At Afterglow Physician Directed Medical Aesthetics, one of the most common skin conditions we treat is acne. Characterized by redness, swelling, lesions, whiteheads and/or blackheads, acne can be an embarrassing skin disorder that may make you feel less confident. Although most prevalent among teens and adolescents, acne can also affect adult men and women of all ages. According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, it is the most common skin care problem that doctors treat. Recently, we were able to sit down with our physician, Shehla Ebrahim, MD, to discuss some of the most frequently asked questions, as well as the latest and most effective procedures available to treat this skin condition.
Q: What types of people are most at risk for acne?
Dr. Ebrahim: Acne is a disorder of teenagers, typically starting at the time of puberty, reaching a peak between ages 16-20, and then burning off by age 25.
Q: What factors are responsible for causing acne?
Dr. Ebrahim: There seems to be genetic predisposition to acne. In genetically predisposed individuals, hormonal changes during puberty release androgens which act on the acne producing skin glands, causing them to become hyperactive. These glands then clog the pores. There is bacterial proliferation, and subsequently the lesions that you see on the surface are called acne.
Q: How do you determine a specific treatment for a patient’s acne?
Dr. Ebrahim: Treatment is individualized, depending upon the stage and grade (i.e. the severity) of acne, and the age of onset. Acne appearing for the first time in an adult is treated differently than mild comedonal acne in a teenager.
Q: What services does your practice provide to treat acne?
Dr. Ebrahim: Treatment options include combination topicals, Blue Light Therapy alone or Blu-U in combination with Levulan. Levulan (ALA) is a topical agent used to kill the bacteria associated with acne, as well as to reduce the activity of the sebaceous glands. This procedure is called Photodynamic Therapy (PDT).
Q: Is acne for the back or chest treated differently? If so, how?
Dr. Ebrahim: Back and chest acne may require oral antibiotics for 8-12 weeks.
Q: What skin care advice would you share to help people who have acne-prone skin?
Dr. Ebrahim: I recommend keeping the skin clean with gentle cleansers composed of lactic or glycolic acid, and using benzoyl peroxide soaps for the body. Sunlight for 20 minutes without a sunblock improves acne and should be encouraged, but only for 20 minutes.
Q: What are the common myths and/or misbeliefs about acne?
Dr. Ebrahim: Acne is not your fault; it is genetically mediated. The role of food was unclear until recently. Studies now show that acne improves with a diet low in refined carbohydrates, egg whites, rice, and sugar. Whole milk or 2% milk is better than skim milk. Fish oils and probiotics also seem to have a beneficial effect.
Q: What advice do you have to help patients avoid the worsening of their acne symptoms?
Dr. Ebrahim: It is important not to pick these lesions as there is a real danger of scarring. Non-compliance is a major issue that can lead to treatment failure. This is because improvement is slow, taking at least 6-8 weeks to take effect. When patients don’t see immediate results, they get discouraged and stop treatment. So patience is a virtue. Maintenance is important as acne is controllable, not curable.
If you would like to learn about our acne treatments, or if you would like to schedule a consultation here at our practice, please contact us today.