All Clear: Help for Your Skin
Many women, from puberty to early middle age, are plagued with acne. As blemishes heal they can leave behind scarring caused by hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation can also be the result of melasma, a darkening of the skin due to hormonal changes at pregnancy and menopause.
Acne is caused by biological factors such as genetics and hormones, causing oil-producing glands to become overactive, resulting in dead cells and bacteria building up beneath the skin’s surface. Effective treatments frequently require prescription medications; over-the-counter products also may be used to clear acne and brighten skin.
Women with darker skin in particular can have issues with acne and hyperpigmentation because their skin is easily prone to scarring. For example, when I, an African-American woman, want to exfoliate, I make sure not to choose scrubs or abrasive materials, but concentrate on acidic exfoliation. I typically select products with alpha-hydroxy acids, such as Derma E Overnight Peel, which evens pigmentation and diminishes age spots.
Salicylic acids are helpful for acne-prone skin, and products such as the Aveeno® Clear Complexion facial care line, formulated with moisture-rich soy, are specifically designed for blemish-prone skin. Some products in this collection also contain salicylic acid and work to clear and prevent blemishes.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Kaleroy Papantoniou, a clinical instructor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center who specializes in all areas of medical dermatology for adults and children, explains that treatment for acne must change depending on one’s skin color and type. “Acne treatment should be tailored in patients with darker skin types to optimize treatment outcomes. Unfortunately, these patients tend to heal with hyperpigmentation or dark spots very easily, even if they are not ‘picking’ or disturbing the breakouts, and this can be very stubborn to treat. Luckily, many of the topical medications we use to treat acne work to help with evening out skin tone and can expedite the fading of old skin discolorations from acne lesions. We want to avoid using scrubs and aggressive exfoliation in these skin types as well, as these can sometimes worsen the discoloration and lead to further inflammation.”
“Acne and hyperpigmentation are the most common skincare concerns for women,” said Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon, president emeritus of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery and president of LovelySkin.com. “There are always new treatments hitting the shelves that promise to improve blemishes and uneven skin tone.”
So how do you know which products will really work with your skin tone?
Dr. Schlessinger recommends products for acne that are formulated with salicylic acid, such as LovelySkin’s Luxe Clarifying Gel Cleanser that helps eliminate blemishes with 2 percent salicylic acid and exfoliates skin with 2 percent glycolic acid. Its gentle formula also reduces irritation and inflammation without leaving skin feeling dry or tight. With continued use, the cleanser promises to fight acne and unclog pores for clearer, healthier-looking skin.
Using innovative stem cell technology, NuGene NuLight Light & Bright Gel works to reduce the appearance of dark spots and excess pigmentation without the harsh ingredients found in some other brightening products. It works by breaking down excess melanin in the skin and reducing future melanin production. With regular use, this treatment also helps improve overall skin radiance, giving the complexion a more youthful glow, according to Dr. Schlessinger.
When asked for her view of the gold standard in treating these conditions, Dr. Papantoniou said, “Gradual and controlled is the key to the treatment of acne, especially in darker skin types. The use of a gentle acne cleanser containing salicylic acid 2 percent, with or without glycolic acid 5 to 10 percent, can often help treat both the acne and the discoloration, and because of the gentle exfoliation they will allow for topical acne creams to work better when applied. The topical prescription formulas with ingredients such as retinoic acid or azelaic acid also help to even out the skin tone and can work on the most stubborn of discolored complexions.” A combination with a morning cream or gel for bacterial and anti-inflammatory control is also recommended for all skin colors and types.
“For moderate to severe inflammatory acne, your dermatologist may want to treat with an oral antibiotic as well,” Dr. Papantoniou said. “The addition of a lightening agent with hydroquinone is sometimes used if necessary, and a series of chemical peels with salicylic acid can really help to decrease the treatment time and provide more dramatic satisfying results. For the most stubborn cases, a fractionated laser treatment may be helpful as well. I would encourage patients to seek out treatment because there are so many ways to prevent and treat acne and hyperpigmentation.”
So, ladies, do not despair. There is a dizzying array of products and procedures that are easily found in your drug store, spa, dermatologist’s office or online.
I have already decided to pick up my AHA overnight peel right away. HLM
Sources: epiduo.com and LovelySkin.com.