Under Your Skin – Glow Magazine, December 2007
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Under Your Skin – Glow Magazine, December 2007

Wrinkles and Pimples 

“Menopause is the sunset of ovarian function,” says Senikas. “Just like puberty in teenage girls, your skin may go through rocky periods.” While breakouts aren’t as common in late adulthood as they are during the teen years-simply because hormonal activity is winding down as opposed to gearing up- some women can develop cystic acne around their chins and jawlines and, in some cases, a bit of facial hair as well, says Skotnicki-Grant. As skin ages, it loses moisture, which can aggravate and sometimes stall acne healing, as moisture is integral to the skin’s ability to repair itself. On top of this, plummeting estrogen levels cause a decline in collagen production and general loss of elasticity, leading to lines, ridges and sagging skin.

Best Strategy

Try a water-based, oil-free product to moisturize skin and help prevent breakouts, says Dr. Lisa Kellett, principal dermatologist at DLK on Avenue in Toronto. For anti-aging, she recommends pharmaceutical-grade vitamin A-which can be obtained over the counter-to firm and tighten the skin. “It’s the only thing that has been shown to actually regenerate collagen,” she says. 

Early Acne Dilemma

Pimples and puberty go hand in hand. Increased levels of androgens (male hormones in both boys and girls) are to blame, as they stimulate sebaceous glands to produce oil, which can clog pores and cause acne, says Stotnicki-Grant. It’s also common for girls with irregular menstrual cycles to suffer from acne, says Senikas. And even in girls who have yet to get their periods, Skotnicki-Grant sees a fair bit of minor prepubescent acne, typically spread over the nose and cheeks. “This just means that their hormones are stating to churn,” she says. This early acne can start one or two years before a girl’s period arrives and may be a good indicator that acne will continue throughout puberty, she adds.

Best Strategy

Fight hormones with hormones: Aggressive acne is often successfully held at bay with the birth control pill, says Skotnicki-Grant.

Low estrogen pills (such as Diane and Allesse) have been shown to safely balance things out, according to The Clear Skin Diet. The pill works by reducing andgrogen levels, improving acne lesions by as much as 50 percent.

Accutane, a hyper-concentrated form of vitamin A introduced in 1982, is the only treatment that is considered a ‘cure’ for acne. Used for severely scarring pimples, Accutane has been shown to reduce acne by as much as 90 percent, mainly due to it’s drying effect on oil glands. It’s serious stuff that comes with some sobering side effects: Because it’s capable of causing fetal malformations, patients must sign a waiver in which they agree to use both the pill and a secondary method of birth control while taking Accutane.

Photodynamic (light and laser) therapy is another-albeit often costly- option for cystic, scarring acne. Lasers are thought to damage sebaceous glands to slow down oil production and also help improve the skin’s texture and reduce scars, according to the Mayo Clinic. Kellett has seen acne lesions retreat within weeks of treatment.

For mild, non-scarring acne, including the whiteheads and blackheads characteristic of excessive sebum production, Skotnicki-Grant suggests over the counter topical products with vitamin A, glycolic acid and salicylic acid, which encourage the skin to turn over, while Kellett recommends drying bensoyl peroxide, at no more than fiver percent concentration to avoid irritation. It may be tempting to nuke pimples with as much drying product as possible, but one common mistake that teens make, says Stotnicki-Grant, is using a stripping face wash while they’re using acne medication, which is why it’s common to get red and rashy. “You need to use a mild cleanser, like Cetaphil or Spectro Jel, to remove dirt and oil without stripping the skin,” she says.

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