Our resident GP, Dr Sharon loves talking about this stuff. Don’t read whilst eating folks!
What are spots??
They are basically blocked pores which get infected with bacteria and make red raised lumps on our skin.
Around puberty- from age 10 onwards your skin produces more oil or sebum because of your changing hormones. This blocks the pores, The bacteria in our skin love this!! Species of bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes [don’t you just love that name] grow and cause infection and lead to spots or pimples or zits- whatever you like to call them. Blocked pores alone are called blackheads or comedones and infected ones are called whiteheads and if severe are painful pustules.
Acne affects most people at some stage in their lives- mainly in teen years.
Mainly the face is affected but people can get spots all over their chest and back too.
It is NOT caused by poor hygiene or a bad diet! Some people survive on takeaways and fizzy drinks and never get a spot. There may be some foods that cause flare ups like chocolate so it they do don’t eat them! If your parents had spots you will probably get them too.
[Obviously a healthy diet helps in so many other ways but that’s a chat for another day}.
Tips for better skin
- Keep your skin clean. Remove make up well every day.
- Keep a healthy diet anyway for so many other reasons, Get good sleep to keep you looking pink and not grey.
- Drink lots of water
- Don’t smoke- it ages your skin prematurely, greys your complexion and gives earlier wrinkles.
- Many over the counter products are available for spots to start with such as good old Sudocrem and Clearasil type products.
Acnecide [Benzoyl peroxide] is a stronger over the counter cream which dries the oil from the skin and therefore really reduces spots- it can cause dryness and flaking though so use it only every second day at first and build up to twice daily. It may also bleach materials its in contact with so your pillow case and towels and clothes if you touch them after putting it on your face.
Sometimes if appropriate the Gp may suggest the OCP [Oral contraceptive pill] which may be suitable and help your skin. This is usually if you have heavy painful periods as well or if you require contraception.
IF NOT IMPROVING GO TO YOUR GP, they will look at your skin, decide on the type of acne and best treatment and if the spots are scarring they should refer you to a dermatologist straight away.
The type of treatments they may try are:
- Differin gel for blackhead prone skin
- Topical [ones you put on your skin] Antibiotics sometimes combined with something like Benzoyl peroxide of an antiseptic for mild to moderate acne]. Examples of this would be Duac gel, Zineryt and Clindacin gel.
- Oral antibiotics such as Tetracycline for moderate acne are very useful and usually a course of 4 months once daily is prescribed.
If you’re getting scars from the spots- or ‘icepick ‘ marks- you need to see a dermatologist so do ask to be referred.
Roaccutane is a very strong tablet derived from Vitamin A which is prescribed for severe or scarring acne. It is usually taken for about 5 months and can only be prescribed by a dermatologist- it has serious side effects the worse being drying up your skin all over causing sore lips and nose mainly. There are other much rarer effects like it that can affect your liver or cholesterol levels but these are rare. It is also vital for girls that they don’t get pregnant while on it as it can severely damage a baby. It can also cause depression in a rare few people. For all these reasons, it is very carefully prescribed to suitable people and requires regular blood tests. Having said all that it works beautifully well and really changes peoples lives whose skin has been very bad.
There is no need to live with terrible spots anymore- those days are gone, gone, gone so go to your GP and ask for help or tell your friends including all those boys with bad skin who can often be even more self conscious than the girls!!!
Thats enough gross for one day.