Acne has got to be one of the most misunderstood conditions on the planet, and with good reason. For most of us, acne tends to ‘burn out’, or resolve itself, whether after a brief spell or years of torment. When that day finally comes, whatever the acne sufferer was doing at the time generally gets the credit. Additionally, a breakout can take an average of three months to show itself, making it difficult to accurately pinpoint the cause.
If you or a loved one is dealing with breakouts that aren’t clearing up, you have probably been on the receiving end of a lot of well meaning advice. Most of the advice, unfortunately, does little to help your condition, because it’s largely based on mythology and has nothing to do with evidence-based science. Let’s take a little journey through some of the more common beliefs, and see if we can shed some light on the subject.
You’ll grow out of it
False. While this may be true for some, for others it often leaves them wondering ‘What’s wrong with me?’ Many people suffer with acne well into their middle years. According to a survey done by dermatologists at the University of Alabama-Birmingham:
- In their 20s, 50.9% of women and 42.5% of men in their 20s reported experiencing adult acne
- In their 30s, 35.2% of women and 20.1% of men reported adult acne
- In their 40s, 26.3% of women and 12% of men reported experiencing acne
- Even in their 50s, 15.3% of women and 7.3% of men reported experiencing acne
The belief that it’s only a teenage problem often leads to delayed treatment, which could have saved years of embarrassment, lowered self esteem, and physical scars.
It’s the chocolate
False. And it’s not the fries, it’s the salt on the fries. Foods high in iodine and androgen hormone are a huge culprit. This includes iodized salt, kelp, shellfish, sports drinks and meal supplement bars. Watch for iodine in your vitamin supplements, and drastically cut down on all dairy products. Peanuts, peanut butter, corn oil and wheat germ are also out.
Too much (or not enough) sex
Sorry, false. It’s an old one, and it gets you either way. This is the stuff grandmothers lived for, right? I suppose the onset of puberty also signaling the first signs of acne were to blame. No truth to it whatsoever.
It’s your hygiene
Wrong. This one is so unfair. Most people with acne will over scrub, they so badly want to solve the problem. Unfortunately, many cleansers marketed for acne actually have ingredients that will make acne worse. And for the record, it’s not caused by the natural oils in your hair, either.
Prescription medication will clear your skin
Big maybe. Many acne sufferers, not knowing where else to turn, will enlist western medicine when drugstore remedies fail.
The first line of defense for many doctors is to prescribe antibiotics, and a patient may be on these for literally years. Topical prescription retinoid (vitamin A derived) creams or gels are common. Spironolactone, a blood pressure medication, is also frequently prescribed, as are birth control pills. Many have heard of the infamous Isotretinoin (Accutane®), which was originally marketed as a last resort medication but has become much more loosely prescribed.
All of these medications come with varying degrees of side effects ranging from mild to life threatening, and very frequently the patient does not experience relief from their acne. My experience has been that the disillusioned acne patient, having tried everything, becomes depressed at the prospect of never finding a solution.
What you can do today
1. Make sure all your products (cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, makeup and hair care) are free of pore cloggers. A list of commonly found pore clogging ingredients can be found at SkinTherapyStudio.com in the Clear Skin Acne Therapy section, under Acne Information. Never trust labels; there is no regulation for the wording placed on labels, and even acne products often contain clogging (comedogenic) ingredients! Ditto for ‘oil free’ products, which contain synthetic oils such as isopropyl myristate and myristyl myristate, and are among the worst offenders.
2. Get enough sleep and reduce your stress. If you don’t, increased male hormones are the result, which leads to breakouts.
3. Eliminate all fabric softeners from your laundry. No exceptions! They are extremely pore clogging.
4. Cut out dairy, salty and prepackaged food, and all fast food. The same goes for peanut products, sushi, shellfish and organ meats.
5. Ice your inflamed breakouts for two minutes, twice per day, rubbing in a circular motion and not holding the ice in any one place for more than a few seconds.
6. Check to ensure you are not taking a low-estrogen form of birth control. These make acne worse.
These tools can be implemented right away, and will lessen the chance of future breakouts. But they are by no means complete. A treatment program that really works will take into account the whole lifestyle of the acne sufferer, and offer solutions based on science rather than the myths passed down from grandma’s kitchen table.
Go to Skin Therapy Studio.com to learn more about what you can do to clear your skin.