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'I've got a zit!'

As if having teenage acne is not bad enough, we grow up, surpass it and find later on in adult life that piling on the years is not a one-way ticket out of acneville. Acne affects 25 percent of adult men and 50 percent of adult women!

Adult acne can occur at almost any age– in your 20s, 30s and 40s– and there's no assurance that when you've won a bout, you're home free. Most people would ask why this happens, but the sad fact is, the reason is not medically known.

However, according to, acne can be considered a hormonal disease because hormones are responsible for the maturation of our oil glands. This is the reason why we do not see children with it– lucky angels!

A zit is not just a zit. No matter how much mothers and girl friends placate us that it will eventually clear up, pimples come with varying degrees of embarrassment– no matter if it's big or small, reddish or about to burst, people zero in on it and worst, comments on the obvious that it becomes practically unthinkable to turn up in the office to do a world-class presentation or conduct a high-powered meeting when you cannot even control your own skin!

However, for some people, acne is simply unavoidable. There are periods in our lives when our hormones are unbalanced, say puberty, pregnancy, menopause or when you have polycystic ovaries, acne is bound to make a grand entrance. explains that this may actually be precipitated by androgens, male hormones present in both males and females. When these hormones secrete too much oil, they clog up the skin's pores and allow bacteria to grow which in effect causes acne. Now here's the good news-bad news tandem: researchers from the St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York says that boys are more likely to suffer from acne scarring but girls are more likely to have adult acne.

Dr. Hala Hashad, dermatologist at the Kaya Skin Clinic, shares that factors like cosmetics, facial cleansers, moisturizers and hair products can also contribute to acne. “Genetic pre-disposition, if acne runs in family; occupational factors, those who are exposed to certain chemicals; stress and food– though recent studies proved that there is no direct relation but these last two factors may worsen the acne, are all conditions that may also contribute or worsen acne,” she adds.

And that's not the worst of it. If it's not straight out acne, then it's an invasion of acne's cousins, the whiteheads and the blackheads. Basically, these annoying little ‘heads' are made of the same stuff which doctors call ‘comedo', the sebum and bacteria which are trapped below the skin's surface or the fat deposits that plug up those pores. When the skin is closed over this comedo, it's called a ‘whitehead' because we see it as a white spot just below the skin. Now, if these pores open up to the world, and the sebum which carries melanin, the one responsible for our skin colour, oxidises, it turns into brown or black which we then call a ‘blackhead'.

These little ‘heads' can taunt us for long periods of time because the contents can drain very slowly to the surface. Good news is, blackheads or whiteheads can heal on their own. Bad news is, when the follicle wall ruptures, inflammatory acne can form. The rupture can be caused by something as simple as a light touch– now you know that there's a scientific reason behind mom's admonishments, always telling you to leave that blackhead or whitehead alone.

Avoid Acne
Okay, now that you've accepted that you're once again in zitlandia, what should you do? “Once acne appears you should consult your dermatologist,” advices Dr. Hashad. “Don't wait till marks and scars start to appear.” But before you go to the doctor, there are steps you can do at home, to make sure that you do not aggravate your condition:

• Wash you face with soap-free cleanser twice a day,

• Rinse thoroughly with plenty of water,

• Drink a lot of water and exercise regularly,

• Eat more fruits and vegetables,

• Avoid squeezing, picking or scratching the pimples,

• Don't use facial scrub,

• Avoid sun burn,

• Use make-up only on special occasions, and

• Avoid touching your face if unnecessary.

When acne is treated in the doctor's office, its contents are removed. You can do this at home, but when you do it, it's called ‘squeezing'. The effect is pretty much the same but with one big exception. Doctors use sterilized equipment that will prevent infection. However, if you do it at home, you, risk getting an infection and worsening your problem more than anything else.

Once you're in the doctor's office there are various ways your acne can be treated. According to USA-based dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann, also a professor at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Florida and author of the NY Times bestselling book ‘The Skin Type Solution', “Acne is treated with a variety of medications. Based on the severity of acne, topical and systemic antiobiotics, retinoids, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide preparations are prescribed. Other treatment modalities include chemical peels and blue light treatments. Oral retinoids (Isotretinoin) is offered to the patients with severe and cystic acne to control their condition and prevent future scarring.”


