ARE you a teen-age youth who is troubled with acne? Do not take it too seriously. It no doubt looks far worse to you than it does to others. You may be particularly sensitive about it because you have become very conscious of your appearance, quite likely due to your budding interest in the opposite sex.
In fact, if you are a boy, your having acne might even be said to be something for which to be thankful. How so? you ask. In that, for one thing, it is evidence that you are not a eunuch. Eunuchs are not plagued with acne, for acne is triggered by the male or androgenic hormones. Proof of this is seen in that eunuchs get acne when they are given male hormones. (Female hormones have the opposite effect. That is why some doctors give these female hormones to girls bothered with acne.) And for another thing, since acne in both males and females is a result of increased activity of what are called male hormones, it might be said to be an indication that you are progressing physically, and it is hoped also mentally and emotionally, toward adulthood.
But just how does this hormone work to cause acne?
Your skin consists of several main layers. The upper layer, known as the epidermis, may be subdivided into a number of layers, the topmost of which might be likened to shingles on a roof. Beneath the epidermis is the dermis, in which are found the blood vessels, nerves, the sweat and oil glands and the hair roots. Sweat glands have their own openings or pores leading from the dermis to the top of the skin. The hairs rest in tiny openings alongside which are from two to five oil glands that lubricate the skin as well as keep it soft and smooth and serve to protect it.
At puberty the male hormone, in both boys and girls, seems to increase the oil production of these glands. Also it appears that the cells of the upper layer of skin grow more rapidly than they are shed. As a result some 80 percent of both girls and boys have a bout with acne, boys more severely than girls, but the girls earlier than the boys. A severe case of acne is invariably associated with a very oily skin, which condition often continues even after the acne disappears. Another explanation could be that the approach of puberty puts a strain on the kidneys, with the result that the skin is overburdened with the problem of removing impurities from the blood. It is a known fact that sweating has a beneficial effect on kidney patients.
Since increased hormonal activity accompanies puberty, does that mean that nothing can be done about acne? Not necessarily, even though it is quite likely that in severe cases susceptibility to acne is inherited. This is seen from the fact that youths with severe cases of acne often have parents who were likewise plagued in their youth.
Among the things that might aggravate acne are failure to keep the skin clean, or the use of irritating soaps or the habit of squeezing blackheads or pimples.
In view of the fact that oiliness of the skin is associated with acne, exposure to oils could make it worse. Thus if ones occupation required one to be around or in touch with oil or oil products, this could worsen ones acne. An interesting report appeared in Archives of Dermatology on the subject of pomade acne. This was found to afflict Africans who make use of pomades to keep their hair straight. Interestingly, it showed that ordinary Vaseline or mineral oil products were far less likely to cause an acne condition than were the fancy, high-priced and highly advertised products.
It is also generally recognized that emotional
problems can aggravate or cause acne. Thus Dr. Morris Fishbein, a leading
medical author and editor, noted that even antagonism between the acne
sufferer and parents or close associates can cause a persistent case of acne.
And so it is not surprising that leading dermatologists, such as Dr. Gordon
Sauer, hold that nervous tension, as when youths worry unduly over examinations
or school sports, as well as a lack of sufficient rest and sleep can be
responsible for acne.
And finally there is the matter of diet. While for ever so many years skin specialists were prone to hold that diet played a decisive role in acne, the medical profession by and large has discarded the view that diet has any bearing on it.
What Can Be Done About It?
There are two avenues of approach open to one afflicted with acne, and both can be utilized. There is the topical remedy. That is, the remedy is applied locally, to the skin. There is general agreement that, since acne is worse in the winter than in the summer, sunshine has a beneficial effect on acne. However, not so general is the agreement as to the use of sunlamps in treating acne. If they are used, care must be exercised so that one does not burn the skin. It is best to start with very short periods of exposure to the sunlamp and then gradually increase the amount.
Dermatologists generally recommend extra precautions in keeping the skin clean. Recommended by latest writers on the subject is that the skin be cleansed often and thoroughly with a soap that has a great deal of drying effect. This could be an old-fashioned laundry soap or some modern medicated soap. Since it is usually not convenient to wash the face often every day, these skin specialists recommend astringent lotions. Swimming is also said to be of help. In fact, according to such modern authorities as Dr. Milton Ross, the acne problem is basically a matter of a few ounces of soap, medication and conscientious hard work. This may often, though not always, be the case.
The Systemic Approach
The systemic approach considers acne as more or less a symptom and tries to get at the contributing causes. This approach recognizes that stress is likely to play a prominent role in acne. So the situation might be improved if you learn not to worry unduly about school examinations, sports events or personal problems. Especially try to cooperate with your parents, appreciate their good points and do not exaggerate in your mind their shortcomings. This may go far in relieving tension at home.
Recommended also is exercise, for that which improves your general health will also work against acne. It therefore follows that you should see to it that you get sufficient rest and sleep. Learn to exercise self-control by turning off the TV set when it is time for sleep.
