Ten Tips For Acne Care

Jun 25 2009 - 11:53am
Acne treatment and care

June is the first-ever National Acne Awareness Month! Acne is the most common skin disease in the U.S., affecting over 60 million adults and teens each year. Acne for Dummies, by Dr. Herbert Goodheart, gives you all the answers you need for optimal skin care.

That's right. You don't see the word acne in these tips. And although the subject comes up here, it's not my primary focus. As a dermatologist, healthy skin is my thing. So, I wanted to provide you with some tips and tricks to keep your skin healthy throughout your life. Just think -- you're going to get your acne under control one day with the proper acne treatment, but you'll have the skin you're in for the rest of your life. So, treat it right. In this chapter, I show you how.

1) Steering Clear of Excessive Sun Exposure

The sun is an immense nuclear reactor. As well as producing heat and light, it also sends out other types of radiation that can sometimes damage your skin. The Earth's atmosphere filters out much of the more dangerous solar radiation, but some of it gets through -- mainly in the ultraviolet (UV) band. The UV radiation in sunlight can cause painful sunburns and certain types of skin cancer, and can also age your skin.

If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer or you have very fair skin that never tans but always burns, do whatever possible to minimize sun exposure. If you have skin of color or are naturally very dark complexioned, you can probably ignore the following advice unless you develop allergic reactions from the sun, take medications that may make you extra sensitive to the sun, or have a medical condition that sunlight worsens.

The best way to prevent skin damage from the sun besides moving to the Antarctic -- oops, never mind, I forgot about the hole in the ozone layer there -- is to avoid excessive exposure to UV and the sun. You can accomplish this by following these tips:

* Shun the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m, especially during late spring and summer when the sun is most intense.
* Wear protective headgear such as a hat with a wide brim to protect your face, head, and the back of your neck. You can also wear a baseball cap, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants.
* Be aware of reflected light from sand, water, or snow.
* Avoid tanning parlors.
* Slather on the sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater -- at least 30 minutes before sun exposure, even on cloudy, hazy days.
* Reapply sunscreens liberally and frequently at least every two to three hours, and after swimming or sweating.
* Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVB (the burning rays) and UVA (the more penetrating rays that promote wrinkling and aging).

TIP: If you're a person of color and have the dark spots of PIP, they're often further darkened by sun exposure. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will offer you the best protection. (I cover PIP in Chapter 12.)

2) Opting for Sunless Tanning

Sunless tanners, sometimes referred to as self-tanners or tanning extenders, are promoted as a way to get a tan without the sun. You can try:

* Self-tanners: These artificial tanning preparations contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA interacts with dead surface cells in the outermost (horny) layer of your epidermis and produces a color change. As the dead skin cells naturally slough off, the color gradually fades back to your normal skin color, typically within five to seven days after a single application. DHA-containing products are available as lotions, creams, sprays, and gels and aren't considered to be harmful. Airbrush tanning using DHA is now offered in salons.

* Bronzers: The term "bronzer" refers to a variety of products used to achieve a temporary tanned appearance. These products contain a transparent color additive that also stains the outermost layer of your skin. You can choose a bronzing gel or cream that enhances your own skin color. The chemicals in bronzers may react differently on various areas of your body, producing a tan of many shades. It can be washed off with soap and water at the end of each day. Bronzers are also considered to be harmless.

WARNING: Although self-tanners and bronzers give the skin a golden brown color, these products don't offer protection from the damaging effects of UV radiation unless they also contain sunscreen ingredients.

Clinique, Estee Lauder, Clarins, and Bain de Soleil all offer sunless tanning products. Neutrogena has foams that are easy to apply to areas with body hair.

Other means of producing a tan without the sun, including tanning pills (which contain color additives) and tanning "accelerators" (which contain other chemicals), should be avoided. According to the FDA, there is a lack of scientific data showing that they work; in fact, at least one study has found them ineffective.

3) Dimming the Shine of Oily Skin

If you have oily skin -- you're lucky! Oily skin has great advantages. Your skin will probably be less likely to wrinkle, age, and sag. On the other hand, it may feel greasy and develop shiny patches even a short time after you wash it. The highest concentration of sebaceous glands is in the T-zone, and the excess sebum from this area plus the sweat glands on the skin can make your skin look even greasier and shinier. (Take a look at Chapter 4 to see the T-zone.)

But you can temporarily squelch the shine with many products now available such as blotting papers, oil-absorbing powders, and foundations. Even the application of medicated prescription products such as retinoids and benzoyl peroxide are temporary cosmetic maneuvers that remove the surface oil. The deeper oils (sebum) are bound to keep flowing despite what you do to the surface.


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