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Acne – how to take care, and when should you meet the dermatologist?

The first step is to clean up your skincare routine. This can be anything from reducing the number of products you use, to manually cleaning the brushes and sponges that you use for your makeup.

These days, adult acne occurs in up to 70% of people. From a purely hormonal and hereditary background, now acne has become more of a lifestyle-and-habits kind of problem.

What are the causes of adult acne?

Genetics and hormones have a big role. But there are several causes outside of that. Based on what we see in clinical practice, food plays a big role – consumption of sugary foods, and too much dairy such as skimmed milk, ghee, and whey protein supplements. These are some of the main factors that cause persistent adult acne.

Nowadays, the number of cosmetic products used per person is said to be somewhere between 4 and 7 per day. The wrong choice of products which don’t match with the skin’s type, comedogenic ingredients in these products which clog the skin, too many products in too many steps thanks to popular skin trends like the 10-step K beauty routine, all of these are very common causes of adult acne. Applying oil to the scalp, and soaking it overnight or for hours before washing the scalp creates pimples and skin congestion. Other factors like smoking which causes skin dullness and acne, in addition to humidity and outdoor pollution. And of course, stress-induced acne is real.

What can you do at home to work on adult acne?

The first step is to clean up your skincare routine. This can be anything from reducing the number of products you use, to manually cleaning the brushes and sponges that you use for your makeup. Throw away expired products. If you are using bleaching serums or fairness creams or steroid creams for skin lightening, get off those, right away.

The next step is clean up your diet – cut back on dairy as much as you can, specifically cut out whey and ghee. Fermented products like buttermilk and curds may be taken in moderation.

Clean out your lifestyle – the first step is to have your dinner early. Having a very late dinner, and snacking while staying awake at night, worsen insulin resistance, which then stimulates your hormones to cause acne.

Cut out wrong skincare habits, regardless of how ‘used’ you are to them. Oiling the scalp is a strict no-no for anyone with acne. Not removing your makeup at bedtime, is yet another bad habit that can worsen or cause acne. Avoid checking the pimple by touching it often, or handling it – things will only get worse. Get off having unnecessary facials once a month, especially if you notice your pimples flaring up after every cleanup – in fact, don’t get any facials done when you are having pimples, the infection could get worse.

While these are steps that can help clear out acne to a fair extent, when do you need to visit your dermatologist for acne?

If you see that you have pustules and cysts on the face, or involvement of the body as well, then you definitely need medical help at the earliest – the more severe grades of acne are best handled by the dermatologist. If you predominantly have acne along the jawline, plus other signs of hormonal problems like upper lip hair growth in females and pattern hair loss on the scalp, you may need to do lab work, guided by your dermatologist. If your acne is leaving a lot of scars, medical intervention can help prevent and treat the scars early, before they become less responsive.

Medical treatment is very useful to give you relief from acne and get you clear skin. But the bigger thing is for your skin to stay clear, for which you need to follow good self-care and maintain your results.

— Dr Renita Rajan, chief consultant dermatologist, Render Skin and Hair.

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