A few months back I was reading a top women’s glossy in which the topic of adult acne was covered. The front page heralded ‘new cures‘ and suffering from breakouts myself, I flipped to the article and read with interest. Interest soon turned to anger and frustration. The latest potions, lotions and even non-surgical cosmetic procedures were listed with unproven claims and they all required significant financial outlay. I know how desperate your average woman is when faced with bad skin and the lengths we are prepared to go to to try and rectify it, so felt really short changed that there was no acknowledgement of the need for medical treatment required, save for a short line suggesting you ‘see your dermatologist‘ if you have more severe symptoms. Got one of those on speed dial?
I’ve always shied away from writing about medicine on Florence Finds, (it was a big enough deal going public,) because what I write can be misconstrued. For this reason you will see my tone switch a little and may find my language more black and white. I really dislike medical chatter on the internet as NOTHING substitutes an open conversation with your GP one to one about YOUR problem. Forget what happend to your friend, what Aunty Annie recommends and the google search you did before attending. Share them by all means, in fact you probably should so your GP understands where you are coming from, but be prepeared to start afresh. And don’t underestimate your GP. Approximately 15% of all problems a GP sees are skin related (probaly 4-5 a day) and as a female GP I tend to see more women and children, so probably even more skin. If you’re not getting on with your GP try asking at reception when you make an appointment if there is a GP with an interest in skin, as we often have extra qualifications which might help you. Only the very top level of treatment for acne (Roaccutane) requires a dermatologist, so save your money.
Image: Keiko Lynn
The pep talk and the personal view.
In this and Part 2, I’m going to cover the medical options for treating acne and hopefully dispell a few myths along the way. Above all I want to encourage you to see a GP about your skin if it is bothering you. On a personal level I have only been to the GP once in my life about spots, when in reality, they have been an on and off problem for about 12 years. I have cycles of good skin and bad, often hormone related, so when it’s good I forget about it, then it comes back and I’m miserable. But the predominant thing that stops me going is myself. I tell myself my skin isnt that bad, it could be a lot worse, and there are more important things to worry about in life. For the most part that’s true and I don’t dwell on it, but sometimes it drives me mad. It’s nothing that can’t be solved with great make-up but the person I want to look my best for is Pete and I hate him seeing me with bad skin.
Don’t sell yourself short, being an intelligent well rounded woman does not mean you can’t go in search of great skin.
There might be more to life, but good skin is a great place to start.
Getting to the bottom of things
Another thing that frustrates me about acne is that there are so many myths surrounding the cause. Dietary changes or choices, including chocolate, dairy and alcohol all get blamed, we’re told to drink more water, avoid stress and analyse our hormones.
The main culprits? Bacteria, skin and sebum (oil produced by the skin to moisturise it naturally.) Acne is still not fully understood, however it is thought that a combination of factors cause the lesions. Certain skin types are slower to shed their outer layers which can then clog up the pores with dead skin cells. Propionibacterium acnes is a normal bacteria found on the skin – a kind of bacteria which grows without oxygen (anaerobic,) so when a pore becomes blocked, the perfect environment exists for it to grow out of control. P.acnes also feeds on sebum, so oilier skins also contribute to the problem. So you can see that treatments are centred around increasing the skin cell turn over, killing the bacteria and reducing oil production.
That’s all for Part 1. Next week I’m going to tackle specific treatments, how they work and who they’re best for. I’d love to hear what you think about this and if you’ve learned anything. Although I can’t offer individual medical advice here, I’ll do my best to answer any questions you may have too, just leave a comment!