What does good skin look like? Clear, even in colour, and smooth with small pores.
Many people suffer from pimples or spots, oily skin, blocked pores, pigmentation, and maybe scarring.
Acne usually starts at puberty and may continue into adulthood. Many acne-sufferers will find their skin calms down by age 25, but often, adult acne does not emerge until the mid-twenties, even if someone has had clear skin most of their life.
Acne is more likely to emerge during puberty due to increased levels of the hormone testosterone, especially if one of the parents has a history of acne. Acne manifests as whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples, which can be painful. To avoid scarring or pitting, acne-sufferers must not squeeze or pick at their blemishes, no matter how tempting it may be.
Acne can be aggravated by some types of foods—such as greasy, fatty food or junk food, and dairy products—but this depends on the person and a strong scientific link has not been proven as acne is usually hormonal.
Primary treatment comes in the form of topical lotions or gentle cleansers which are designed to regulate sebum secretion, too much of which is the primary cause of acne. If a topical treatment is not sufficient, then a doctor may prescribe antibiotics or, for women, hormonal contraceptives.
Recently, inflamed or severe acne has started to be treated by using Vitamin A capsules which decrease oil production in the sebaceous glands. This course of treatment should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor as there can be health complications if too high a dose is taken. Women trying to conceive should not take Vitamin A capsules. Any woman who does take a course of these capsules, must try not to conceive during the course or up to six months afterwards.
A dermatologist may recommend a chemical peel which can improve the skin’s pigmentation; results should be visible after two to three sessions. To treat post-acne scarring, usually caused by picking, this may take four to five sessions. Another method, called Platelet Rich Plasma, uses an individual’s own blood to correct pitted acne scars. The overall length of treatment for scarring is four to six months and has a 70-90% success rate depending on the severity of the condition.
Acne needs to be managed carefully and treatment should start as early as possible. Though the link between health and diet to acne is weak, a healthy lifestyle in all aspects is most likely beneficial to acne treatment. There is no “cure” for acne so most people will need to continue a suitable skincare regime to maintain clear skin.
Dr. Hanan Elkahky is a professor of aesthetic dermatology at the Faculty of Medicine at Ain Shams University.