Why Your Acne Treatments are Not Working

How many times have acne treatments let you down?

Let’s say you have this friend and let’s call this friend Sue. You complain to Sue about your stubborn acne which refuses to leave you, no matter what you do. Now Sue says she knows someone who went to this dermatologist and got cured of some skin disease when no other doctor could. This dermatologist with magical skills certainly seems very interesting. If he can cure this problem when no one else could, maybe he can cure your acne too.

So you implore Sue to get the number of this doctor. She does that. You make an appointment with this magical doctor, let’s call him Dr. John. His receptionist says he can see you a week from today. You mark it in the calendar and can’t wait for your appointment. The day arrives and you reach the clinic early. You take a seat and wait for your name to be called out. Finally the moment arrives and you enter the consulting room full of hope, dreaming of having clear skin in 2 weeks.

Dr. John greets you and asks you how he can help you today. You can’t help but blurt out how your acne has been troubling you. You go on to describe how no matter what you do you always seem to wake up every morning with more acne than the previous night. Dr. John nods sympathetically pulling his prescription pad towards him. He begins to write something down. Watching him you think, finally the magical solution to my problems. Clutching the paper he gives you, you walk out elated right to the nearest pharmacy. After getting all the medications that have been prescribed you go home ready to start the treatments.

A week passes and you hardly see any improvements. Maybe it needs more time, you tell yourself. Another week passes by where you religiously apply all the ointments and take all the medications. At the end of this second week your skin still looks the same as it did 2 weeks back. To make matters worse it’s peeling a bit in places. How many times have you been in this place?

So why does this happen to you time and time again?

First, if you’re above 25 years old you are suffering from adult acne which is way different from the normal teenage acne. While both are caused by an imbalance in hormones, the teenage one is caused by changes in the body during puberty. If you’re an adult, your imbalance of hormones is caused by stress, improper diet, medications you take and lack of sleep. Unless you take measures to reduce of these factors your acne may not have an expiry date like teenage acne.

Medications prescribed by doctors like antibiotics, ointments, OTC creams work by trying to kill acne causing bacteria or reducing the sebum levels in the skin. The downside of this is the good bacteria are also killed and your skin dries out and gets sensitive. Your acne remains the same. Of course you will always be told that you need to use more of the ointments or take the medications for longer but if you see no difference after 2 weeks it is more than likely that you’re never going to see one. The other downside is that your immune system will be weaker and your skin much more sensitive than before.

While some of the bacteria that cause acne may be killed, all the other factors leading to acne are still around. You are almost never told to sleep and eat well along with your prescription. As a result the acne does not stop, or even if it does stop for a while, it most probably will come back.

So before you decide to take another round of antibiotics or apply OTC creams try changing your diet just a little to see if it does help even a little bit.

Why I Think Acne Face Maps are Not Helpful At All

Many times while on Pinterest I come across Face Maps that say something like “What your acne is trying to tell you”. Basically it’s an outline of a face which tells you what pimples on various parts of your face mean. So pimples between eyes means that maybe your liver is not functioning well. On your cheeks may mean respiratory or metabolism issues. Basically the whole face is mapped out and linked to various body parts and function.

These maps tend to be shared a lot.  I am pretty sure most of them are shared by people who do not have acne. These people of course are trying to be helpful and hoping that it helps someone who actually has acne. As someone who has had acne on every single part of my face I can testify that if these face maps were true, my health should have been in serious jeopardy. But in all honesty my physical health was great. Just that I was not mentally as great as I was battling acne. Acne takes a toll more on a person’s mental health than physical.

While doing some reading up, as research for this post I came across one article about face maps that said if you have acne between your eyes you should cut down on junk food. I mean really? Come on. Everyone, acne or no acne, should be cutting down on junk food. And the sad truth is some people with acne may not even eat junk food.

If anyone with acne is on the internet trying to find a cure and comes across these face maps, they are going to think that they have a problem with every part of their body. How do you resolve a liver or a metabolism problem?

Don’t let these face maps fool you into thinking that certain parts of your body are not functioning well. Some even go to the extent of saying impaired kidney function which can lead people who have acne down dangerous paths. So pay no heed to these face maps. They don’t mean anything. They are also are not helpful as they never tell you what to do about a problem.

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Is Skin Purging an Actual Thing?

I’m sure you’ve heard the term skin purging. If you have acne and are using a new product for it, within a few days you might start breaking out a little more. This period when your skin actually starts getting worse is referred to as the skin purging period. So is it a real thing and how long does it last?

Skin renews itself every 28 days, i.e old cells die off and are replaced by new, healthy cells. This is known as cell turnover. Acne forms deep within your skin. So the hair follicle gets inflamed and the pore gets blocked. Eventually the inflammation makes its way to the surface of the skin and this is when you breakout. However this “breakout” has been in the lower layers of your skin for a few days before it slowly shows itself.

