Acne myths and legends
Junk food causes acne. Chocolate always worsens acne. You get acne when you do not wash your face enough. Acne ends when you’re 19 and never affects adults 20 years old and over. Acne never begins for the first time in anyone older than a teenager. False, false, false, false and false.
While these common beliefs concerning acne are all untrue, most people believe them and often waste valuable time before they seek treatment for their skin. According to one recent article, 65% of patients delay obtaining necessary treatment for their skin for over one year.
Why should you treat your skin now?
When people delay taking care of their skin, they can often end up with skin that is more difficult to treat. If you do not treat acne in its early stages, some patients may scar. Scarring is often more common in people who pick at their skin. Another result of delayed treatment is dark spots, especially in people of color. Even with proper care, these spots can take many months to become like your normal skin. Effective treatment for acne commonly takes time, even many months, so you must be patient.
What causes acne?
Your hormones, your family history, and your stress levels are the main causes of your acne. Diet seems to play a minor role, though if you repeatedly notice breakouts after a certain food you should eat less of that food. Some foods that may play a role in acne include dairy products, milk, chocolate, nuts, seafood, greasy foods, and French fries. Our physician, who treats many professional athletes, also notes that keeping an area covered by clothing such as a hockey helmet or football chin strap, or taking certain steroids, or heat and sweat can aggravate acne.
At what age can I develop acne?
While decades ago acne was generally limited to teenagers, for unknown reasons, currently acne often begins for the first time in patients in their 20’s or even their 30’s, and especially in women. “But I never had this as a teenager”, is a common lament that we hear.
Fortunately, many treatments can help control acne and often even keep it away or possibly cure it for months to years. If your acne is mild, often all you may need are over-the-counter treatments such as 5% benzoyl peroxide. For more stubborn pimples, topical creams such as vitamin A preparations and topical antibiotics, prescribed by a dermatologist, can generally help.
What treatments can help my acne?
When your acne is bumpy, leaves scars or dark spots, affects you emotionally, or physically hurts, that’s when you need additional help from a board-certified dermatologist. With deeper bumps, otherwise known as cysts or nodules, the acne is causing inflammation deep within the skin. With these patients, topical creams cannot penetrate deep enough into the skin and thereby are often not effective by themselves. You will frequently need prescription medicines taken by mouth. Often these medicines need to be given for weeks or months at a time, but if the acne persists the oral medications may need to be used longer. Antibiotics are most commonly used, but sometimes patients require hormonal treatments such as the birth control pill or injections with a minuscule amount of cortisone.
Dark spots commonly affect people of color and can take months or longer to go away. Treatments include bleaching creams, sunscreens, vitamin A preparations, and exfoliating peels. Of course, your underlying acne must be controlled or else new spots will form. We recently treated a woman whose acne and dark spots were so active she refused to go out socially. With treatment, her skin has improved to where she no longer feels self-conscious. She now feels comfortable dating.
Can acne affect me emotionally or hurt my chances to get a job?
Acne can affect people emotionally since you only have one chance to make a first impression. If you apply for a job, and a potential employer cannot see past your face, then you may not be offered the job. The unemployment rate of people with acne, according to one study, was higher than in people who had clear skin. Other patients feel dirty and unclean and repeatedly wash their face, which can actually worsen their skin.
We recall one patient who had spent tens of thousands of dollars on over the counter medications and make-up before she came to see him. At the end of the course of treatment, when her skin was clear and she no longer had to wear make-up, she thanked us for “saving her life.” Although acne is not a life-threatening condition, many patients are very upset emotionally and this can affect their social life as well. Consequently, people can feel much better about themselves and have an improved outlook toward the world when their skin is clear.
Acne and Accutane
Another mainstay of treatment for those with deeper acne is a derivative of vitamin A, known as isotretinoin or Accutane. While many people have heard negative reactions concerning the drug, we feel it can be amazingly helpful for those who need the medication.
We recalled another patient who did not want to leave his house for months, as he simply felt too embarrassed. Once his skin was clear he felt more comfortable attending school. Accutane can cause birth defects so women need to be on contraceptives or abstain during their course of treatment and for a month after they finish their course of medication. Accutane has other side effects such as temporary dry lips, but these side effects are for the most part, controllable with medications and moisturizers.
We believe that for the right patient, Accutane can be a miracle. It can often clear even the worst acne for months to years at a time. Patients who need Accutane but delayed taking this necessary medication often wish they had taken the course of Accutane sooner. Interestingly, people often do not realize their skin is clear for many months as their negative self-image takes a while to improve. Before beginning a patient on Accutane, a consultation and enrollment in the government mandated iPLEDGE program is mandatory.
Can the dermatologist help my acne?
So there is little reason to suffer from your pimples, zits, and breakouts. A visit to our office to see our board-certified dermatologist could often help even the most stubborn conditions. Don’t delay!
Our dermatologist has been quoted about acne in major daily New York City newspapers such as the Daily News and the New York Post
How can I get started with treatment for my acne?
Just call our office today at (212) 933-9490 or e-mail us anytime and set up a Consultation for your acne.