Common Acne Myths

There are many myths surrounding the causes and treatment of acne. Let’s look at what’s actually true.

Your diet has nothing to do with your acne.

FALSE. There is increasing scientific evidence to support a relationship between acne and diet. Specifically, foods that are highly processed, such as chips, crackers, and cakes, along with “high glycemic foods”, such as white bread, soda, candy, and juice, should be avoided in patients prone to acne.

In addition, certain dairy products may also exacerbate acne-prone skin. A recent study published in The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology demonstrated that consumption of skim and low-fat milk—but not full-fat milk—was positively associated with worsening acne.

Acne-fighting diets should have plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fatty fish, and nuts. Of course, diet alone cannot completely eradicate acne, and should be combined with proven medical treatments to ensure clear skin.

Tanning improves acne.

MAYBE TRUE. While the sun’s rays can temporarily clear up acne, tanning is NOT recommended due to the harmful effects of UV rays on the skin.

However, certain light treatments available at home and in the dermatologist’s office can work to effectively treat acne without the risk of UV damage. Studies have shown that the colonization of the P. acnes bacteria that contributes to acne is reduced when exposed to concentrated amounts of blue or red light. This type of treatment, termed photodynamic therapy (PDT), may also reduce the need for oral medications, like antibiotics, which can lead to unwanted side effects. A typical PDT course consists of 8 weekly treatments. For more severe acne, a topical medication called aminolevulinc acid HCl may be applied prior to sitting in front of the light and can reduce the amount of treatments required to achieve acne clearance.

Acne only affects individuals in their teenage years.

FALSE. Most patients think they will grow out of acne as an adult, yet adult acne—defined as acne over the age of 25—is a common concern encountered by dermatologists. Adult-onset acne is particularly common in females, due to the fluctuation of hormone levels around the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy, perimenopause, and after discontinuing oral contraceptive pills. This type of acne may require specific medications to treat effectively, thus it is best managed by your dermatologist.

Vigorous cleansing will improve acne.

FALSE. In individuals with acne-prone skin, it is important to cleanse the skin twice daily to remove dirt and oils. However, over-cleansing the skin with harsh ingredients can actually trigger more inflammation, making acne worse. A gentle cleanser is best, along with ingredients such as fragrance-free moisturizers, that are not irritating to the skin. While it may seem counterintuitive in patients with oily skin, moisturizers are actually an important part of an acne treatment regimen, as they allow the skin to better tolerate topical acne medications.

Furthermore, when the skin becomes too dry, the body reacts by making more oil, which can clog the pores and lead to more breakouts. Balancing the skin’s natural barrier through gentle cleansing and noncomedogenic moisturizers is best to keep acne to a minimum.

Acne is caused by bacteria.

MAYBE TRUE. Most individuals believe acne is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, but that is only one component of the pathophysiology of acne. Other causes of acne include inflammation, hormonal factors, and genetic susceptibility, all of which need to be treated in different ways. This is why multiple medications are often used to treat acne, and an acne treatment plan needs to be tailored to each individual.

Acne is not a serious health problem.

FALSE. Traditionally, acne has been thought of as purely cosmetic and not a serious health concern, however, studies have shown that acne can take a toll on patients’ mental health.

Research has revealed that acne can lead to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Furthermore, stress has been shown to worsen acne, leading health professionals to struggle with determining whether a patient’s acne is causing his or her mental health problem or vice versa.

Our bodies respond to stress by producing more hormones (androgens), which can stimulate the oil glands and hair follicles in the skin, leading to more acne. Thus, for acne treatment to be effective, limiting stress and addressing the mental health of the patient is an important part of the treatment plan.

I can clear up acne using at-home treatments.

TRUE, but in-office treatments may be more effective. There are many effective over-the-counter products that can be used to treat acne, such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and synthetic retinoids, like adapalene. However, if your acne has not cleared up with these treatments, it may be time to see your dermatologist.

A dermatologist can help tailor your treatment plan to your individual skin type and target specific causes of your acne. In addition, many in-office procedures have been shown to be very effective for managing acne. Chemical peels with ingredients like salicylic acid and retinol, help to reduce the number of new acne lesions as well as clear up the annoying post inflammatory redness acne leaves behind. These treatments are typically not covered by insurance and costs may vary.

Your hair has nothing to do with acne.

FALSE. Seborrheic dermatitis, or dandruff, is a skin condition that commonly overlaps with acne. It typically affects the areas of the body that are rich in oil glands, such as the face, scalp, chest, and back.

