Acne, Psoriasis, Eczema or Something Else

The following excerpt from the book, On Fire by John O’ Leary is really thought provoking to me –

“Those times where we were broken and healed, are the spaces that connect us to our fellow humans.”

How does it feel to have acne (psoriasis, eczema, etc.) on your face for everyone to see . . . no hiding?  Ugly, inferior . . . not as good as.  Do you think that you have to do or be something above and beyond in order for people to accept you? Do you work as hard as you can to be smarter, more talented, funnier?  Or do you just give up and quit trying at all, thinking what’s the use?!

I am the type that always felt I had to prove myself.  I thought I needed to be something more, someone special, so that people would like me even though I had acne.

For about twelve years I ran a not-for-profit organization, Clear Up Skin Care, during which I went into middle and high school health classes and conducted an interactive session about everything I had done wrong to my skin during my teen years and what I learned since that time. It may sound a little weird and boring but it actually was a lot of fun. We played games, did writing exercises and talked about self esteem. We discussed how input we received could have a profound effect how we felt about ourselves.

In one of the exercises I would give each student three strips of paper and ask them to write three things about themselves that they didn’t like and that affected the way they felt about themselves in a negative way. They would then fold the strips into little pieces and place them into a bowl that I passed around. I mixed up the entries and had each student pick one out of the bowl. I would then choose volunteers to read what was on the paper they had chosen.

After a number of students shared, I would invite them to carefully think about the original negative aspect they wrote down and the one they inherited. What would they do if they had the opportunity to chose between the original issue and the one that they picked out of the bowl? Almost every time, almost every student would choose what they had originally written on the piece of paper. And, when asked why, they said that they were used to what they had and would rather deal with that than something completely new.

The first time I did this exercise the teacher in the class ended up in tears because she couldn’t believe the negative comments the students had written about themselves. Some said they were stupid, or they had ugly hair, or they were fat, had a big nose, ears that stuck out, etc. I still have all of these strips of paper with the students’ comments even though I haven’t taught the classes for quite a while. Sometimes I read them and feel into how much pain these young people were willing to express and think about.

At the end of the exercise I would ask individual students to share something positive about one of the other students in the class. Many times students were completely surprised about the nice comments their fellow students said about them. It was really a wonderful experience and we all left the class feeling more uplifted and positive.

The point of all of this is that we all have things about ourselves we dislike and we think others dislike as well. Sometimes we work hard at overcoming what we see as inadequacies; sometimes we come to realize that other people do not see us in the same negative way we see ourselves.

What do you do? How do you feel? Can you relate to the excerpt from On Fire?

More Acne Treatment Tips

Because of my own experience with cystic acne I was always experimenting with various products to try out on my skin. Much of what I used not only didn’t help heal the acne but actually caused it to become worse. I now consider myself an expert on all of the mistakes I made in an effort to have clear, healthy skin. Listed below are some very basic tips that were really helpful to me.

Sleep seven to eight hours per night on a consistent basis. Not enough sleep can cause physical stress making it difficult to clear acne.

Wash clothes (especially pillow cases and towels) in detergents that are free from all perfumes and dyes and avoid fabric softeners, especially the sheets used in the dryer.

Avoid iodides in the diet such as salty snacks, fast food, processed foods, cheese, excessive dairy, iodized salt, soy sauce, MSG, seaweed, kelp, and vitamins containing iodine and kelp.

Do not use a rough washcloth, buffing pad or scrubs that contain ground nut shells. These can cause extra irritation and increase acne problems.

Ice breakouts twice a day for two to five minutes to reduce swelling and redness.

Minimize sun exposure and apply non-comedogenic (will not cause blocked pores) sun block often when in direct sunlight.

Keep up on your treatment plan. Skipping home treatment allows blackheads to form deep in the follicle causing new breakouts at a later date.

Drink at least eight glasses of water each and every day.

Whatever you do – don’t pick! Picking at your skin may cause scarring that will remain long after the acne is gone.

Reduce stress . . . do whatever it takes.

Any and all information contained on this website should not be considered as medical advice and is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified dermatology professional.

