Those 50% of women who've experienced adult acne will know that there's nothing more frustrating than firstly diagnosing it and secondly, treating it. GPs can be dismissive, cosmetics counters and spas can misinterpret things and high street products can aggravate acne - or even cause it in the first place.
Self-diagnosis is risky business. "Acne in adult years can take on different forms including non-inflamed lesions such as blackheads and whiteheads as well as inflamed lesions such as papules and pustules" Top dermatologist and Medical Director at European Dermatology London, Dr Stefanie Williams, frankly explains.
There is also a number of other, very similar looking, skin problems including rosacea and perioral dermatitis (POD), which even GPs often wrongly mistake for acne. So seeing a proper skin doctor is the best way to guarantee a correct diagnosis and subsequent speedy treatment. "Not only because acne usually needs some sort of prescription treatment," Dr Stefanie says, "but also because it might not even be acne you're suffering with." And don't forget - you are dealing with a potentially scaring facial skin condition, so the sooner the better.
Dermatology grade vs 'celebrity' facials
Cosmetic clinics offer laser treatments and peels for adult acne which can provide some relieve, but these cosmetic procedures may require regular appointments . They won't be able to provide prescription treatment.
When it comes to high street or spa facials, Dr Stefanie also thinks you should avoid them once you've been diagnosed with acne because "in the vast majority of cases they will make it worse". Yikes. "I have seen many patients in clinic, whose acne was even triggered by 'celebrity' facials", she says. In this case stick to dermatology grade facials (see below).
The same can apply to some high street skincare. As most adult acne sufferers don't have the same degree of oily skin as a teenage sufferer has - their skin might even feel 'dry' - heavy moisturisers and creamy cleansers can be appealing, but are actually the last thing acne needs. "Also, women at that age often want to start using anti-ageing skincare, which often is too rich for their skin type" Dr Stefanie points out. There are some suitable products though - but, again, a skin doc would best advise on which are right for you.
The acne treatments dermatologists offer
Dermatologists are in the most expert position to see patients with any skin problem and offer a correct diagnosis. Dr Stefanie says "We also offer the full range of prescription treatments available for acne including oral isotretinoin (a.k.a. Roaccutane), the ONLY treatment that can clear acne for good". But while prescription treatments work much stronger than anything over the counter there are lots of alternatives also, both oral and topical.
Skin docs also do facials, but not of the spa 'n' aah kind. "Many dermatologist clinics offer special manual acne treatments with extractions, 'dermatology grade facials', which will help to 'unclog' your pores effectively, without risking a breakout" she explains.
With regards to treating acne scarring - which can be just as stressful as spots themselves - this can also be improved with certain non-surgical procedures, which dermatologists can provide, "but acne scarring should only be treated once all active breakouts are completely gone".
By Bridget March
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