Rebecca Fitzgerald (Dermatologist) gives expert video advice on: Does my diet affect my acne?; What can I do to prevent acne scars?; How can I prevent acne? and more...
What is "acne"?
Acne is a plugged up pore. That upper layer of the skin is actually reflected down into the lower layer of the skin. It has to exfoliate every day just like the outer layer of skin does, only it has to do it from a long slender tube; the hair follicle. Occasionally all of that gets plugged up on it's way out. Acne can be in the form of blackheads, whiteheads or even large inflammatory lesions. Even those large cysts that you sometimes feel on your chin that you swear aren't a pimple all start as a plugged hair follicle.
What causes acne?
What causes acne is plugged up hair follicles. Acne is not caused by your diet. It's not caused from not washing your face. Those things can certainly excacerbate acne, but it is not the cause of acne. Acne is actually genetic and it is governed by hormones. So, there are certain times in life where we see sort of an adolescent blip of acne. That adolescent blip of acne is something seen mostly in males. In women, we get acne from a couple of years before we start our period until a couple of years after we stop. So acne is a life long disease in women at every age, and I see this every day.
Does my diet affect my acne?
Acne is caused by a plugged hair follicle, not by foods; even chocolate or French fries. Avoiding these foods will not clear your acne.
Is it okay for me to "pop" my pimples?
Popping a pimple is a great idea. If you can unplug a plugged up hair follicle, you get rid of the pimple. The problem with trying to pop a pimple at home is that the plug may shoot deeper inside than outside so its probably a better idea to see a dermatologist and let them do it for you.
What can I do to prevent acne scars?
It's not uncommon for an inflammatory acne lesion to leave a brown spot on your face. There's a big difference between a brown spot and a scar. A scar is a change in texture in the skin. A brown spot is just your body healing after something was inflamed. So, the vast majority of spots you see from acne are just what we call "post inflammatory hyperpigmentation"; they will resolve on their own with time, and aren't actually scars at all. Scars are a change in texture in the skin from deep inflammation. If you try and pop those pimples yourself and some of that stuff does shoot deeper into the skin, that can lead to acne scarring rather than get rid of it. The best thing is to try to control the acne itself, and the inflammation, with antibiotics and different treatments that you can receive under the care of a dermatologist to help not plug up those hair follicles in the first place.
What types of cosmetics can I use without worsening my acne?
Some cosmetics tend to plug up hair follicles or make plugged hair follicles worse. These are called comedogenic products because they cause a comedone, the medical word for a pimple. So, you want to look for products that are labelled as non-comedogenic; in other words, products that don't lead to the formation of comedones or acne.