Symptoms include greasy scale along the forehead and around the nose, with scaling and itching of the scalp. Treating the hair with medicated shampoos containing ketoconazole, zinc, or sulfur several times a week can help improve the seborrheic dermatitis as well as clear up acne, and are also often an important part of the acne treatment plan.

Sunscreen can worsen acne due to clogged pores.

MAYBE TRUE. Certain chemical sunscreens can irritate the skin and worsen acne in susceptible individuals. However, physical sunscreens, such as those containing zinc oxide, can actually help acne due to their anti-inflammatory effects.

In addition, many sunscreens have other beneficial ingredients that have been shown to improve acne. For example, Elta MD UV clear sunscreen contains niacinamide and lactic acid, two acne-fighting ingredients that keep skin clear.  By carefully selecting a sunscreen, acne-prone patients can actually improve their skin while protecting it from the harmful rays of the sun.

If I have dry skin, I cannot get acne.

FALSE. Most individuals with acne have oily or combination skin, but that does not mean dry skin cannot be prone to breakouts. Dry skin can cause tiny breaks in the skin where bacteria can multiply, leading to inflammation.

Furthermore, the flaking associated with dry skin causes the pores to become clogged, leading to acne. Avoiding harsh, drying soaps and using moisturizers regularly can help to balance the skin and prevent acne in these individuals.

 

Visit a dermatologist who can help identify your skin type and put together a treatment plan for acne, customized for you. Click here to contact us for an appointment.

 

 

References

American Academy of Dermatology Association. Chemical peels: An overview. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/cosmetic/younger-looking/chemical-peels-overview.

American Academy of Dermatology Association. Adult Acne. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/adult-acne.

American Academy of Dermatology Association. Acne can affect more than your skin. Retrieved from https://aad.org/diseases/acne/acne-emotional-effects.

American Academy of Dermatology Association. Moisturizer: why you may need it if you have acne. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/moisturizer.

Cerman, A., Aktas, E., Altunay, I., Arici, J., Tulunay, A., Ozturk, F. (2016). Dietary glycemic factors, insulin resistance, and adiponectin levels in acne vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 75(1), 155-162.

Gupta, M., Mahajan, V., Mehta, K., Chauhan, P. (2014). Zinc therapy in Dermatology: A review. Dermatology Research and Practice. Http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/709152.

Ismail, N., Manaf, Z., Azizan, N. (2012). High glycemic load diet, milk, and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris in Malaysian young adults: a case control study. BMC Dermatology, 16(12), 13.

LaRosa, C., Quach, K., Koons, K., Kunselman, A., Zhu, J., Thiboutot, D., Zaenglein, A. (2016). Consumption of dairy in teenagers with acne. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 75(2), 318-322.

Rosania, K., Mateja, L., & Weiss, M. Acne Overlaps. Retrieved from https://www.the-dermatologist.com/article/9046.

Singam, V., Rastogi, S., Patel, K., Lee, H., Silverberg, J. (2019). The mental health burden in acne vulgaris and rosacea: an analysis of the US National Inpatient Sample. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 44(7); 766-772.

Trending Now: Collagen Supplements for Anti-Aging

If you read beauty blogs and magazines, chances are you have heard of the latest craze to hit the anti-aging market — collagen supplements. Collagen supplements claim to make the skin look younger, may help with brittle nails, and may even reduce the appearance of cellulite. But do they really work? We examined the current scientific literature to determine if collagen supplementation can transform your skin and make you look years younger.

What is collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is responsible for the structure, stability, and strength of the underlying tissues. The deposition of collagen into the skin gradually decreases over time as the skin ages, but it can be accelerated due to photoaging from excessive sun exposure. Aside from aging, the biggest reason individuals are deficient in collagen is a poor diet. Consuming animal and vegetable sources that are protein-rich, such as beef, chicken, fish, beans, eggs, and dairy products can help ensure adequate intake of collagen.

The science:

Several limited studies have shown promising results in individuals taking collagen supplements for their skin. These studies have noted benefits in transepidermal water loss (skin hydration), skin elasticity, roughness, and wrinkles. Two separate studies showed a possible benefit of collagen supplementation in patients who have brittle nail syndrome as well as in women who suffer from moderate cellulite. Animal studies further revealed that administering collagen hydrolysates to mice for 6 months led to significantly increased collagen content and density of the skin.

Can I benefit from taking a collagen supplement?

