Our Burlington, Massachusetts office takes pride in its comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to treating this condition, with rapid, excellent results.
Acne is the term for the pimples and complexion problems that trouble many young people. Pimples occur mainly on the face, but often involve the neck, chest, back, and upper arms. Acne is only a skin problem, and has nothing to do with your general health.
What Causes Acne?
Acne is caused by the oil glands of the skin breaking open. At puberty, the oil glands in the skin start producing an oily material called sebum. Sebum is discharged onto the skin’s surface. Sometimes the wall of the oil gland breaks and spills the sebum within the skin. The sebum irritates the skin tissues and causes redness, swelling, and pus — in other words, a pimple.
Oil glands may become plugged and form blackheads and whiteheads. Blackheads are not caused by dirt. Removing blackheads will not prevent pimples. Blackheads and whiteheads are more than a nuisance and should be treated quickly and appropriately to minimize the arrival of “pus pimples,” which can lead to scarring especially if picked!
In mild acne, only a few oil glands break open; in severe acne, many do. How easily oil glands do this seems to be “built into” you. Acne runs in families. It’s impossible to prevent acne, since there’s no way of changing your oil glands.
Age and Acne
Acne usually begins mildly in the teens, gradually worsens, and then after a time, improves. How long you will have acne is impossible to predict. Acne gets worse and improves by itself. Acne will go through stages, but proper treatment will improve it faster and leave less scarring.
Dirt does not cause acne, despite what you may have been told. The oil on the skin’s surface does no harm. Special soaps, astringents, abradants, and acne cleansers are only part of a more complete acne regimen. No single product, by itself, is effective against acne.
Wash your face with ordinary soap and water only as much as you need to keep it clean. Too much washing and scrubbing can cause skin irritation. Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but it doesn’t help acne. Do not pick, squeeze, or otherwise manipulate your pimples, as it can leave scars.
Diet and Acne
Foods do not cause acne, but in some people, certain foods do make acne worse. The most common ones are chocolate, nuts, cola drinks, and root beer. A few people who drink large quantities of milk — over a quart daily — find that this worsens their acne. Aggravation of acne by food varies from person to person. Many acne patients can eat chocolate without trouble, while others find that even a few pieces of chocolate cause new pimples. Find out for yourself if the foods just mentioned aggravate your acne. Eliminate one for a few weeks and then test its effect by eating a large amount. If your skin improves when you stop eating a food and gets worse when you eat it, repeat the test. Acne has ups and downs of its own; make sure that the worsening isn’t just a coincidence. If certain foods definitely worsen your acne, avoid them.
Nerves and Acne
Acne is not caused by nerves and worry, but may become worse under stress, such as examinations or pressure at work. These are usually mild, temporary flare-ups. Some persons react to stress by picking, squeezing, or rubbing their pimples, and this can make their acne worse.
Unfortunately, there is no medical cure for acne, although it can be controlled until you outgrow it. This often takes years; therefore treatment may require many months or years.
Antibiotics taken orally are the best medicines for controlling acne. Although there are new antibiotics that penetrate into the deeper skin, they aren’t as effective as antibiotics taken orally. Antibiotics do not remove blackheads and whiteheads. Certain other medicines put on the skin will help get rid of them and are very important to use in addition to oral medication. These preparations may slightly irritate the skin, and some patients find they’re more trouble than they’re worth, but stick with them and your skin will clear faster. If you feel your blackheads and whiteheads are a real problem, discuss it with Dr. Ellerin and he can institute some very beneficial office treatments for acne in our Burlington, Mass. office, that will help speed up the process. The same is true for red pimples and pustules.
Tetracycline, Erythromycin, and Minocycline are among the antibiotics used in treating acne. Sometimes it’s necessary to try several different antibiotics, or a combination, before acne is controlled.Tetracycline/Minocycline are the most widely used antibiotics for acne. It helps about two out of three acne patients. Just how it works — and why it sometimes doesn’t work — is not known. Tetracycline/Minocycline (T/M) works slowly; you have to take it for three to six weeks to determine if it will help you. If you’re better after six weeks, the treatment will be continued because T/M controls your acne only while it’s being taken. If your acne doesn’t improve, the treatment will be changed.
Tetracycline should be taken with a full glass of water on an empty stomach since food, especially milk and dairy products, interferes with its action. It’s simplest to take two capsules on arising and another two in the evening.
Minocycline, on the other hand, can be taken with food.
Tetracycline/Minocycline is remarkably safe and does not interfere with other medicines, except for iron and antacids. T/M causes some persons to sunburn easily. If you notice that you’re sun burning faster than usual, protect your skin with a sunscreen or clothing. Sun sensitivity is a problem mainly in the spring or summer, and when skiing. Women occasionally develop an annoying itch and vaginal discharge. This can happen with any antibiotic. If it occurs, continue your medication and telephone the Ellerin Dermatology office at (781) 272-7022 to arrange for treatment for acne.
Sunlight benefits many acne patients, but also ages the skin. If sunlight improves your complexion, get moderate amounts of it. Don’t sunburn or “bake” for hours. If the sun actually makes your acne worse, try to avoid heavy exposure.
Women may safely cover their acne with makeup or a foundation lotion. Use a water-based product. Wash the makeup off thoroughly at bedtime with soap and water. If you prefer, you may use a flesh-tinted acne lotion instead of makeup. Some men choose to use an acne lotion to disguise prominent pimples. Don’t let your pimples get you down. They are only a temporary cosmetic nuisance. Try to live with them while you treat them. They won’t interfere with your life unless you waste a lot of time worrying about them.
Always keep in mind that we can provide additional treatments for acne in our Burlington, Massachusetts office if you find home treatments are not working quickly enough. Office treatments have been quite successful especially just before important social events (proms, weddings, class photos, etc).
Let us guide your treatment program and make changes to fit your individual situation — not all acne is treated the same!