Topical treatments– When you first complained of acne, one of the first recommendations probably given to you was a cream, topical solutions being the most common response to a flare up. Most medications combine benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin or erythromycin (antimicrobial) to help moderate acne. However, these products need prescription from your doctor or dermatologist. If you're looking for over-the-counter treatments, products containing sodium sulfacetamide and sulfur might help.

Make-up– While many people believe that putting anything on your acne will aggravate the problem, the truth is, it depends on what you're putting on it. Make-up, or to be precise, acne-fighting cosmetics can help.

For instance, salicylic acid, active ingredients used to fight acne have already been used in moisturisers and foundations. Mineral make-up, made of natural minerals are very fine and at the same time, very resistant to water (which bacteria loves). As such, it does not clog pores and is also touted to be great in preventing and treating acne.

Oral medications – We've all heard that pills is a great way to prevent break-outs and are even used to treat severe cases of acne. So how does it work? Pills control the fluctuations of the hormones, which can produce excess oil, which in turn can lead to acne. Other oral treatments include spironolactone and hormone replacement therapy. The latter is usually used for women who develop acne before or after menopause. Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed to a patient. When the case is severe, oral
isotretinoin may also be prescribed.

Light treatments – There are also light treatments available such as the Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment which uses an IPL with a prescription medication to attack the bacteria, reduce inflammation and dry out the sebaceous glands (for more information go to which has an office at Dubai Healthcare City). There is also Isolaz Deep Pore PPx Therapy, an FDA-cleared system to treat comedonal and putular acne, manufactured by Aesthera Corporation. It uses a combination of pneumatic energy or vacuum and laser lights to help clear the problem.

Pigmentation and scar reduction - Acne can leave marks and pits on the skin. In fact, Dr. Hashad shares that ‘scarring and disfigurement are the worst complications of acne'. She emphasises again that acne should not be picked or squeezed by the patient because squeezing may force infected materials deeper into the skin, causing additional inflammation and possible scarring. At the Kaya Skin Clinic, acne scars are treated through different procedures. One treatment is Peeling and the other is Skin Polishing and Brightening. For some patients, a combination of these two procedures works best.

Microdermabrasion - This is another treatment that can remove acne scarring. Microdermabrasion uses crystals to gently exfoliate the uppermost layer of the skin. It removes the dead skin cells and smoothes out scars. The sensation might take some getting used to but it is a very safe procedure. You might, however, get some redness on the treated areas after the treatment.

However, these treatments do not offer instant results, even though they will make your skin visibly brighter and smooth. To achieve maximum effect, you need at least eight to 12 sessions. At Kaya Skin Clinic, resident dermatologists design a customized maintenance program to ensure that your skin remains soft and smooth. Patients to wear at least SPF 15 everyday. Aside from these, treatments such as Biolite's IPL and Isolaz also work in reducing acne scarring.

5 Common acne myths

1. Poor hygiene causes acne: Contrary to popular belief, washing and scrubbing can worsen your acne. What you can do instead is to wash your face twice a day, gently, using mild soap, complementing your acne treatment.

2. Chocolates cause acne:  No studies have proven the connection between acne and chocolates or any food for that matter. However, some people insist that these foods cause their acne– if you're one of them, then you know what to do.

3. Don't touch, in fact don't do: Anything at all. This is one of the most popular advice when people get acne. For most, it stems from the fear of aggravating their condition. However, if you seek the advice of a specialist, you have a greater chance of lessening its occurrence and avoiding scarring.

4. Acne is only for teenagers:  Now, we've proven this wrong. If you still don't believe us, read the article again.

5. Squeezing or popping acne: This is just the same as going to the dermatologist– in a way yes, what you do at home is what the specialist does in the clinic too. However, you might do more harm because you might push bacteria and dirt down those pores and cause infection. Specialists or dermatologists on the other hand, use sterilised equipment that reduces pain, redness and swelling.

Source: Arabian Woman
Posted: 29/06/2008

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