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Guest Post: Darker Skin & Acne—Time is Not On Your Side

Posted Sep 07 2011 7:45pm

Tyra Banks , originally uploaded by Luminous Phenomenon .

Author Synopsis

Kim Paterson is a copywriter who specializes in writing about cosmetic surgery, dermatology, and skin care for medical marketing company Etna Interactive. A recent Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo graduate, Kim enjoys writing, blogging, cycling, and playing music.

Acne isn’t only a nuisance; it can cause permanent changes to your skin. And if it wasn’t enough to worry about having embarrassing blemishes and bumps that are hard to hide, worrying about permanent discoloration and scars sets many people on edge. Acne can permanently change the look of your face and body in the form of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH, which is your body’s natural response to inflammation. With PIH, the skin color can change, becoming pink, red, purple or brown and although not true in every case, it can become permanent.

Not everyone who has acne develops PIH, but there are several factors that make you more likely to develop PIH. Unfortunately, if you have inflammatory acne and a medium to dark skin complexion, you are more likely to develop PIH. For people with darker skin, acne prevention and prompt acne treatment is key. You don’t have to be a dermatologist to know that treating the root of a skin problem will treat the symptoms, but it can be hard to know how to treat and prevent acne before it becomes a
permanent problem. The good news is you have options.

The longer you wait to treat your acne, the more PIH-prone your skin will become. If you are at an increased risk for developing PIH, it is even more important to get your acne under control as soon as possible. Managing acne means addressing its main components: excess oil, clogged pores, and bacteria.

The first step toward managing your acne is proper skin care & cleansing. The average person only needs to wash their face once a day, but if you have acne-prone skin, washing twice a day is optimal. Over-the-counter acne cleansers can be a great start to getting you acne under control. Cleansers usually have one of two active ingredients: benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Both can be effective in reducing oil, killing bacteria, and clearing away dirt and debris, but one may not be as effective as the other for you. If you aren’t sure, try different products, but be careful to read the directions since some cleansers should only be used once a day. I find that combining an acne cleanser with an exfoliating scrub can reduce oil and remove dead skin, which can clog pores.

Once you wash your face, it’s almost just as important to wear the right moisturizer. Many people with acne have oily skin and think that not wearing moisturizer will keep their skin oil-free; however, acne cleansers can dry out the skin and if you don’t replenish that moisture, then you skin may start producing more oil, which can lead to more breakouts. Try an oil-free (water based) moisturizer with a sunscreen during the day, and a light moisturizer at night.

Even with the best skin care routine, daily care may not be enough. Those with severe acne may still be unable to control their acne and need prescription-strength help. At this point, many people go see a dermatologist and are typically grateful they did. One of our clients, a Detroit dermatologist Dr. Albert Cattell, offers the following treatment options for his patients:

Prescription-strength topical treatments:

  • Formulas of benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, salicylic acid [Editor's note:  Resorcinol may cause ochronosis, a darkening of the skin, particularly when used in conjunction with hydroquinone.]
  • Retinoic acid cream or gel (Retin-A)
  • Topical antibiotics clindamycin and erythromycin

Oral medications:

  • Antibiotics like minocycline, doxycycline, and tetracycline
  • Isotretinoin pills (Accutane)

There are also a variety of chemical peels, resurfacing treatments and laser and light therapies that can help clear up active acne as well as the scarring or PIH caused by acne. Your dermatologist can help you determine which treatment option is best for you.

The goal of treating acne is to stop it before it causes permanent changes to your skin. Unfortunately, sometimes this treatment comes a little late. Seeing a dermatologist in Detroit, like Dr. Cattell, who also offers treatments for skin damaged by acne, can give you the best of both worldsproper acne treatment and effective cosmetic enhancement.

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