Vitamins are recommended by some. While in certain cases they have not proved effective, in other cases they have. And while vitamin A is the vitamin usually prescribed for acne sufferers, the B, C and D vitamins are also said to be helpful.
What about diet? Since the modern trend is to ignore diet almost entirely in dealing with the trouble, what should a teen-ager who has a serious acne problem do?
Do not be like the young woman who wrote to a leading medical authority, complaining about persistent acne in spite of doctors and medication and who said she kept eating sweets and pastry because the doctors said that diet had no bearing on acne. Rather, be wise and experiment. Find out for yourself. A well-balanced diet is essential for everyones health. Professor of Dermatology Dr. Sauer recommends: DO NOT EAT chocolate, peanut butter, ice cream and such things. Avoid excesses of sweets and fats, especially French fried potatoes and spicy foods. Go easy on oysters and like seafoods. Try to do without nerve and headache medicines. If such self-denial brings relief, is it not worth while? On the other hand, be sure to eat enough fruits and vegetables.
| Why not follow these suggestions for two or three
weeks and, if no improvement is noted, it may be that your remedy lies in a
different direction. It may be that you need extra vitamins, exercise, more
rest and sleep to get rid of tensions. Or you may want to go to a dermatologist
for medical treatment.|
Why, though, does this scourge appear during your teenage years at the very time you want to look your best? Because you are growing up. With the onset of puberty, skin glands increase their activity. The World Book Encyclopedia explains in simple terms what happens: Each gland empties into a hair follicle that is, the little bag surrounding each hair. Normally the oil would drain out through a pore of the skin, but sometimes a pore gets clogged and the oil cannot get out quickly enough. The clogged pore now forms a blemish called a blackhead because the trapped oil oxidizes, dries, and turns black.
If the pore is so clogged that no air at all can get to it, then instead of a blackhead, a whitehead develops. A pimple develops when pus forms. Cysts are formed when germs breed in the backed-up oil. It is the cysts that leave permanent scars. Pimples do not scar unless they become infected because of squeezing or picking so dont squeeze or pick!
Interestingly, tension and emotional upsets can activate the skin glands. Some experience the blossoming of a large pimple just before an important event or before and during exams. So try not to be too anxious.
Is There a Cure?
Sad to say, there is no single treatment for acne. Dr. Sidney Hurwitz, an authority on the subject, points out that there are medications available that can, in most cases, gradually help bring acne under control. Of course, if the outbreak is severe and persistent, you should not wait to outgrow it, but you may wish to consider seeking the help of a dermatologist. He or she may prescribe one of the several acne preparations available or even antibiotics.
Patience seems to be a key to successful treatment. Remember, the trouble built up over quite a period of time, so it will not clear up overnight. Unfortunately, many do not stick to their treatment plan after they see initial improvement. For worthwhile results, it is important to apply carefully any instructions given by your physician.
Teenage Sandra, mentioned earlier, says in her article for Co-Ed: I guess it took about a year for my skin to completely clear up, but I could see changes in my skin within six weeks. Thus her doctor had warned: Dont expect results overnight. Have patience.
Some have found that by taking care of their overall health, such as by getting plenty of exercise, being out in the fresh air as much as possible, and getting enough sleep, their complexion benefits and their acne condition improves. It will also help to cleanse your skin thoroughly to prevent perspiration mixed with dirt and pollution from clogging pores. Some doctors claim that diet plays a big part in controlling acne and recommend eating as little fat as possible.
Develop the Right Attitude
Dr. James Dobson recounts a conversation he had with a teenager, Darrell, who said: When acne does flare up, it can be devastating it really can knock you out. And even though you tell yourself, I know where my priorities are and I know that beauty isnt the most important thing, it still affects your self-confidence.
However, if you cultivate an outgoing attitude
rather than becoming introverted because of self-pity, you will find that it
helps a lot. When you do something for someone else, you become aware that
other people also have problems, often much greater than your own. This can
help you to feel better about yourself and at least helps keep things in the
Perhaps, though, you are one of the 20 percent of teenagers who are not troubled with skin blemishes. If so, you may not fully comprehend the trauma and self-consciousness of those battling with such an embarrassing problem. Try hard not to tease, even in a good-natured way. Certainly, such cruel comments as crater face or pizza face would be uncalled for, no matter how humorous they may seem to some.
Self-Treatment Tips for Acne Sufferers
□ Estimate the severity of your case by counting the number of lesions: 10 or less, a mild case; 11 to 30, a moderate case; over 30, a severe acne problem
□ Plan skin-care regimen to meet your special needs
□ Discuss matter with your pharmacist
□ Wash affected parts gently with hands or soft washcloth
□ Avoid any beauty products that cause aggravation oil-based makeup makes skin oilier
□ Trouble spots need extra attention
□ Stick to your skin-care plan every day, even if results are slow
|Yes, there is something you can do about your acne. True, in some cases scars develop and remain long after the disease has gone. However, remember the importance of inner beauty: a pleasant personality, kindness, helpfulness, and qualities like these. Strive for this inner beauty, and you will find it easier to keep physical appearance and skin problems in their proper place.|