, peaches, sweet potatoes, and carrots. These provide the raw materials for the body to produce vitamin A, which is essential for cell growth and skin health. Citrus, tomatoes, and berries contain vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that strengthens the immune system and helps the body fight bacteria that can cause acne. A healthy diet provides the building blocks for healthier skin, but eating chocolate or sweets occasionally won't cause acne flare-ups.
Myth: Sunbathing clears acne.
Fact: While limited exposure to UV rays from the sun may help clear existing pimples, extended exposure can make acne worse.
Extended sun exposure can damage skin, causing peeling and flaking, which translates into blocked pores--a primary cause of acne. In addition, sunbathing dries skin, which stimulates oil production. Excess oil combines with extra dead skin cells from sun damage, forming the perfect environment for blocked pores and breakouts. Ask your esthetician about oil-free sunscreen products for your specific skin type and use them daily. You'll not only help reduce acne, you'll also prevent skin damage that causes wrinkles.
Myth: I'll grow out of it.
Fact: Half of all adult women and one-fourth of all adult men have some degree of acne symptoms.
While it's more common in teenagers, acne is prevalent in adults as well. Some people make it through their teenage years only to develop acne later in life. The hormone changes experienced during pregnancy can cause adult-onset acne, but other conditions--the use of certain medications, exposure to chemicals, and other hormonal changes experienced in adulthood--can also produce acne symptoms long after adolescence.
Myth: I'm the only one who understands my complicated skin.
Fact: Your esthetician can help.
Your esthetician may recommend you see a dermatologist to help correctly diagnose and treat your skin condition, and she can certainly help direct you in the best ways to help support a healthy complexion. By guiding you to the right skin care products and makeup and teaching you how to use them, your skin care professional can be an important part of your team. Monthly facials specifically designed to gently cleanse and exfoliate your skin will also aid in healing and prevention.
Acne requires special attention in your daily skin care regimen and lifestyle. Let your esthetician support you in this journey to health through regular treatments and sound education.
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