If you are eating a healthy diet and feeding your body all of the nutrients it needs to make collagen, you probably do not need a supplement. However, as the body ages, you may no longer absorb or synthesize nutrients as efficiently as you used to. Taking a collagen supplement can make up for a deficiency if it is present. A 2017 study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry showed that collagen hydrolysates can be transferred through the bloodstream directly to the skin, which explains the probable pathway for the beneficial effects of taking a supplement. However, some scientists postulate that the skin is a much lower priority to the body than major muscles, like the heart, diaphragm, and brain, where collagen will be distributed first. Therefore, only patients with a significant deficiency will likely benefit from taking collagen supplements. In addition, the cost and bulk of supplementation may be prohibitive for patients. Supplements in pill form require swallowing six a day to get a 6-gram dose. Powders are often double the price of pills, running from $15-$40 for a month’s supply.

Bottom line:

Limited studies on the benefits of collagen supplements have shown some promise, however, questions remain regarding which patients will benefit and how much collagen is actually absorbed into the skin. Cost and administration may be factors in compliance. It should be noted that for individuals who wish to add more collagen to their diet, bone broth—while not in hydrolysate form—offers six grams of collagen-rich protein and may be a tastier way to get your collagen fix.

 

 

References

  1. Jhawar, N., Wang, J. & Saedi, N. Oral collagen supplementation for skin aging: a fad of the future? Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, August 14, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.13096
  2. Choi, F.D., Sung, C.T., Juhasz, M., Mesinkovska, N.A. Oral collagen supplementation: A systematic review of dermatological applications. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 2019; 18(1): 9-16.
  3. Vollmer, D.L., West, V.A., & Lephart, E.D. Enhancing skin health by oral administration of natural compounds and minerals with implications to the dermal microbiome. J. Mol. Sci.201819(10), 3059.
  4. Hexsel, D., Zague, V., Schunck, M., Siega, C., Camozzato, F. & Oesser, S. Oral Supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology; August 2017, available online at: https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12393.
  5. Krieger, E. Collagen supplements show early promise for skin and joints, but don’t stock up yet. March 26, 2018, The Washington Post. Available online at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/collagen-supplements-show-early-promise-for-skin-nails-and-joints/2018/03/23/1cd480e2-27d6-11e8-bc72-077aa4dab9ef_story.html
  6. Schunck, M. Zague, V., Oesser, S., & Proksch, E. Dietary supplementation with specific collagen peptides has a body mass index-dependent beneficial effect on cellulite morphology. Journal of Medicinal Food. Dec 17, 2015: Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2015.0022
  7. Cruel, J. Does drinking collagen supplements actually do anything for your skin? Self, August 22, 2017. Available online at: https://www.self.com/story/collagen-supplements.

Choosing the Right Sunscreen

I love France! The food, the wine and …  the sunscreen! This week I’m writing about two of my favorite topics in one blog post: Sun Protection and the South of France!

The weather report from the outside world to us office-dwellers is that it’s been wonderful out there: sunny and not as humid as a typical Washington summer. That helps explain why I am being asked constantly for a recommendation for the best sunscreen. There is of course another reason for needing guidance: there are so many sunscreen options available. Standing in the aisle at CVS trying to pick the right one hasn’t been made any easier with the recent headline: “Sunscreen enters bloodstream after just one day of use, study says…”

That health alert was but a blip in the news cycle, but it was important and I am glad that my patients are still asking about it. The study, published in the medical journal JAMA, showed that four sunscreens when applied in maximal use scenarios (four times daily, on 75% of the body) resulted in measurable amounts of the chemical sunscreen agent passing through the skin to the bloodstream. It sounds alarming, but the study stopped short of looking at the health impact of the discovery and thus additional studies are underway. It’s important to note that all of the chemicals identified in the study are FDA-approved and have been in use for many years, without showing any harm. Likewise, there is strong evidence that regular sunscreen use helps reduce the risk of cancer and premature skin aging, so there is no justification for abandoning sun-safe behavior.

So, what should we slather on in the meantime?

Getting to that answer involves a quick look at the science behind how sunscreens work. There are two general classes of sun protection agents that differ in their method of action. SunSCREENS are those that rely on active chemical agents (with names like oxybenzone) that absorb harmful UV radiation and release its latent energy as heat on the skin surface. This was the class included in the study.

SunBLOCKS work entirely differently. They employ extremely fine-grained minerals, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, to provide a physical barrier at the skin surface. These inert minerals reflect or scatter the radiation, preventing the rays from ever reaching the skin. In days past, they were the magic in the greasy white paint lifeguards smeared on their noses. Today, these minerals have been refined and formulated in to sheer creams, lotions and sprays that are invisible when worked in to the skin and pleasant to the touch.

Okay, let’s talk about France! 

