March 6, 2008

Acne ““ An Ounce Of Prevention”¦

The blemish may be gone but it has left behind a not so friendly reminder. Acne scars or discoloration left on the skin can be treated with lasers and fading creams, but dermatologists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston say prevention and time are the best ways to handle the problem.

"There are a number of different types of scars that can be left on the skin," said Dr. Ramsey Markus, assistant professor of dermatology and director of the Laser Center at BCM. "No one treatment is best for all scars."

Markus said skin tone and how a blemish is treated can contribute to what type of mark is left behind, which is why prevention is the first step to keeping the skin clear.

If more than just regular washing is needed to control acne, some topical or oral medications can be given. Markus also uses laser or light therapies to target the glands that are responsible for developing blemishes.

One such laser used by Markus heats the skin and shrinks the oil glands causing acne to gradually decrease during four treatments that are generally about 15 to 30 minutes each. This laser also helps with indented scars left in the skin after collagen has been destroyed.

"It causes collagen to remodel and regenerate. So over time, the new collagen will be produced and smooth out acne scars to some degree," said Markus.

Another treatment is Intense Pulsed Light which uses a broad spectrum of light rather than a laser, which can treat a variety of skin imperfections at the same time. This treatment can both reduce the red spots left behind by acne and, if combined with other medications, prevent acne at the same time.

Another common mark left behind by acne is not actually a scar but a discoloration of the skin called hyperpigmentation from inflammation. The brown discoloration will fade with time but for many acne sufferers it's just as bad as the blemish.

"While it's not permanent, hyperpigmentation can take up to a year to fully fade away," Markus said. "So even though one spot is gone, two or three more have popped up since then."

In these cases a fading cream can be used, but Markus said the best results come with time and stopping new acne before it pops up again.


On the Net:

Baylor College of Medicine