Does Acne Say Something About Your Health?
by Deborah Spalla
Wives tales and urban myths regarding the causes and treatments for acne abound. One of the most recent messages that have taken the world by storm is that facial mapping – evaluating where acne is erupting on the face or body - indicates very specific, latent health or emotional issues.
This theory uses the idea that your acne is actually a messenger of sorts; a visible sign pointing out health issues that should be addressed in your body. While the theory of acne face mapping is rooted in Chinese, Ayurveda, and other eastern medicine practices, they have not been proven by western medicine.
Until such time that they are, those of us who work in the field of skincare know that acne is a message of sorts. Here at Skin Deep, our estheticians take what is proven and known about acne and look deeper into a client’s lifestyle and holistic well-being in order to create sustainable treatment options.
What is acne trying to tell you?
Here is what we absolutely know about acne…
You may be in your adolescent/teen years or even in menopause.
While acne is associated with teens and puberty, it can strike at any time in your life. Clinical studies indicate that between 40 and 55 percent of the adult population age 20-40 is diagnosed with low grade, persistent acne, and oily skin. According to the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, 54 percent of women older than age 25 have some facial acne. What we do know for sure about acne is that hormones and genetics are both major factors.
If you look across the spectrum of human life, there are several different stages when hormones get out of whack before they simmer back into balance. These include infancy (newborn acne is quite common), adolescence/puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. As these various changes of physical life take place, imbalanced hormones can trigger overactive sebaceous glands (small glands located in the skin and in hair follicles that produce natural oils). This excess oil winds up clogging pores, trapping bacteria and causing breakouts.
Your testosterone levels may be a bit high.
While there is a mix of hormones involved in skin health, androgens are some of the most powerful. Androgens are associated with male sex hormones (the most well-known androgen is testosterone). Both women and men have androgens, although men’s androgen levels are higher. Puberty, the use of anabolic steroids, certain medications, menopause, and certain medical conditions (such as women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS) all can result in higher levels of androgens and cause acne.
You might want to change your birth control pill.
Because acne can erupt as the result of hormone fluctuations, certain hormonal forms of birth control are known to cause acne. The interesting thing is that birth control pills cause acne in some women and suppress it in others, so you don’t know which side of the coin you’ll find yourself on until you try a particular prescription. Injectable birth control and some IUDs (intrauterine devices) are also linked to acne. If you have had acne in the past, or have a genetic predisposition towards getting acne, let your gynecologist know so (s)he can select forms of hormonal birth control less likely to cause it.
Your skin is sensitive to bacteria build-up (Propionibacterium acnes).
Everyone’s body is rich with Propionibacterium acnes, a type of bacteria that live in healthy hair follicles. It is primarily this bacterium that gets trapped in the oils produced by sebaceous glands, becoming a black head, white head, or acne lumps and nodules.
Some people seem to be more sensitive than others to Propionibacterium acnes. If you are one of the sensitive types, you may find yourself breaking out more often than others.
It might be time to change products or ingredients.
Sometimes, the location of acne gives us clues as to what could be the problem. No, this isn’t quite the same thing as the aforementioned facial mapping. Rather it requires looking at which products or materials come in contact with which areas of the face, neck, chest or back.
For example, if a client comes in experiencing acne predominantly around the hairline or brow line, we’re going to inquire whether they wear hats, sweat bands, hoodies or helmets. We’ll ask about hair products and facial products, and so on. A breakout could signify the body is reacting to a particular ingredient – or the excess oil in a product – rather than experiencing an internally driven eruption. Teens with acne on their chin may find it fades or clears up when they clean/change pads in their helmet’s chin pads more often. Lifeguards may find acne clears up significantly when they use a sunblock specifically designed for sensitive skin.
There are so many myths or unproven information about acne floating around on the web and in everyday conversation. If you have acne, we highly recommend seeking out the assistance of a skin care professional that will evaluate you, your lifestyle and your habits to create an educated and comprehensive treatment plan. It’s time to clear your acne up from the inside out.
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