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TOO OLD FOR ACNE? APPARENTLY NOT: NY Dermatologist on adult acne causes and cures
New York, NY, May 2008 – First crushes, cafeteria lunches, learning to drive, gym class – aren’t you glad you don’t have to deal with these anymore? While most adults have successfully survived these aspects of high school life, there’s one remnant of the teenage years that still bothers half of adult women at some point in their lives. It is called acne.
“A woman could have totally escaped acne as a teenager but still develops it as an adult,” says Dr. , M.D., Phd. and medical expert in the field of dermatology with Advanced Dermatology and The Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery in New York. There are a few reasons for this, she explained, mostly related to hormonal changes caused by menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause. Most women complain of sporadic outbreaks of acne “that time of the month,” but a good 12 percent are plagued by more persistent cases that affect them just as if they were 16. “Adult acne is often deeper and more serious, making it difficult to cope with. It can cause depression and social anxiety in an adult the same way it can in a teen,” says Dr. Goldburt, “sometimes even worse as it is much less expected than in a teenager.” .
The same myths about teenage acne hold true for the adult version — it is not caused by poor hygiene or diet or stress. And, no matter how mild or severe, it can be treated. Early intervention means the most effective results and helps prevent permanent scarring, notes Dr. Goldburt. The first line of defense is usually topical medication, often containing benzoyl peroxide, topical antibiotic, precipitated suffer, sulfacetamide or salicylic acid, mainstays of topical acne creams for decades. Because these treatments can be very drying, Dr. Goldburt warns against using more than absolutely necessary.
The newer topical retinoids are a derivative of vitamin A and considered a cornerstone in acne treatment by working to so call “unclog pores”. An added benefit to these is that they may help diminish the signs of aging, such as fine lines wrinkles and help the texture of the skin.
If topicals alone don’t work, says Dr. Goldburt, they can be enhanced with the use of oral medications. Because adult acne is often the result of hormonal swings, medications such as oral contraceptives or spironolaclone can minimize these fluctuations. And the tried and true antibiotics you remember from when you were a teenager are still effective and widely used, she adds.
There are several newer techniques, such as chemical peels and laser and light therapies, which work by targeting and destroying the bacteria that cause acne and reducing inflammation, reports Dr. Goldburt. . A relative newcomer in the field, radiofrequency (RF) energy, is a novel approach that works by delivering intense heat deep into the skin to reduce the size of the oil glands associated with acne. A built-in cooling device protects the top layer of the skin during the procedure. Several lasers like smoothbeam work on both acne and acne scars using a similar mechanism of action.
These “physical” therapies have some advantages – for example, a patient doesn’t have to remember to take something — but they may not be appropriate for everyone, notes Dr. Goldburt. She recommends seeing a dermatologist, who can determine the cause of the acne and recommend the best treatment course. “There are so many treatments available now, it can be hard to sort it out by yourself,” she says. More importantly, a doctor can rule out any serious medical condition that could be at the root of the hormonal changes causing the acne.
Of course, the best treatment may be preventing acne in the first place. Dr. Goldburt has these suggestions for keeping your skin clear and healthy:
–Wash your face gently with mild soap and warm water once or twice a day. Vigorous frequent washing and scrubbing can irritate your skin.
–Use “non comedogenic” (does not clog pores) cosmetics and toiletries. There are now make-ups which do not promote acne available for adults that are less drying than the ones marketed to teenagers and may even contain anti-aging ingredients.
–Use none comedogenic sunscreens and keep sun exposure to a minimum.
–Avoid alcohol-based astringents, which strip your skin of natural moisture.
–If you do get a pimple, do not pop or squeeze it. This can cause scarring and infection. Seek treatment early for acne that does not respond to over-the-counter medications.