ACNE - Not Just for Kids
A special by our Content Manager

Most people associate acne with hormonally charged teenagers. The cliche of the pimply adolescent is part of our culture, one looked on almost nostalgically (oh, back in the Clearasil days...).

However, for the 20% of us who have moved only from bemoaning a zit on prom night to bemoaning a zit before a job interview, acne is more like a mountain than a cute little molehill. The worst part is, no matter how many zillions of dollars we're willing to spend on our quest for perfect skin, there is no sure-fire treatment. 

There are countless medications, cleansing regimes and 'cures' available, many of which contradict one another, and it is really only by trial and error that you can find one that works for you. At the most basic level, though, there are two key factors that cannot be over-emphasized: SLEEP and WATER. 

Nobody knows exactly what 'beauty sleep' accomplishes, but it has recently been discovered that hormone levels fluctuate when our sleep patterns are disturbed. Since many breakouts are hormonally based, this could result in acne flare-ups. Also, the flow of oxygen to the skin increases while we sleep, regenerating skin cells. 

Drinking the proverbial eight glasses of water a day helps the body flush out toxins, and, since the skin is the body's primary elimination organ, ensures that the skin has less toxins to get rid of. Simple and logical, right? So start guzzling! 

Aside from these two universal skin helpers, it's always a good idea to choose a product marked 'non-comedogenic,' if you have the option. If you think you don't need moisturizer, due to an excess of oil production, you probably don't. Sebum is the skin's natural lubricant; since pimples are caused by sebum getting clogged in the pores, adding oil may not be the quickest means to clear skin.

Here's a quick rundown on some popular long-term acne treatments. Remember, what works for your sister or your best friend may not necessarily work for you. Be patient and don't expect to see results overnight.

  • RETIN-A, a Vitamin A-derived topical cream, is one of the most commonly prescribed acne treatments. It often takes up to three months to show visible results and causes increased sun sensitivity. Retin-A comes in several different strengths; generally, the user starts at the lowest percentage and works up from there. 
  • KLARON (10% sodium sulfacetamide) is a new acne medication that contains the exfoliating ingredient sulfur. It is ideally suited to people with dry and sensitive skin. 
  • ACCUTANE, also a Vitamin A derivative, decreases sebum production and is only recommended for severe acne. The drug is taken orally and is known to have extreme side affects, from dry skin to muscular aches to potential birth defects.
  • TETRACYCLINE, the most commonly prescribed antibiotic in acne treatment, works against the 'P. acnes' bacterium. However, antibiotics become less effective as the body develops resistance to them. Tetracycline also causes extreme sun sensitivity. Some people using antibiotics may experience stomach distress.
  • ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS are exfoliating fruit acids which are applied topically by an esthetician or dermatologist, at concentrations of 5% to more than 25%. AHAs keep the pores clear, reducing the occurrence of acne in the long term.
  • BETA HYDROXY ACIDS (most commonly, salicylic acid) penetrate through sebum and unclog pores. BHAs can be gentler than AHAs. Both should be applied on a weekly basis.
  • TRI-CYCLEN ORAL CONTRACEPTIVE is a birth control pill that has recently been approved for the treatment of acne in patients over 15 years of age. It works by decreasing the production of certain hormones which cause pimples