“Just because a condition is common doesn’t mean it’s a quick fix,” cautions Vanguard dermatologist Dr. Wynn Kao.
“People assume that because a condition is not life threatening, it should be easy to cure. But that’s not how it works with skin.”
When teens or even adults in their thirties or forties are plagued with acne, no one can blame them for not only seeking medical help but for hoping that a skilled dermatologist will banish the condition forever. Less conscientious doctors might raise expectations by promising instant remedies. Dr. Kao would rather have the patient understand that while skin conditions can certainly be resolved, it is often patience and persistent attentiveness that get results rather than miracle panaceas.
“Most of our tools are good ones and they are always being improved. But there is no one size that fits all and the cure takes place over time.”
Prescribing the appropriate acne medicine involves the same kind of trial and error approach that other physicians follow in controlling more dangerous chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or depression.
“We start out with a lesser strength prescription with the understanding that depending on the individual, we will need to adjust it.”
Treating acne, Dr. Kao takes into account a patient’s genetic givens.
“If a teenager is accompanied by a biological parent who is still plagued with acne, than I know I am dealing with a challenging case.”
Stress is also often a factor but even here individual experiences vary.
“There is a difference between someone who is always stressed out and someone who is coping with a periodic shift in hormones that causes stress-related, monthly breakouts.”
- Reduce your intake of sugar: While dietary factors may contribute to only 15% to 20% of acne eruptions, it’s a good idea to enlist everything you can on the side of improving your condition. It may be hard to show a direct cause and effect, but high glucose consumption is known to lead to inflammation so keeping away from the refined carbohydrates in many snacks can help.
- Avoid skim milk: Drinking skim milk often has an adverse effect on acne. Try going back to whole milk and watch for improvement.
- Keep your skin well moisturized. Acne sufferers often have oil excess but that does not mean you should let your skin dry out. Ask your dermatologist for the right products to use for washing and hydrating your skin type.
- Prescribed Retin-A can help: While some less concentrated Retin-A gels are available over the counter, results are best when a dermatologist works with you over time to find the right formula for your skin.
- Consider phototherapy: This acne treatment, also known as a light box or Isolaz, can make a dramatic difference in four to six treatments. Watch for more on this in future blog posts.