March 25, 2008

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Acne

As prom season looms, here's some advice from Dr. Jason Green, a dermatologist, on treating and preventing acne.

1) Hormones, stress: "No one's too old to have acne," Green says. "It's not restricted to puberty." Factors that can aggravate acne include an increase in male hormones in males and females, menstruation, emotional stress, hair products and oil and grease from cosmetics. Vigorous face-washing can also make acne worse, as well as astringents, which strip skin of natural moisturizers.

2) Stop squeezing: "The most important thing is to prevent scars," Green says. "Do not pop, squeeze or pick at acne. Seek medical treatment early if it doesn't respond to over-the-counter medications." Several therapeutic regimens prevent future eruptions and therefore take about eight weeks to work. The first line of therapy is a retinol -- retin A micro, Tazorac or Differin. As an added bonus, they also have FDA approval to treat fine lines and wrinkles. Salicylic acid and strong versions of benzoyl peroxide are good, too. A salicylic chemical peel is a quick way to improve current acne.

3) Scarring: Microdermabrasion, in which a machine scrapes away the surface of the skin, is good for mild scarring. For more severe scars, breakthroughs include the Fraxel laser, Fractional laser and the fillers Radiesse, Juvederm and Perlane. Accutane, an oral retinoid, "causes all the sebaceous glands to shrink down, but it's the big guns we use only for severe scarring acne or acne that doesn't respond to other treatments," Green says. Pregnant women cannot take Accutane. Women must get a blood and urine pregnancy test as well as complete blood work done once a month when taking Accutane, and men must also have blood work done to check their liver enzymes and cholesterol levels. A link between Accutane and depression is still being debated.

4) Quick fixes: If you need a quick fix for a date, prom night or wedding, mix a crushed aspirin, which is an anti-inflammatory, with a bit of water and apply it to a pimple overnight to decrease redness. Visine "gets red out of your eyes and can also get redness out of your nasty pimple," Green says. Just soak a swab and apply it for 15 seconds.

5) No sharing: "We always discourage patients from sharing medications because of potential side effects," Green says. Medications recommended by a doctor are tailored to the individual. What works for one patient might not work for another.