A spot of bother

Author: Stephanie Barnett

Date: Oct 2010

Anyone who has ever suffered from a bad skin day will know just how frustrating it is to have a spot ruin that special shopping trip, family meal or date that you’ve had planned for weeks. And when you suffer from acne, teenage or adult, even everyday life can become a huge problem.

Going to school and work, hanging out with friends or working out at the gym, all normal, everyday things that other people can do without thinking twice. But when you’re worried about the way you look, afraid of getting bullied or nervous about who is going to see you without your make up on, those typical, ordinary activities become so much more stressful. And as we all know stress can be a major factor in bad skin days.

As a university student I know all about stresses, especially that extra stress that comes from having acne.

Caused by the sebaceous glands just below the surface of the skin producing too much sebum, acne is a common problem and can vary from mild to extremely severe. Some cases consist of just a few spots on the face, but more developed acne can mean spots on the face, neck, chest and back, and depending on the severity it can leave permanent scarring.

Although you may feel that you’re alone and that everyone around you seems to have perfect skin, think again. Around 80 percent of teenagers suffer from acne, and even though this can often clear up in the late teens, some people continue on with acne through in to their twenties. And a small percentage of men and women develop adult acne, which can occur between the ages of 25 and 40.

If you are in any of these categories and you’re struggling to cope with your skin, then there are a few things that you can do to help improve and maybe even solve the problem.

  • The best way to deal with acne is to find out what suits you.
  • Contrary to popular belief acne is not caused by hygiene or diet, although it can be hereditary. But before you blame your mum and dad, you may find that some foods or drinks can have worse effect on your skin than others. For example if your skin is a lot worse after a big night out on the town, then think about changing your drink of choice from beer to wine or vodka.
  • Apply the same rules to your skin care regime, taking care with the products you use, especially if you have very sensitive skin.

Some people find that just using soap and water is the best way to keep their skin blemish free, but others find that and cleansing, toning and moisturising everyday is more effective at keeping nasty spots at bay.

Depending on your income it could be useful to try using specialist brands. If you’re on a student budget then try Witch, Clean and Clear or Simple, or if you’re more of a big spender then try the more pricey products such as Clinique or Dermatologica.

Even though some complexions respond well to a good skin routine, it’s important not to dry out your skin by washing it too much, as this will get rid of the oil your skin needs to be maintained and could dry up your skin, leading to clogged pores, which could make your skin even worse, so remember to moisturise.

  • Don’t pick. Although you may think that you are getting rid of your spots faster, this is one of
    the worst things you can do to your skin, not only do they take longer to heal, but popping
    your spots introduces bacteria and infection, which can also increase the chances of scarring.
  • As well as washing your face there are over the counter creams which could help, such as
    Clearasil, Freederm and other topical treatments, however these may contain Benzoyl Peroxide which can bleach fabric, so always read the label and use sparingly.

If none of the over counter treatments are successful then the next step could be to visit your local doctor.

Don’t be put off by your first visit to the GP, it is a sensitive subject for most people and some doctors, as I found out, can be quite dismissive with the subject of acne, so if you’re not entirely happy with the treatment you receive, then find another doctor who you feel comfortable with.

It can be an embarrassing process, especially if you are self-conscious about your skin, but there are quite a few treatments which can help improve acne, and in some cases even get rid if it completely.

  • First of all the doctor will probably prescribe a more concentrated topical treatment to the over the counter creams, such as Zineryt or Differin, although these are generally for mild acne sufferers who perhaps only suffer from acne on their face, even if you have severe acne they are worth trying or perhaps using in conjunction with prescribed tablets.
  • If you have tried all of the topical skin care options, as I and many acne sufferers have, then
    your doctor could prescribe a selection of tablets to try, including different forms of the
    contraceptive pill, such as Dianette or Yasmin, which should regulate your hormones and help to stabilise your skin.
  • Although there are some possible downsides to using the contraceptive pill, a lot of people
    who have used these oral contraceptives have successfully treated their acne, including this
    years Britain’s Next Top Model winner, Alex Evans, who after her win, openly talked about her struggle with spots in her teens.

There are also several antibiotics available and your doctor will be able to advise you which medication will be best for you.

  • It is usual to try any of these treatments for around 6 weeks, if not longer. It may seem like a
    long time but it will fly by, and if you see no improvements or your skin is worse after that
    time, then just return to your GP and try something else, or ask to be referred to a dermatologist.
  • If your acne is mild, it can sometimes be harder to get rid of than severe cases, as doctors are less enthusiastic to hand out drugs.

As a mild acne sufferer myself I found that all the over the counter creams, and even the prescription ones could not solve my skin problem, but my doctor would not supply me with anything strong enough to get rid of my acne.

Although it may seem like a long and drawn out process, especially if you are nipping back to the doctors every couple of months, there could be something which could help you.

  • If your acne is extremely severe, some dermatologists may proscribe Roaccutane, however
    this is a very strong drug, which is only used in extreme cases and has many side effects, such as dry flaky skin, aches and pains and mood swings.

If the drugs don’t work, then there are more alternative options, such as Acupuncture, Microdermabrasion and even laser therapy. Varying in price from £15 to £150, these alternative options are a step away from the drugs and creams offered by the doctor.

  • One of the cheapest options is the age old art of acupuncture.

Having been used for thousands of years, acupuncture has helped arthritis sufferers, helped turn babies in the womb and has even been used as an anaesthetic for open heart surgery, if it can do all that then the chances of it helping acne sufferers are high.

Although it involves having needles inserted in to the skin, it is completely painless and can be very relaxing, and as it has become a more mainstream treatment and there are clinics everywhere, with prices ranging from £15 to £50, search for an acupuncturist near you by visiting the British Acupuncture Council website.

  • Moving up the price ladder is microdermabrasion, a treatment which a lot of day spas and
    clinics have now introduced and it can also be helpful for reducing stretch marks and acne

Basically it is a very concentrated exfoliation, which involves a machine scratching and loosening, and then sucking all the dead and dry skin from your face. It is relatively painless and if that wasn’t enough you face is hen smothered with cream which makes your face feel super soft.

There are many clinics which now undergo this procedure and prices range from around £50 to £120, depending on the surface area.

  • If none of the other alternatives have helped and you have a bit of spare cash to, then there
    is one more thing left to try, laser therapy.

Although it can be quite expensive, laser therapy is said to work miracles and has even been used by A-listers such as Keira Knightley.

The skin is treated with a intense light and although it is mildly uncomfortable and your skin may appear red for a couple of hours afterwards, no anaesthetic is needed.

It is quite a pricey treatment though, just one session could set you back around £100 to £200, and some clinics also use microdermabrasion between each treatment.

Although I haven’t tried laser therapy myself, I have tried acupuncture and microdermabrasion. And personally although I did see a slight improvement with microdermabrasion, I would definitely recommend trying acupuncture, even in conjunction with another treatment.

I have suffered with mild acne for 6 years on and off and I am currently going for acupuncture sessions, about every 2 to 3 weeks, sometimes longer, and I find that it is helps my skin dramatically, and I can go weeks without one spot. Not only that but it also helps to keep my pulse regular, my yin and yang even and keeps nasty cold and flu bugs at bay.

One thing that shouldn’t be forgotten is that everybody’s skin is different, what works for me might not work for you, what works for you might not work for one of your friends, and what your mum used when she was 17, may not have the same effect now. The most important thing is to be patient, be yourself and do not let your skin rule your life.

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Next review: 13 December 2021