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South End News - September 15, 2011
Zits Happen

We’ve all had them. Zits. Pimples. Pus pockets. Pizza toppings. Mirror breakers. Blemishes. Whatever you call them, you’ve had ‘em. Some of us more than others. This pervasive, common affliction is certainly problematic. How many first dates, job interviews, high school reunions, weddings, and public appearances have had added angst due to this common skin ailment? I see hundreds of pimples all day long and I hear all kinds of questions and statements about zits. Allow me to address some of the most common acne inquiries…

1. Is my acne caused by poor hygiene?
You don’t need a doctor to tell you that you shouldn’t go days without exposing your body to soap and water. Nor should the guy next to you on the T have to deal with that. Sure, washing is good for you, but filth does not cause acne. It has been shown that acne improves the most with washing the face twice a day. Washing more than that can actually aggravate acne. That pimple you have today…well, it probably didn’t come out because you fell asleep without washing your face. Furthermore, scrubbing your face four times a day with an electric, handheld, expensive, oscillating scrub brush probably won’t help either. Keep it simple, just wash twice a day – morning and night, and don’t put too much stock into your cleaning routine.

2. Is there anything else I can do, I’ve even tried Proactiv®?
I’m baffled that so many people think a product they bought from an infomercial is the optimal medical treatment for their skin. When I hear this question, I usually ask what prescription products have been tried. Often, the answer is, “none.” I’m not saying that the ingredients in Proactiv® are worthless, I’m just saying that not only is it costly, but there are a lot of other treatments options available, including prescriptions. Tons of prescription pills, creams, and washes can be used to help battle blemishes.

3. Is acne caused by something in my blood?
It could be, but odds are that it is not. There are a few people with irregular hormone levels that can cause or exacerbate acne. Women with excess hair growth, irregular menstrual cycles or a deepened voice should be screened for hormonal imbalances. Aside from these individuals, there is nothing “in the blood” that we know of that causes acne.

4. Should I change my diet? Should I drink more water?
A lot of recent studies have addressed the possible link between acne and food. There is no definitive food that has been proven to cause acne. A diet consisting solely of French fries and chocolate has not been proven to cause acne but is nonetheless bad for your waistline. Drinking more or less water has never been shown to alter acne breakouts. For most people, diet changes will not affect their skin, but we still don’t understand exactly how nutrition may alter the skin.

5. Why am I getting this? I’m 34!
I don’t know. Really, I don’t have an answer to that. Acne continues to be a common problem into adulthood (sometimes even past the age of 50), especially in women. So we know that a lot of adults get acne, but we don’t know why. Luckily, dermatologists have a lot of treatments to offer. Don’t just buy into an infomercial, see your dermatologist. That Pimple Popper, MD can offer you a lot of treatments and save another zit from happening.

Dr. Emmy Graber is an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine and a Dermatologist at Boston Medical Center (BMC). She is Director of the Cosmetic and Laser Center at BMC. Dr. Graber practices both general and cosmetic dermatology and writes extensively on a variety of dermatology topics and is often an invited lecturer at national dermatology meetings.


South End 

BU Cosmetic & Laser Center
Shapiro Center at Boston Medical Center
725 Albany Street
8th Floor, Suite 8B
Boston, MA 02118
Call: 617.414.COSM (2676)

BU Cosmetic & Laser Center at BU Affiliated Physicians Office
930 Commonwealth Avenue, West
1st Floor
Boston, MA 02215
Call: 617.414.6760

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