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Acne myths

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Acne can take on various forms including pustules, blackheads or whiteheads. Anyone of any age or race can suffer from the condition. Genetics also plays a strong role. There are several factors that are associated with acne—none of which have been proven to be the end-all cause. More often than not, acne is associated with hormone shifts, medications and clothing irritations; not food sensitivities or poor hygiene. The condition can cause serious stress for the sufferer. Though not the specific cause, stress makes everything worse. Sufferers have tried a myriad of remedies, from scrubbing to sun worshipping, to arrest the condition. Most do not work. The key is to understand and adapt to the specific condition.

Hormone shifts: During the teen years, oil glands tend to grow bigger and clogging of these pores becomes more prevalent. The same hormonal changes that happen in one’s teen years can also happen with pregnancy or menopause. This is a good time to learn gentle skin care techniques.

Certain medications can cause acne. These can include anti-depressants, anti-seizure drugs and even the birth control pill. This type of breakout, acneiform, tends toward small, red papules of similar size and shape which are unlike true acne. Whether over the counter or prescribed by a dermatologist, medications have side-effects. Acne medication users should be aware that such medications often take 6-8 weeks to work. Common side effects include itching, peeling, redness, burning, and sunlight sensitivity. Problems also occur for routine waxing services because the skin becomes fragile.

Clothing such as baseball caps, sport helmets or shoulder pads, and even backpacks rub against the skin and can cause local breakouts by irritating the skin. Further irritation comes from picking or scrubbing at the lesions. Popping pimples, especially any cystic acne, will cause scarring or dark patches and may lead to a worsening infection. Be sure to regularly clean equipment that directly touches the skin.

Contrary to certain myths, sunlight does not cure acne. The tan one receives from the sun may lessen the visibility of acne. In truth, sunlight dries the skin and will most likely increase the chance of wrinkles in later years. In combination with prescription acne medications such as Retin-A or Accutane, sun sensitivity will be extreme.

Finally, acne is not exclusively due to poor skin hygiene. Obviously, cleanliness is important, but it is not the end-all cause. In fact, the friction of aggressive scrubbing may aggravate acne. Instead, use a gentle foaming wash for combination skin. The foam will help dissolve the oils that tend to block the pores. Be sure to cleanse both morning and evening, as well as after exercising. Use a toning product to balance pH and a moisturizer for oily skin. Cleansing washes should include benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid or salicylic acid. Benzoyl peroxide helps disinfect the skin. Glycolic and salicylic acids help exfoliate the dead skin that may contribute to blocking pores. If acne becomes uncontrollable, see a board certified dermatologist for current treatments.

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