Acne – Myths and Tips

Acne problems

Acne is a subject near but not so dear to my heart. Since I began breaking out at about 13 or so it is something I have not only experienced but have done extensive research about. It is a puzzling disease because there is no one cure for everyone who has it. There is a lot we know about it but just as much that we don’t.

Acne problemsExperts estimate that 85% of all teens in the U.S. will experience acne. And recent studies by the American Dermatology Association show that adult acne is increasing in the U.S. Actually more than 17 million adults have been diagnosed with Acne Vulgaris in the past decade. The disease may present as an occasional pimple that pops up every once in a while (if you are lucky) to severely congested cystic inflammation. Unfortunately, I had the cystic type of acne – lots of painful, deep lesions beneath the skin on my face and jawline.

Acne is a skin condition in which the pores of the skin become clogged with dead skin and sebum (oil that lubricates skin). Clogged pores can become infected causing whiteheads, blackheads, pimples and/or cysts that occur primarily on the face, neck, chest, and back.

As I mentioned, we know how acne happens. What is not completely clear, even now, is what triggers acne and what works to get it under control. For example, we have all been told that chocolate and greasy food causes acne. But that is not necessarily true for everyone. My acne trigger may be stress or not getting a sufficient amount of sleep while someone else may get acne eruptions because of eating dairy or peanuts.

I became an esthetician primarily because of my own skin problems. I also started and ran a non-profit organization called Clear Up Skin Care to teach teens how to care for their skin. I am not a doctor and don’t pretend to be; however I do have extensive expertise regarding acne myths and about all of the things I did wrong in an attempt to treat myself. Following are some myths and tips about acne that are still just as relevant today:


Acne is caused by dirty skin

Acne is triggered by a number of things, but dirt isn’t usually one of them. Acne begins deep beneath the surface of the skin. Dead skin cells mix with the body’s natural oil that then forms a plug in the tiny hair follicles commonly called pores. This has nothing to do with dirt, so over-washing your face will not make acne better. In fact, too much washing or the use of irritating products may strip skin of the oil it needs to stay soft and healthy.

Spot treatment works

Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Since breakouts take 2–3 weeks to develop, you’re treating an old symptom of the problem rather than the real problem. The best way to treat acne is to stop the breakouts from starting in the first place — this means treating the entire area every day, even when you don’t have breakouts.

Certain foods cause acne

Scientists have been unable to find any connection between diet and acne. So all the foods you’ve been warned to stay away from — pizza, french fries, chocolate — are not necessarily to blame. Of course a healthy diet that includes plenty of water will help you in your fight against acne. Use common sense, but don’t be afraid to have a piece of pizza now and then.

Make-up causes acne

Many make-ups today are non-comedogenic, which means they won’t clog your pores. When shopping for cosmetics, look for products that are also oil and fragrance free. Be extra careful about products that you use to style your hair. Many of them, including hair spray, can increase acne problems. Wash your pillowcase often — while you sleep your clean face is resting on the products that you used earlier on your hair.

Sun exposure helps acne

Small amounts of sun exposure may seem to improve acne — as the skin darkens, breakouts may be less noticeable. But increased time in the sun also increases the amount of dead skin cells, so you’re more likely to get clogged pores. Also, any scarring or dark areas will actually get darker if you spend a lot of time in the sun. And of course, sun exposure increases your chances of getting some form of skin cancer. Play it safe and use sun protection products that are oil-free and have a “sun protection factor” (or SPF) of at least 30.

A couple of points that are important but you may not know or think about –

Apply ice wrapped in a clean washcloth to breakouts twice a day to reduce swelling and redness. As soon as you feel a pimple starting to erupt, start with the ice treatment and you may avoid the blemish completely.

Breakouts on the chin area are almost always hormone-triggered – related to a woman’s monthly cycle. This means they may pop up faithfully every 28 days or so – keep the area especially clean and avoid resting your chin in your hand.

Use glass cleaner on cell phones that you hold against the skin.

While stress does not cause acne, it can trigger flare-ups. When the body becomes stressed, a side effect is that the glands are encouraged to produce more oil. The best course of action is, of course to try to reduce your stress levels as much as possible.  Also try to make time to do the things that make you feel relaxed and happy.