Dealing with spots
Why do they always appear when you least want them? Find out the facts about what causes them, when to squeeze and when to leave.
Our hormones (testosterone, to be precise) are responsible for our spots, or acne. Spots are basically the skin's response to the presence of this hormone, which can over-stimulate a natural oil called sebum. This gets secreted onto the surface of the skin through tiny open pores. If a blockage occurs then a blackhead forms like a cap. Underneath, the trapped oil can breed bacteria. The area becomes inflamed and the zit makes an appearance.
Nearly 70% of us get acne, at some stage and in differing degrees. Most people experience spots in their teens, anywhere from the face to the neck, back or chest, but many are affected in their 20s and 30s. For such a common condition, however, there's still a great deal of misunderstanding around.
I've tried spot cream and it didn't work.
Then try another treatment. Not enough people realise that acne is a medical condition that can be treated. Try an over-the-counter product containing Benzoyl Peroxide, but if that doesn't work see your GP. They can provide specific antibiotic lotions and tablets on prescription, which work effectively by slowing the build up of harmful bacteria. Give it six months to take effect, and if you still get no change then hassle your doc for something else. For girls there is a brand of contaceptive pill that also combats acne. There are also tablets called Roaccutane (isotretinoin) that are very effective at drying up excess oil and getting rid of acne, but these can only be prescribed by a dermatologist. Eventually, you will find something that works.
Are spots caused by a lack of washing?
No. It's a cruel myth that people with spots are dirty. The fact is people with acne keep their skin more clean than most. Blackheads are not caused by dirt blockages, but by changes in the skin pigment, melanin.
What's the score with spots and sunshine?
In moderation, sunlight can play a part in treating acne by encouraging the skin to peel and drying up excess grease. However, there's a limit to how much sun the skin can take before you end up doing more harm than good. Think moderation, and use a sunscreen in milk or cream form so as not to clog pores.
Does chocolate give you acne?
Research has shown that for the majority of people, pigging out on chocolate won't result in a single extra pimple. It might have an impact on your weight, but not the condition of your skin.
What about wearing make-up?
If you're always covering up your spots it can clog pores and aggravate the condition. But don't be put off from hiding zits with make-up every now and then if it gives you the confidence to enjoy yourself. Avoid oil-based cosmetics.
TheSite's guide to good skincare:
- Wash your face twice a day with warm water.
- Dab spot-prone areas with tissue to gently remove oils.
- Get some sunlight, but never get close to burning.
- Don't overdo it with harsh soaps or astringent cleansers.
When can I squeeze?
- Red: Don't even touch it. Squeezing now will only force the contents deeper into the skin and make it even angrier.
- Yellow: Squeeze away. Just wash your hands first, and then gently use the side of your thumb and the end of one finger. Be sure to stop, however, once the pus has been pushed out. Squeezing out blood or clear fluid is only going to damage your skin. Afterwards, always dab the area with a mild antiseptic or tea tree oil.
- Green: Don't touch it. The spot is infected. Green is for 'Go to your GP'.
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