My Acne is Making me miserable... What am I doing wrong?
My sisters and I all had teenage acne – we can thank our Greek/Italian heritage for our beautiful, yet oily complexions. I have continued to struggle with it throughout my thirties as I have had two sweet baby girls and all the hormonal swings that accompany that blessed period of time. I am now staring forty in the face, and to have to continue to struggle with acne seems particularly cruel, as I also have to worry about the onslaught of wrinkles and gray hair at the same time! Shouldn’t I get a pass at least in the acne department?
The worst part about my acne was that somewhere in my mid-twenties it changed from the occasional small pimple in the T-Zone or at the edges of my forehead to the deep, painful, cystic type that occurs right in the middle of the cheeks and around the mouth. If you have never had cystic acne, let me describe it to you: It begins when a particular area of your face starts to feel tight and tender. There is no actual blemish present, just the sensation that something terrible is about to happen. A few days later, the area starts to get red and puff up a bit so that it looks like you had a mosquito bite. At this point, the pain is worse, and you would like to get relief by letting out the pressure… however, there is no obvious place to do an extraction or pop the pimple.
This continues for 2-4 weeks. Even if you try to cover it with makeup or foundation, the bulge is obvious. When it finally does come to a head, there are usually 3-4 small areas that drain, which means the overall cystic pimple is large – the size of a pencil eraser or sometimes bigger. Then, to make matters worse, these giant pus-filled monsters leave behind a hyper-pigmented scar. This darkened area in the middle of your face can stick around for years to remind you of it’s month-long reign of terror.
After the birth of my first baby, when I had my acne pretty well-controlled, a summer full of stress at work and continued breastfeeding had my face a mess all over again. I would have 3-4 active cystic nodules on my face with several more in the early “threatening” phase. I remember counting one time and having 13 of these monstrosities on my face and feeling very hopeless and helpless.
I had tried most over the counter acne products. They would all work for awhile, but cystic acne proved to be harder to eradicate. I was on Accutane in my mid-twenties when it first started. That drug is a miracle and worked great, but I didn’t want to go back to that with all its side effects and my plans to have another baby soon. I had been to several dermatologists, but found their oral antibiotic regimens ineffective and their topical medications harsh. As a woman physician, it was embarrassing to have such a visual problem that I felt I should have been able to solve. So, I went back to my roots and began researching medical literature on cystic acne. The results surprised me and lead me to try a different combination of products and treatments that have produced effective and long-lasting results. The most important part of my research and the reason for the change in my skin care philosophy revolves around inflammation. The lack of anti-inflammatory properties in many of the over the counter regimens make them less effective for most people. Salicylic acid and Benzyl peroxide are vital components in any acne regimen, but using them alone and in high concentrations tend to leave skin dry, angry, inflamed and ripe for more acne nodules. After all, acne is essentially an inflammatory disorder, so we must employ anti-inflammatory skin care technology to combat it properly. Once I knew this was a missing component in most prescribed regimens, I was able to choose the products and services that would work to clear my skin and keep it mostly clear of acne. I still get occasional cystic nodules, but they are few and far between and I mostly enjoy clear skin.
As a physician, I decided to start offering these products and services in my office. At the heart of the matter, I truly believe a skin care regimen can’t be too complicated or too expensive. If the patient cannot remember the steps or even afford to purchase the products, what’s the point? To that end, I intend to offer this skincare regimen through a combination of professional products and skin care treatments at a price point that anyone can afford.
Five ways to clear your skin... RIGHT NOW.
1. Clean House - Examine your stash of skin care products and makeup and get rid of all products containing parabans. Make sure everything you use on your face is labeled “non-comedogenic”. Otherwise, you risk using products which clog pores and prevent efficient turnover of dead skin cells. This impedes your skin’s natural ability to clean itself.
2. Incorporate anti-inflammatory ingredients into your skin care products. You do not need higher concentrations of salicylic acid and benzyl peroxide, like in most over-the-counter acne regimens. You need moderate doses of these ingredients, balanced with soothing anti-inflammatory ingredients like green tea, vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid. For me, this was the missing ingredient in my skin care regimen. I focused on using higher and higher concentrations of the “acne medications”, which lead to excessive dryness and more inflammation. All this did was result in more cystic nodules. Once my aesthetician and I got the right combination of acne fighters and skin soothers, I stopped getting new nodules and could focus on healing my damaged skin.
3. Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate! You must learn about exfoliation! This is the number one treatment that helps prevent new blemishes and allows your skin to heal from scarring and pigmentation. Good skin cell turnover solves most complexion problems including breakouts and the aging process. Unfortunately, most people think only of St. Ives Apricot scrub when they hear the word exfoliation… this is not what I am referring to, and is much too harsh for use on the face. There are several types of exfoliation: abrasives, chemical exfoliation and mechanical exfoliation. You need to incorporate at least two everyday products into your regimen, such as a gentle daily facial scrub (I like St. Ives Green Tea Scrub) and a facial cleansing brush used twice a week. Additionally, you should have one periodic professional treatment approximately every 6-8 weeks, such as microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, or a chemical peel.
4. Drink more water! Did you know an average adult male should drink three liters of water a day? An average female should drink 2.2 liters of water per day. That’s 60 oz of water for a woman and 90 oz for a man! If you are like most people, you probably only drink one-third of that. According to the Atlantic, Americans drink an average of 44 gallons of soda and 58 gallons of water per year. That is 7,242 ounces of water annually – 20oz daily, which is only 2.5 cups. It is a testament to the wonders of the human body that most of us continue to be alive and functioning despite falling far short of that.
If you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and produce 1.5 liters (6.3 cups) or more of colorless or light yellow urine a day, your fluid intake is probably adequate.
5. Find a professional to help you out. Do not suffer in silence. You can enlist the help of any reputable skin care professional or medical aesthetician. Find someone who is caring and focuses on educating you about your skin. You will likely need to see them on an ongoing basis for a minimum of 3-6 months to achieve the results you desire. Do not think of facials and professional exfoliation regimens as a luxury – they are maintenance treatments that are necessary to achieve your desired results. Skin care professionals are able to help you zero in on the best products and ingredients so you don’t waste time experimenting on your own.
You can finally achieve clear skin… and we can help you do it.
Acne Product Lines:
"The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”