According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), acne is a disorder of the skin's oil glands that results in plugged pores and outbreaks commonly called pimples or zits. Nearly 17 million Americans are afflicted, making it the most common skin malady. And while acne is not a serious health threat, no one will argue that it's annoying.
Genetic factors, changes in hormones and other factors may bring on acne. Oil-based makeup, suntan oil, hair gels and sprays, stress and too much sun exposure don't help. Studies have shown that up to 70 percent of women notice increased acne the week before a period. And squeezing, picking or harsh scrubbing can worsen symptoms.
Both men and women get acne. However, because men tend to have more skin oils, they may have it worse. Your family history may also play a role; if your parents were subject to skin irritations, you may be, too. If your teen is struggling with acne, you should know that by their mid-teens, more than 40 percent of adolescents may have conditions severe enough to require a physician's treatment.
"We are seeing acne symptoms in children as early as ages nine to 11," says dermatologist Gwyn Londeree, M.D., of The Ohio State University Medical Center. "So, I tell parents to seek professional help -- especially if you see emotional, psychological or social impacts on your child. Another good indicator is if you see any scarring -- these scars can be permanent, so you want treatment early."
On the bright side, it's a myth that foods like chocolate and French fries cause or worsen acne. So, you can enjoy these foods on occasion within a balanced, healthy diet.
Advances in research and treatments have made acne more controllable. Since it can have many forms, your doctor can design an individual care plan for successful control.
"Mild acne may clear up by washing your face twice a day with a mild antibacterial cleanser," says Robin Smalley, independent sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetic Company. "People with acne may also need to review their cosmetics choices for a customized approach to skin care. For treating blemishes, you may apply a blemish control toner -- this clear liquid goes just where the spots are. Another option is an acne treatment gel."
Common over-the-counter acne treatments include benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol and salicylic acid, available in gels, lotions, creams, soaps or pads. But be careful: Some folks experience side effects such as skin irritation, burning or redness. Astringents are not recommended unless the skin is very oily, and even then should be used only on oily spots.
"There are also a variety of antibiotics that can be used to treat acne," adds Dr. Londeree. "You have to keep the right perspective in using these medicines because acne is considered a chronic condition; it's not like an infection that will clear up and not come back."
Retinoids are prescription creams rubbed on the skin once a day. Dermatologists also provide other skin treatments such as chemical peels and laser resurfacing. "While peels and lasers are optional treatments, some are not covered by insurance plans and require repetition to be effective in the long-term," adds Londeree.
"Before you buy skin care products, know your skin type," says Robin. "A variety of skin care products is available for each individual's customized routine. We can develop a care plan that works best for your unique skin type."
For oily skin, dermatologists recommend a gel-based product and for dry skin, a cream. If you are like many with combination skin, choose the product that works best on the affected area. If your acne flares up in the oily spots, choose a gel; if it's the dry skin that gets the zits, choose a cream.
The more sensitive your skin, the lower concentration of active ingredient you will need. Choosing a product that is too strong could make the situation worse by over-drying and causing the skin to increase oil production -- causing more acne. If you have sensitive skin, stick with the milder formulations.
"The key to over-the-counter [products] is reading the label," says Dr. Londeree. "Be sure to watch for alcohol and use with caution since it can dry the skin. Creamy washes are good. Again, it's a bit of a try-and-see with each individual's skin type."
Naturally Clear uses health-enhancing practices to improve your skin. Their products are based on a natural approach addressing inner and outer balances to promote skin healing gently and effectively. To learn more, visit www.naturallyclear.com.
Mary Kay Skin Care Blemish Control Toner helps manage mild or occasional acne by keeping skin free of excess oil, reducing the number of blackheads and pimples. Mary Kay has more than 1.3 million Independent Beauty Consultants and customers in more than 30 markets worldwide. To find a consultant, call 1-800-MARY KAY or visit www.marykay.com.
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