We may look back on our teenage years with nostalgia for our first romances and hilarious hairstyles, but certainly not for acne. Dealing with this skin problem as an adult can feel like an unwelcome flashback, affecting our self-confidence along with our appearance. Fortunately for us (and the teenagers in our lives), there are many effective acne treatments that can improve our complexions. We spoke with Dr. Justin Haught of DERMATOLOGY, LASER & VEIN SPECIALISTS OF THE CAROLINAS about the latest acne findings and medications, and how lifestyle changes can help minimize outbreaks.
When women struggle with acne, the problem typically manifests as breakouts on the lower face and sometimes on the forehead (acne affects adult men less often). Along with topical therapy, Dermatology, Laser and Vein Specialists of the Carolinas doctors often prescribe the blood pressure medicine Spironolactone to treat acne in women – the drug regulates hormones affecting the skin. To improve cases of body acne (often appearing on the chest and back), doctors may prescribe a glycolic acid based lotion along with topical antibiotics. Though birth control pills can be an effective treatment for acne in teenage girls, Dr. Haught shared they usually are not as effective in women over 30 (and the pill increases the risk of blood clots if youâ€™re over 35). Spironolactone takes about 4-6 weeks to show results and has minimal side effects. You cannot become pregnant while on this medication.
To treat patients resistant to Spironolactone or with severe cases of acne resulting in scars, Dr. Haught says Accutane is still the go-to medication. Women who become pregnant while taking the drug face a risk of birth defects, so itâ€™s important to take precautions accordingly. Accutane has also been associated with side effects such as depression, but the latest findings point to acne as the cause rather than the drug itself. Dr. Haught reports heâ€™s never had a patient regret taking Accutane, as the medicine can have dramatic results (after about 2 months) for those suffering most from the condition.
For mild cases of acne, Dr. Haught says there are over-the-counter treatments that can be effective (especially for teenagers). He recommends looking for products with salicylic acid (like Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash) or benzoyl peroxide (such as Panoxyl). If you donâ€™t see results in 2-4 weeks, itâ€™s time to make an appointment with a dermatologist. Dr. Haught finds many patients invest a small fortune in over-the-counter acne products before consulting a doctor, who can prescribe medications often covered by your health insurance.
Doctors donâ€™t fully understand the mechanisms causing acne, but know hormones drive the condition in adults and teenagers. Oil production, inflammation, bacteria and plugging of follicles all play a role according to Dr. Haught, so we can help ward off acne by staying clean and moisturized. While keeping our skin clean prevents the buildup of acne-causing bacteria, washing too much can trigger breakouts by drying out skin. So Dermatology, Laser and Vein Specialists of the Carolinas doctors encourage us to include a moisturizer in our skin care regimen.
When your skin breaks out, make sure to check your makeup labels before trying to cover up blemishes. While regular make up has not been shown to clog pores (a known acne trigger), Dr. Haught recommends using mineral makeup to minimize the risk of inflaming skin and worsening acne. Without the heavy powder found in most makeup, brands like Bare Minerals provide beauty benefits without the irritation. Sunscreen is also important for acne patients, as sun exposure can worsen the appearance of scars. For acne patients with scars, time can often heal the marks or laser treatments can also be effective.
Weâ€™ve all heard the myths about greasy foods causing acne, and there is evidence to suggest diet can affect our skin. A study released in 2013 linked a high glycemic (i.e. starchy and sugary foods) diet and frequent dairy consumption to acne. Diet likely contributes to acne rather than causing the problem, so take note if certain foods seem to trigger your breakouts. Dr. Haught pointed out that choosing a balanced diet is always a good idea – helping us stay healthy inside and out.
We may self-diagnose our skin problem as acne, but Dr. Haught shared those spots could be the result of another condition such as rosacea. If the bumps persist, consult a dermatologist to find out whatâ€™s really going on and if you need a prescription. Itâ€™s never fun to glimpse acne in the mirror, but the Dermatology, Laser and Vein Specialists of the Carolinas team can help us get back to noticing our smile with the right course of treatment.
Justin Michael Haught, MD
Dr. Haught graduated from the West Virginia University School of Medicine before completing his internship at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He then finished his residency in dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is board-certified by the American Board of Dermatology and is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. He has authored articles in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the Archives of Dermatology, Cutis, and the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. Dr. Haught specializes in diseases of the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes. He has a special interest in autoimmune diseases of the skin and complex medical dermatologic conditions. He also performs general skin surgery, such as the removal of skin cancers. Dr. Haught spends his free time with his family and enjoying numerous hobbies.