Face Value: Where to Start When Treating Acne
Nov 21, 2011 11:26PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
There is no more common skin disease on the planet than acne. It doesn’t even discriminate against race or age. However, it is most common in teenagers and young adults. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated 80 percent of all people between the ages of 11 and 30 have acne outbreaks at some point. Acne is not a serious threat to our overall health, but it can leave scars, literally and figuratively.
What causes blemishes is not completely known. However, physicians and researchers suspect increased hormone production in the teenage years; hormone fluctuation during pregnancy; starting or stopping birth control pills; heredity; some types of medication, and heavier makeup may be among the culprits.
And there are some surprising things that can make it all worse. Pressure from bike helmets, backpacks, or tight collars; pollution, and high humidity are all considered contributing factors. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic also cite friction on the skin caused by telephones and cell phones to their “don’t” list.
The experts at NIH report some myth busting, however. They contend that dirty skin and stress do not cause acne. They also say chocolate and greasy foods are not to blame for acne outbreaks in most people. Additionally, the terms acne and rosacea are often used to describe facial redness symptoms, and not all symptoms can be effectively treated with one product or procedure. Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution. Left untreated, acne and rosacea can leave a lifelong imprint on a person’s face and can be a detriment to his or her self image. Use of abrasive products can often exacerbate acne, and antibiotics often cause undesirable side effects.
“To effectively treat facial redness, acne, and rosacea,” an area physician notes, “we must take a closer look at lifestyle, skin care products and overall health. Based on the patient’s skin type and the severity of the skin conditions; a customized in-office treatment regimen can be created. Acne and rosacea treatment regimens generally involve IPL treatments and Vi Peel treatments, along with skin care products chosen to suit the patient’s skin care needs and lifestyle.”
Research into the cause, cure and prevention of acne is ongoing. Side effects of current drugs are being examined and there are new drugs (both topical and ingested, including antibiotics) being developed.
Additionally, scientists are extensively studying the symbiotic relationship of hormones and acne, as well as the affects of bacteria on the skin. Each year, $ 1.4 billion is spent on acne medication, so you can be certain that researchers are motivated to discover new products.
What is important to know is that people, young or older, can seek help. The best acne treatment begins in your doctor’s office. Dermatologists aim to heal, stop new outbreaks, prevent scarring, and help reduce the embarrassment of having acne. Effective treatments are available and the earlier treatment is started, the lower the risk of lasting physical or emotional damage.
Special thanks to Kelly Sullivan, M.D., F.A.S.C. for her assistance.
ACNE SCARRING: If the damage is done…how do we undo it?
Acne scarring can be one of the more difficult things to treat. Scars form when a hair follicle or sweat gland gets infected over and over again. If the infection is allowed to continue for a prolonged duration, or keeps coming back, the hair follicle or sweat gland becomes damaged and a scar is formed. These scars are typically located in the middle to deep portion of the dermis (skin is composed of an epidermis as the superficial layer and the dermis is the deeper and thicker layer). Because of this location, these scars can be very difficult to treat.
The most reliable and consistent treatment for acne scars is skin resurfacing, explains an Annapolis plastic surgeon. This can be in the form of chemical peels, laser resurfacing or dermabrasion (NOT microdermabrasion, he emphasizes).
Currently, laser skin resurfacing with or without dermabrasion is the standard of care for most patients. Although there are many types of laser resurfacing treatments available, the fractionated CO2 laser, according to a local plastic surgeon, is by far the most effective. This laser works by ablating or removing small microscopic sections of the skin. The laser can penetrate down into the mid dermis and stimulate the contraction, remodeling and growth of collagen. The ablative CO2 laser also effectively removes a microscopic portion of the scar. As the skin heals from the laser, the scars are reduced and the skin becomes firmer and smoother. Deep acne scars are more difficult to treat because the deeper the laser penetrates the skin, the more likely it is for the laser itself to cause a scar. Therefore, a proper balance has to be maintained. This laser should only be used in the hands of experienced plastic surgeons.
Finally, broad deep acne scars can also be treated by simple scar revision procedures. This is a way to surgically remove a large deep scar and replace it with a small surgical scar.
Special thanks to Henry Sandel, M.D, F.A.C.S. for his assistance.