Dr. Kolhe (M.B.B.S, D.D.V (Diploma in Dermatology & Venereology)) is a practicing dermatologist with Nanavati hospital. She is a member of the Cosmetology Society Of India or CSI and has worked with Positive Health Clinic as a consultant for skin & diet.
I’m sure there’s not ONE girl reading this who has never in her life looked in the mirror and groomed over a pimple or tried to squeeze pink, camouflage or just simply WISH it out of existence. There is a veritable corruption of anti-acne products out there – cleanses, soaps, ointments, packs – you name it - being sold to every pimply hopeful – promising what we all crave. But to quote an oft repeated saying “An ounce of preventions worth a pound of cure”
What Causes Acne?
To avoid the onslaught of ‘Acne’ let’s first try to understand the root causes. As the skin progress from childhood to adolescence, tiny sebaceous glands that open into hair follicles (forming the pilo – sebaceous unit) become more active producing an oily secretion called “Sebum” leading to ‘Seborrhoea Oleosa’ popularly called ‘Oily Skin’. Hormonal changes of puberty add impetus to this process. The fat content of sebum & the change in skin pH provides a suitable milieu for bacteria called Propionibacterium
Acnes to get a foothold, & to produce enzymes that digest sebum. The end products are irritations that produce inflammation and also stimulate cells using the openings of the pilo- sebaceous units to multiply & block the outlet. These cells called keratinocytes get
oxidised to black colour, and hey presto!- that’s your ‘blackhead’ or ‘comedone. The glands meanwhile keep producing sebum that gets collected behind the blocked duct causing exceptions like papules & pustules a.k.a. ‘pimples ‘. Picking or squeezing these – a condition known as ‘acne excoriata’ leaves behind ugly scars.
Acne thus has a double impact – the immediate damage to an adolescent’s self confidence (many are even embarrassed to show their public) & in the long run – pitted, scarred face that is a life time witness to the ravages of acne.
Prevention Is Better Than Care
The first battle in the war of prevention is to control sebum secretion and blocking of pilo sebaceous units. At such a tender age, hormonal manipulation is out of the question so cleansing is the best way to remove excess sebum. What most people don’t known is HOW and WITH WHAT? Soaps are alkaline and after the skin pH to the propionibacterrium’s favour.
• So a pH balanced cleanser followed by a ‘toner’ that restores skin ph to normal is essential. This needs to be done every 2 hours or so ideally. The recommended cleansers are Synergy and Biotique. You could use a natural toner like lemon juice. Dilute it, dab it on the face and rinse off, or use a synthetic toner off the marketplace.
• If you’ re a busy bee– keep cotton balls & cleanser/ astringent in your bag & wipe the problem areas every few hours—these could be your forehead & nose or checks & chin.
• Also don’t keep oil on your hair for prolonged periods as it always imperceptibly trickles down & worsens the oiliness.
--Occlusive (greasy, not absorbed and gets accumulated on skin and blocks the openings of the pilo – sebaceous ducts, leading to acne) cosmetics are a no-no if you want to be acne free. Seen film – actresses in real life with hideous angry red pimples? Blame it on makeup. So look out for labels that say ‘non-comedogenic’ – they tend to clog your pores less & use those too for limited hours only.
• Blackheads are the buds that will blossom into full blown acne so watch out for these. Steam your face once a week or so & get them removed professionally – preferably by a dermatologist (& insist on a sterilized comedone extractor)
• Food is claimed to be non-contributory to acne so a coke or chocolate or French fries may not give you pimples– but be sensible – acne is not the only thing – fresh fruits & veggies & plenty of exercise will add glow & clarity to your complexion – so eat healthy.
• Lastly, even if it does get you despite everything – for heaven’s sake don’t TOUCH those pimples on your own unless you want Lifelong scars. Get proper treatment as fast as possible to prevent the residual effects.
So, to conclude - we may not be able to change our genes or hormones but a little care at right time can surely decrease the magnitude of this menace & avoid its long term effects.
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