American dermatologists and others interested in the topic have known for years that you can buy a much wider array of UV-stopping products in Europe. Why is that? This answer requires a brief look at government regulation. European consumer product rules are focused on the accuracy of manufacturers’ claims, which in the case of sunscreens and blocks is about their ability to stop or absorb UV rays. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration assesses manufacturers’ claims of efficacy. However, the FDA is concerned with potential toxicity of the same chemicals within the human body and environment, thus setting a higher bar of regulation. Meeting the FDA’s testing requirements takes considerable time for which many European manufacturers do not have the appetite. Several European brands have cleared this high bar, though, bringing a few sunscreen formulations to the US that have been used in Europe for years. In the meantime, there are many more choices available throughout Europe.

All this explains why on a recent sunny weekend in the south of France an American dermatologist (moi) was SLOWLY browsing a wide array of sun screen products in a charming pharmacy. Even for me, the process was daunting!

So at last, my best sun protection product advice: when reading a product label, be it in France or CVS, use sunblocks that rely on zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and have an SPF 30 or higher. These active ingredients have not been found to cross in to the blood stream, they are non-toxic, they stop UVA and UVB from reaching your skin and some formulations have become so sheer that you don’t even notice you have them on. These “physical” sunblocks are widely available. For years, my office has only carried sunscreens that have fewer chemicals and rely on non-reactive ingredients. If you are heading to the south of France or the south side of your neighborhood pool, you can pick them up on your next visit, or call and we can ship to you.

Blue lagoon

The Benefits of the Blue Lagoon

Blue lagoon

If you haven’t been to Iceland yet, chances are you know at least a dozen people who have taken the short flight to Reykjavik and spent a few days among the volcanoes, glaciers and geysers.

Last year more than 2 million tourists went to the Island of Fire and Ice with many of them taking a mineral bath in the iconic Blue Lagoon. I hate to be a lemming, but I wanted to see what drove so many to this sparsely populated island and learn first-hand about the dermatologic potential of Iceland’s most famous destination.

I was surprised to discover that the Blue Lagoon is not one of Mother Nature’s best works, but a beautiful man-made spa utilizing naturally occurring geothermal energy in the form of super heated water extracted from a mile below the earth’s surface. It is an ingenious re-use of the excess water from an adjacent power plant. The water is a mix of fresh and seawater and, according to the spa website, the unique algae plants and high concentration of silica directly benefit the skin. They claim the anti-bacterial effects of silica improve psoriasis and eczema and that the mineral water prevents premature aging.

I had to try it, so we booked a day at the Blue Lagoon Retreat, touted as a “transformative journey into volcanic earth.” It’s definitely a transformative setting, with canals and pools of beautiful blue-white water snaking through volcanic cliffs, overlooking mountains and a starkly spectacular landscape. The experience is soothing and relaxing. Once I was able to pull myself out of the warm water I performed the signature “ritual” using scrubs of lava sand and salt, a cleansing silica mask and moisturizing algae oil. It was a sublime end to a memorable day.

Effects of Blue Lagoon Water

According to Icelandic dermatologist Jenna Huld Eysteinsdottir, research on the effects of the Blue Lagoon’s algae and silica on skin cells showed an increase in the genes that prevent skin aging. These were “in vitro” laboratory studies, however, and I am not aware of any that looked at actual patients. Additionally, there is a great deal of evidence that silica, the star ingredient in Blue Lagoon’s skin care line, is vital for healthy joints, skin, nails, teeth and bones. While it is less clear that applying large amounts of silica on the skin will result in reversal of aging, this pure white mineral is very effective in the absorption of oil and can have a positive role in masks for those with acne, eczema and psoriasis. It’s found in many cosmetic products because it improves the appearance of lines and pores, but as far as I know, only temporarily.

Seeking more “in vivo” evidence of the Blue Lagoon’s claims, I looked around at the Icelanders’ skin. With a population of a little more than 300,000 in a sea of tourists, spotting a native Icelander is almost as challenging as identifying one of the elves that are central to the Icelandic sagas and identity. There is no question though that most natives have exceptionally healthy skin – unlined and evenly pigmented. Lack of sunlight may play a role, however, as they live at a latitude with only 5 hours of daylight in winter.

Is the Blue Lagoon Worth it?

So, what’s the upshot? After a few hours of soaking and scrubbing in the ethereal waters of the Blue Lagoon I felt absolutely fantastic and renewed.  From a dermatologist’s perspective there is not yet enough science to support its skin anti-aging claims, but I would still recommend the experience, if only for the restorative powers to one’s psyche. There will be undoubtedly more data on the horizon, and I will be on the lookout. In the meantime, if you have the chance, check the Blue Lagoon out for yourself.

