Acne affects up to 85% of young people. But is it not caused by poor hygiene and won’t be resolved with fad diets. WinWin’s dermatologist mate Dr Michelle Rodrigues gets down to basics.
What is it?
Acne — the medical condition that causes pimples to form — is due to glands forming excessive amounts of oil that bacteria on the skin and the immune system then react to. Small pimples, black heads (open comedones) and white heads (closed comedones) are usually what is seen on the skin. While acne is most common on the face, it also occurs on the back and chest fairly commonly too.
Acne can affect confidence and result in discolouration on the skin and long-term scarring. The good news is, treating acne early will help avoid these complications.
In general, a well-balanced diet is good for overall skin health. There is no good evidence that chocolate causes acne. There is some evidence that insulin-like growth factor can make acne worse. Skim milk and skim yoghurt contain this, so should be avoided if you have acne. Go for the full cream dairy products and keep milk intake to two glasses or less a day.
Picking pimples can cause worsening of scarring so should always be avoided. Popping pimples is not a good idea unless you have a sterile needle to pop it and you know that it is definitely ready to be popped. Popping and squeezing can actually spread infection, so it is best avoided.
Know the lingo:
Find a cleanser that is labelled as “For acne-prone skin”. Look for a moisturiser that is “non-comedogenic” which means it won’t clog pores. Sunscreen should be SPF 50+ and also labelled “non-comedogenic”.
Products to find:
Gels and lotions are better than creams for acne-prone skin. Avoid applying oils on the skin (including things that are marketed for acne scars). Liquid make-up will block pores more than mineral make-up. Ensure your make-up is adequately removed each night before bed.
Stuff you can do:
When exercising, be sure to use a good sunscreen (see tip 3), use a towel to wipe away excessive sweat and shower with a gentle soap-free cleanser afterwards.
Think about your school-uni-work-life balance and stress control. We all know stress can make acne worse, so learn what makes you stressed and think about ways to combat it. Exercise, music, meditation — whatever it is — make sure you are “de-stressing” on a regular basis.
Help to get:
Don’t expect your acne to disappear with elimination of foods or your new yoga sessions — get an expert opinion. Your GP is your first stop and he or she can refer you to an expert skin specialist (dermatologist).
A prescription from your GP for vitamin A and B3 creams, and benzoyl peroxide washes can be helpful. And if things are a bit more severe, tablets can help control acne. The common tablets used are doxycycline and minocycline. For more troublesome acne, a dermatologist may prescribe isotretinoin (which is a vitamin-A derived tablet). While there is a lot of fear about isotretinoin spread on the Internet, the truth is that while this medication can cause dry lips, some dry skin and increased sensitivity to the sun, it is otherwise a really good way of treating stubborn acne.