Ateenage girl has much to be thrilled when acne first shows on her face. It means lately someone has been looking at her and admiring her looks. But getting the acne to go away will require more than shielding oneself from the gaze of boys.
"Once acne appears, there is actually no cure," says Dr. Lalan Khatiwada, a dermatologist at the Nepal Korea Dongson Medical Centre in Kathmandu. "However, treatment can lessen its severity and prevent acne scars."
Acne as such is not life threatening, but severe cases can lead to permanent scarring. Medication can help manage the severity and frequency of acne - the most common of all skin diseases.
The first step in the treatment of acne is to identify the cause. And one could begin with the diet.
"One must identify the food that is causing acne and avoid it," says Dr. Khatiwada.
For instance, acne could appear on the skin of some people after taking mango or chocolate.
But acne does not erupt solely due to dietary problems. It could even run in a family. If one of your parents has suffered from acne, the child might also be affected.
It is not that every teenager suffers from severe acne problems. Most young people experience only mild acne, which usually gets better after the teen years.
Acne is most common during puberty when there is a change in the body’s hormones. For most people, acne diminishes over time and will disappear once people reach their early twenties. Acne tends to develop when oil and dead skin cells clog the pores of the skin. Although acne is most common on the face, it can develop on our back, chest and neck.
In women, acne is likely to increase during menstruation. Some women may even experience acne flare-ups in the days just before their periods.
The severity of the acne could also depend on the clothes you are wearing. Girls who wear helmets, bra straps, headbands and turtleneck sweaters could suffer from more severe acne. Acne may also increase due to long exposure to sunlight. This can even increase the risk of skin cancer.
Acne can be inflammatory or non-inflammatory. Blackhead and whitehead are non-inflammatory. Blackheads last for a long time and are so named because of their dark colour caused by the pigment ‘melanin’.
In the whitehead, the root of the skin hair is blocked from inside by a mixture of excess sebum, an oil like substance produced by the sebaceous gland, and dead skin cells. Whiteheads have a shorter life span than blackheads.
Inflammatory acne lesions can be classified into papules, pustules and nodules. The papule is the mildest form of inflammatory acne. It is nothing but a small red bump on the skin. Pustules appear as a red circle with a white or yellow centre and do not generally contain a great deal of bacteria.
The nodule is a severe form of acne which needs the help of a dermatologist. Because it grows deep into the layers of the skin, it destroys the tissues, resulting in scarring.
Cysts are a severe form of acne and very painful. They are a sac-like lesion containing semi-liquid material. "You should not squeeze or touch such acne as it causes deeper infection," says Dr. Khatiwada.
Nodulocyst and conglobata are other severe forms of acne. Conglobata mostly affects men from 18 to 30 years. Both the acne might require treatment and leave scars after healing.
Aside from scarring, severe forms of acne cause psychological problems such as decrease in self-esteem, depression and anger. In such cases, it is important for family member to be supportive.
The treatment for acne may vary according to the patient’s immune system. It could take up to seven weeks for the acne to improve. During treatment, it’s advisable to avoid stress, constant touching of the face and sweating. Also keep away from health care products such as gels, mousses and cream rinses that contain a lot of oil.
Keep away from skin products that tend to clog your pores. And do not buy products that contain alcohol as it causes the skin to become dry.
Hard soap should be avoided when one has acne. There is always that danger of it killing the useful bacteria which fight the acne germs. Even frequent washing of the face should be avoided, as this is likely to worsen the condition.
What you can do:
• Gently wash your skin every day
• If your hair is oily, wash it often. Oily hair could create problems for acne
• Wear soft, cotton clothing or moleskin under your sportswear
• Avoid harsh chemicals such as petroleum jelly
• Use sunscreens when out in the sun
• Don’t use rough materials or clothes to clean your face
• Have patience and trust your doctor.
A leopard may not be able to change its spots. But you can do so with timely advice and appropriate treatment. So don’t hesitate to consult your doctor when acne appears on the face.