It’s really one of the most awful things. You look in the mirror, and suddenly you see an enormous volcano on your face that looks like it’s about to erupt. Trying to cover it with makeup doesn’t work (it always just makes it look worse… trust me), and growing an instant beard is not possible for most of us (which on the other hand is a fortunate thing).
So you’re stuck with the zit. Whether you’re a teenager, grown man or woman, this can be really upsetting – and embarrassing.
For some people however, persistent acne (as opposed to the occasional volcanic spot) is a daily struggle. My husband had it so badly in high school that his entire neck and jawline is scarred with pock marks, branding him as one of ‘those’ people who was a pimply teenager.
Needless to say, he had a rough time with it in high school and loathed looking like a pizza. Luckily for him however he was at an all boys school where every second boy seemed to be suffering the same. Never the less, it wasn’t pleasant, and I wish his mother had done something about it as today he has terrible acne scarring.
Acne vulgaris (aptly named, as it is quite vulgar) is a skin condition that can cause whiteheads, blackheads or red inflamed patches of skin (such as cysts). Essentially it occurs when the pores of the skin (which are tiny holes) get clogged.
Pores become blocked when the oil gland contained in them produces too much oil. Bacteria, dirt and skin cells then build up and form a plug (called a comedone). Whiteheads (a white plug) and blackheads (a black plug) are common, and if the plug breaks open, red bumps and swelling occur. Acne deep in the skin is called cystic acne, as it can cause hard, painful cysts.
We naturally associate acne most commonly with teenagers – around 3 out of 4 teenagers have it to some degree due to hormonal changes that can make the skin more oily. However even babies and adults can get it, and it tends to run in families.
Hormonal changes relating to menstruation, pregnancy, birth control pills and stress can all bring on acne, as can certain drugs such as steroids. Lifestyle factors like high humidity, excessive sweating and using greasy or oily cosmetics and hair products will also contribute.
There is also some suggestion that diets high in refined sugars contribute to acne.
Treating the problem
The most common place to see acne is on the face, however it can also occur on the shoulders, trunk, arms, legs and buttocks (nice…).
And although being a teenager (or pregnant woman) filled with raging hormones (and general rage) isn’t something you can change, there are lots of things that can be done to help get rid of acne and prevent further pimples from appearing. Try recommending the following to your customers:
Keep the skin clean, clean, clean! Cleanse morning and night with a gentle, mild cleanser or soap that won’t dry out the skin. There are plenty of brands specifically formulated for cleaning acne prone skin.
Always remove makeup before bed and clean the skin after exercise. Avoid scrubbing however as this will irritate the skin.
If the pimples appear around the hairline it is most likely due to having oily hair, so switch to a shampoo to control oil, and wash hair every day or every second day. Pull or clip hair back so it’s not hanging over the forehead area.
Despite the urge to do so, don’t squeeze or pick pimples – it will just cause the area to become inflamed, possibly infected and cause scarring.
Avoid hats, caps and headbands that trap sweat on the forehead.
Keep your hands off your face – touching your face is transferring dirt, sweat and bacteria to the skin, further clogging pores.
Switch to a non-greasy face cream and avoid greasy cosmetics. Try to go for water-based or noncomedogenic formulas – these are specifically designed not to clog pores. You could also try a product designed specifically for acne-prone skin.
If the above steps don’t help, it may be necessary to try an OTC or even a prescription medication. OTC products work by killing bacteria and drying up the oil in the skin. They usually contain salicylic acid or similar products.
Prescription medicines may be necessary. Both oral and topical antibiotics have proven highly effective in clearing up acne, and there are also many medicated creams and gels available.
In some cases doctors may prescribe birth control pills to help women with acne, however they can also make the acne worse in some cases.
Accutane is often prescribed for people who have cystic acne and scarring, however it has many side effects and isn’t prescribed lightly. (It must never be taken by pregnant women as it causes severe birth defects.)
Taking it to the next level…
For those serious about treating their acne (or acne scarring), undergoing a cosmetic procedure may be the next step. Suggest they speak to their GP about a referral or recommendation for a good cosmetic procedure clinic.
Laser therapy is an option, as are chemical peels and dermabrasion. Technology is constantly advancing in the world of skin care and there are a steady stream of new treatment options available from cosmetic clinics.
by Sunny de Bruyn