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Thursday, March 20, 2003
Saving face: Treating adult acne

By Sandy Cohen
DAILY BREEZE


It figures. The morning of your big presentation, you awaken to the world’s largest pimple on your nose.

What’s worse, you’re 36, not 16. You should have been done with zits 20 years ago, right?

Unfortunately, no. Adult acne is on the rise, and women are affected four times more frequently than men. But the condition is treatable, say dermatologists, with creams, antibiotics or hormonal remedies. Skin care companies also are active on the front lines, developing cleansers, lotions, masks — even vitamins — to fight acne.

“As prevalent as acne is, there’s a perception that it’s not treatable,” said Dr. Ronald Blond, chief of dermatology at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Harbor City. “But it’s incredibly treatable and lately there are better and better medications.”

Adult acne is different from the adolescent variety only in its persistence beyond the teenage years. Both are caused by an overabundance of oil and clogged pores, “which create a nice environment for the proliferation of bacteria,” Blond said. Bacteria causes inflammation in the pore, which can lead to blackheads and whiteheads.

“Treatment is geared toward trying to stop the process along that path, as early in the process as possible,” Blond said.

Not every acne sufferer needs a trip to the dermatologist. Over-the-counter remedies can be effective, Blond said. Look for products containing benzoyl peroxide, salycilic acid or glycolic acid. Salycilic and glycolic acids work to break up the oil and dead skin cells that clog pores, Blond said, while benzoyl peroxide acts as an antibacterial agent. Many treatments call for a combination of products, and drugstore varieties often use the same ingredients as pricier potions.

“If it’s fairly mild acne, it’s reasonable to try to treat it on your own with one of the benzoyl peroxide products,” Blond said. “You can use it with or without a glycolic or salycilic acid.

“To give it a good college try, though, you’re looking at at least two months” of consistent use,” Blond said. Apply the products to the entire face, he suggests, not just the affected areas.

“Don’t go for individual lesions,” he said. “Put it all over, because you don’t know where the next one will pop up.”

Choose products designed especially for adults whenever possible.

“Adult skin is generally not as oily,” Blond said. “It’s a little more dry and a little more sensitive. Products a teenager can handle can be too much for adults.”

Adult women are susceptible to hormonally-influenced acne, marked by premenstrual flareups and distribution of blemishes in the lower part of the face. Traditional treatments can help, but persistent problems may be remedied by certain birth-control pills.

For anyone with acne, a daily skin care regimen is paramount, said Dr. Fredric Brandt, a celebrity dermatologist with practices in Miami and Manhattan.

“It’s like brushing your teeth,” he said. “Find a product suitable for your skin and use it — and sunscreen — every day.”

For his acne patients, Brandt created Poreless, a line of cleansers and creams that contain salycilic acid.

Those seeking an alternative approach might like the new Boscia skincare line, which relies on botanical ingredients such as willow bark and hydrangea leaf to treat acne-prone skin.

“We look at ways to gently regulate the system from the inside out,” said Caren Conrad, Boscia’s general manager. “Botanicals won’t cause the same irritation other ingredients can.”

Boscia’s Willow Bark Break-Out Treatment, for example, uses willow bark extract to dissolve hardened oil that clogs pores, and willowherb to calm and soothe the skin. The Smoothing Facial Polish sweeps pores clean with mannan, derived from a fibrous Japanese root, Conrad said.

“It allows treatments to penetrate more readily,” she said.

At Murad Spa in El Segundo, dermatologist Howard Murad developed special facials to help patients with acne-prone skin. The procedure deep cleans the skin, priming it for acne treatments, said Lisa Polley, Murad’s director of education and communications.

“The treatments are generally stronger than some of the treatments you can get at home,” she said. “You can boost your daily, at-home regimen with a professional facial.” Polley recommends monthly treatments.

Facials for acne sufferers typically include a steam-assisted deep-cleaning, an enzyme treatment to unclog pores, extractions of surface blemishes and a calming mask to bring skin back into balance. Murad Spa also offers acne “facials” for the skin of the back, chest and shoulders.

Go gently, said Blond, who warns against “aggressive” facials.

“Any major manipulation of the skin has the potential to worsen acne,” he said.

Murad and Boscia offer vitamin supplements designed to promote blemish-free skin from the inside out. Murad’s Pure Skin and Boscia’s Clear Complexion Therapy each blend B vitamins with herbs, which the companies claim can improve skin texture and condition.

No major medical studies have shown that vitamin or mineral supplements impact acne, Blond said. But Conrad said the supplements help restore the body’s internal balance so it can better protect itself against infection.

“This gives you what you need internally to help the body fight bacteria and inflammation naturally,” she said.

One thing that won’t impact acne is chocolate, Blond said.

“There’s yet to be a study linking chocolate, soda, fried foods or any of those things to acne,” he said. “Heredity is the main culprit when it comes to acne. The second is hormonal abnormalities.”

Stress can exacerbate acne. Some hair products and toothpastes can also irritate acne-prone skin. But dermatologists say the worst thing acne sufferers can do is pick at pimples.

“Keep your hands off your face except to put on your treatment,” Brandt said.

Unfortunately, once a pimple pops up, only time — or a costly injection from a dermatologist — can cure it.

Instead, it’s all about prevention, Blond said. He recommends daily use of a soap-free cleanser, along with over-the-counter acne products. If the condition doesn’t improve after a few months, see a dermatologist. There are prescription creams, such as Retin-A, and pills, such as Accutane or birth control, that can help get pimples under control.

“Remedies aren’t one size fits all,” said Polley, of Murad. “But acne is definitely manageable.”

Publish Date:December 9, 2002

  Meredith Grenier
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