 

Takk Fyrir!

 

Skincare Tips for Diabetes Patients

5 Skin Tips for People with Diabetes

According to the 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report there are 30.3 million people with diabetes (9.4% of the US population) including 23.1 million people who are diagnosed and 7.2 million people (23.8%) undiagnosed.

Patients with diabetes are more susceptible to skin infections, especially on the feet and on the skin of the ear. More than 75% of patients with diabetes will have skin lesions. The most common is xerosis or dryness. Dry skin affects 50% of those with type 1 diabetes. Keratosis pilaris, or rough spots on the sides of arms affect about 10% of patients. Itching of the skin, especially on the torso, is very common.

Also occurring are smooth yellow plaques on the front of the shins called Necrobiosis lipoidica. These lesions are usually painless and are 3 times as likely to occur in women than in men. They can be treated with topical creams as well as oral medications that improve circulation, such as low-dose aspirin, pentoxifylline, dipyridamole and nicotimamide.

70% of diabetic men over 60 will develop diabetic dermopathy or shin spots. Over time these become dark depressions in the skin.

Skincare Tips for Diabetes Patients

So how does one prevent or treat these irritations caused by diabetes? Besides keeping your diabetes under control, here are some tips you can follow for skin care.

  1. Moisturize daily with an unscented emollient such as Cerave, Cetaphil or Uradin 10 lotion. Apply when skin is still damp- within 3 minutes of getting out of the bath or shower.
  2. Use a moisturizing, fragrance-free cleanser such as Dove soap. Oatmeal baths can also help reduce itching.
  3. Thoroughly dry skin folds such as underneath the breasts or between toes. Trapped moisture is a breeding ground for yeast and fungal infections.
  4. Check your feet daily for sores or cuts and treat with a topical antibiotic and bandage. Seek medical attention for any sores that have not healed or are red, swollen, hot or draining pus.
  5. Don’t cut cuticles around your nails as this can lead to infection.

Note that not all-natural health and beauty products are 100% natural. Many include fragrance and other ingredients that can irritate sensitive skin. Be sure to read the labels.

If you are concerned about your skin or whether you have diabetes, consult a physician.

Contact us with questions and to book your appointment.

Why Rosy Cheeks are Not Always a Good Thing

Rosy cheeks are seen as a sign of a good thing when considering a beautiful blush, or a good workout.

Permanent redness, however, is evidence a of chronic skin disorder called rosacea.  

Rosacea is very common and yet many people don’t know they have it.  Worst of all it can spread if left untreated — from the nose and cheeks to the ears, eyes, forehead and chin — even to the shoulders and back. It can be disfiguring when accompanied by pimples and thickened skin.

Rosacea is divided by dermatologists into four Subtypes:

Subtype 1:  FACIAL REDNESS – persistent flushing and visible blood vessels.

Subtype 2:  BUMPS AND PIMPLES – often seen with facial redness.

Subtype 3:  SKIN THICKENING – usually around the nose.

Subtype 4:  EYE IRRITATION – watery or red eyes with swollen, irritated eyelids.

Researchers are still trying to discover what causes rosacea. While there is currently no cure we do know that by treating the dilated blood vessels associated with rosacea it can be effectively managed. Recent advances in technology make this possible.

Treatment

Laser therapy has the unique ability to selectively target and treat these dilated blood vessels without adversely affecting the surrounding tissue. The most effective laser available for rosacea is VBeam Perfecta. A course of three or four treatments, each a month apart, can usually achieve very effective results with all subtypes. Even the scarring from acne rosacea can be removed.

During VBeam Perfecta treatment, the mild discomfort associated with all laser procedures, similar to a snapping rubber band on the skin, is countered by a cooling stream of air directed at the area. This cooling also helps to prevent temporary bruising, an unwanted side effect of earlier laser technology. Light pink patches may appear that last for approximately a day. VBeam Perfecta is so safe and effective that it has been fully approved by the FDA for the treatment of infants.

The aesthetic improvements from laser treatments can be dramatic.

Rosacea Subtype 1 – Facial Redness

A course of three or four treatments scheduled a month apart can usually achieve very effective results with all subtypes. Even the scarring from acne rosacea can be removed.

 

With the availability of VBeam Perfecta there is no longer a need to suffer the psychological side effects, such as depression and low self-esteem, which affect many victims of Rosacea. This advanced laser can also greatly improve many other unsightly conditions including angiomas, port wine stains, stretch marks, stubborn warts, bruises and sun damage on the neck and chest.

Contact us with questions or to schedule your appointment.

Call us at 301-652-8081.