The reason purging happens is because some of the ingredients in the product may speed up cell turnover. When cell turnover speeds up, blocked pores that would have taken 7-8 days days to make themselves visible suddenly do it in 2-3 days. You get clusters of new pimples. However these new pimples should heal quicker as well. Since skin normally takes around 28 days to renew itself you should really see results after a month if the product is actually working for you.

I once used an “Isotretinoin” cream for a year. It was prescribed to me by my dermatologist. Each time I told her it was not working she said I was purging or it was the time of my month. Don’t be stupid like me. Keep an eye on your face and if you feel something is not right stop.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind when using a new product to know if you are purging or the product is not working and instead making you break out.

  1. Purging should last maximum for a month. If you do not see any improvement after a month it is time to stop using the product.
  2. You should not be breaking out in places you don’t normally break out. This means the new product is causing breakouts rather than purging.
  3. Please use only one new product at a time so you know which one is working. Give each product a chance and don’t hinder things by throwing another product into the mix.
  4. If your new breakouts look much different than your normal breakouts please stop using the product. For example if you normally do not have cystic acne but start getting it after using a new product, please stop.

So yes skin purging is an actual thing. But all said and done please use your judgement wisely when it comes to your face. Whatever anyone says, let your feelings have the final say in the health of your skin. A few days of not using a product will not do any harm to your face. You can always restart a product but cannot undo damage to your face.

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Choosing a Skin Clinic for Scar Treatments

Acne comes with 2 problems. One is the acne itself and second is the scars it leaves behind. Depending on the type and severity of the acne, the scars left behind will be different. Again depending on the type of scars and your skin type, some of them may fade with time, some with home treatments and some may not.

The treatments available today for scarring of any kind is mind boggling. We are all on the lookout for perfect skin. They range from simple treatments like facials for acne scars to complex things like laser treatments. If you decide to opt for treatments for acne scars, I thought I would put together a guide that would help you make the right choice.  Since it is your face, the most visible part of your body, and you are going to be investing money, here are some points that would help you out. I have visited 3 clinics for acne and scar removal. While I had no luck with the treatments for acne, I did get some good results when it came to my acne scars.

Here are some of the  treatments that are normally used for acne scarring. All these treatments have down time, that means, a period of time when your skin will be sore or looked bruised or swollen. It normally goes down within 24 hours, so do plan for some time where you might not want to go out. Even if you do wear sunscreen it is better you let your face heal at home at least for the first 24 hours.

Chemical Peels : This is technique in which a chemical solution is applied to the skin so that the outer layer peels off and new smoother skin is regenerated. It is a form of exfoliation except that it is done under the supervision of a dermatologist. There are 3 types of chemical peels – superficial, medium and deep. For acne scars, usually superficial and medium peels are recommended. Your skin will be sensitive after a peel so make sure you do not have any outdoor plans for at least 24 hours. You will also be asked to use a good sunscreen while going out into the sun. Chemical peels should not be performed when you have cuts or open wounds.

Microdermabrasion : This is an extreme form of exfoliation where the doctor uses a high speed wheel or brush to remove the outer layer of the skin so as to improve the appearance of the skin. This procedure is generally only effective for flat discolored scars and does not work for deep scars like indented scars. Your skin will look pink for about 24 hours after the procedure.

Subcision : This is a procedure that is used for indented scars. Since the healing scar tissue has attached itself to the lower skin layers, a needle is used to detach it. This is normally done under local anesthesia. A anesthetic cream will be applied on your face and left for 30 – 45 minutes. This cream is then gently wiped off and the dermatologist will perform the procedure. It may be slightly painful.

Dermal Fillers : These are used for ice pick, boxcar, indented and rolling scars. Fillers are injected under the skin to lift the scar and give a smooth appearance to the skin. An anesthetic cream will be applied to alleviate any discomfort. After the procedure your skin will look bruised for a day or 2. You may feel a slight discomfort and will be given an ice pack to apply.

Derma Rollers : This is a cylindrical tube like structure with hundreds of tiny needles. These are rolled over your skin to injure it in a controlled manner. An anesthetic cream will be applied to your face to numb it and reduce discomfort. The idea is to trick the skin into repairing itself and stimulating collagen production, which then helps heal acne scars by regenerating new smooth skin. There will be minimal bleeding. Today you can buy Derma Rollers over the internet to be used at home. However, personally I would not recommend this and strongly suggest you get it done by a qualified doctor. Derma Rollers should also not be used on skin that has active acne.

Lasers : These work by using short pulses of light to destroy the upper layers of skin. The skin’s natural healing process then generates new and smooth looking skin. Generally 4-6 sittings of laser are needed depending on the severity of your scars.

At your first consultation the dermatologist will recommend a combination of the above treatments. These however may change during the course of your treatment depending on how your skin reacts.

Here are some do’s and don’t about choosing a skin clinic.

Do shop around for a skin clinic

If you have decided to get treatment for your scars, you are going to be investing a lot of money into it. So take the time to choose a good clinic. Visit various clinics. Pay the initial consultation fee and talk to the consulting dermatologist. Never ever decide on any treatment without talking to them. It is normal that you have a consultation with a dermatologist first and then they will discuss a treatment plan with you. He/She should be patient enough to answer your questions. If you have active acne she or he should insist that your acne should heal first.

If the doctor claims that you will have 100% improvement please be on alert. Most treatments have a 60-80 % improvement. Don’t be discouraged by these number. It is a lot of improvement.

Do not make a commitment until you have visited 2-3 skin clinics. Once you have talked to the dermatologist, visit their website and check out their reviews. If you can reach out to some of the people who have had procedures at the clinic, even better.

Do talk to other clients at the skin clinic

When you visit the clinic, do talk to the other clients waiting there. Ask them what their experience has been and if they are happy with their results. Do take a look at their skin but do it discreetly and don’t stare. Ask them how long it took before they saw results and what treatments they have had.

Don’t buy packages

Most skin clinics offer package deals where if you pay upfront for 6-8 treatments, say 6-8 sessions of laser, you pay less. The problem with this is if you are not happy with the results you are already committed to them. Pay a little extra but pay as you go.

Don’t hesitate to stop at any time

If for some reason the treatments do not seem to be working or you are not happy with the results or just plain uncomfortable do not hesitate to stop at any time. You should see some result in 6-8 weeks at the least. For example there was a dermatologist I went to whose patients used to groan in pain as she did painful laser treatments without anesthetic. This is a big no no. If the dermatologist wants to save time and money by not taking the time to apply an anesthetic cream she is not doing a very good job.

If you have visited any clinic and have any points to add do tell me in the comments below. I would really appreciate it and I read every comment.

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4 Things I Wish My Dermatologist Had Told Me

The one thing I noticed when visiting dermatologists over the years for my acne was that they all had clear skin. Not just clear skin, but beautiful skin. Initially, this gave me hope as I thought that they would help me get that same clear and beautiful skin. However, as time went by it became pretty obvious that I was heading in exactly the opposite direction. The dry, red, cracked, itchy and bumpy skin was not exactly what I was looking for. They had some tricks up their sleeve which they were clearly not sharing with their patients.

I was pretty sure they were using products that they would never recommend to their patients. However, here are some things which if they had told me, my skin would have healed a long time back.

1. Diet has a major effect on your skin

Believe it or not figuring this one out on my own, after 2o years of fighting acne made me feel really stupid. After all the money I had spent on various (some really expensive ) products and clinics, it was something I was eating that was giving me acne.

Thinking about it, it makes sense. What we eat sustains us and gives us energy. It always has an effect on our body. So it makes sense that certain foods may be giving us acne.

2. I never use the products I prescribe you

When trying to get me to take Accutane one dermatologist told me “I would take it if I had to.” I knew she was lying through her teeth. If Accutane helps someone and cures them permanently I have absolutely no problem with it. What I have a problem with is trying to convince a patient by lying, that too to someone with acne who may already have self-esteem issues. Worse is doing it with a drug such as Accutane.

Once while buying Clinique products, the salesperson got a call. I heard her refer to the person on the other end as Doctor. Curious, I hung around and spoke to her for a while longer. She told me that it was a dermatologist at the very clinic I had visited for my acne. I paid exactly the same amount at the clinic as I did at the Clinique counter. What I got from the products the dermatologist prescribed was dry, inflamed skin. Clinique products actually made my skin heal a bit.

3. Antibiotics and BP are hit or miss solutions

Not everyone with acne will be cured by these standard solutions. From what I have learnt over the years every case of acne has something different causing it and something unique will be able to cure it. For some, it was Zinc supplements, for another Vitamin E supplements. Some people have good results by avoiding sugar, dairy and gluten, either one or maybe even all 3. Some even cured their acne by just changing their pillow cases every day.

I wish dermatologists would change a patient’s treatment when it did not work instead of ramping up the dosage. If it does not work in a month it is not going to work.

Sometimes using antibiotics and BP is like treating the body and skin like a war zone. Nothing good can come out of it. The skin reacts by getting red and inflamed.

4. Left to itself your skin can heal on its own

If you have a minor cut on your hand do you need medical intervention? No. Even deeper cuts are stitched so that the healing takes place properly. The body does the healing. Provide a good environment for your skin and it can and will heal the acne on its own. Today if I see the signs that I am going to get acne, and I have no time to use my regular honey masks, I just leave it alone. I drink a lot of water and if pressed for time just take a Vitamin C supplement. I would normally drink water with lemon juice or eat vitamin C rich fruits. The acne does not even form.

However all said and done, some people do get a lot of help for their acne from dermatologists. If you do visit one make sure you use your instincts and realise when a treatment is not working and if it is actually making things worse.

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