Acne—the Teen-Ager’s Woe
ARE you a teen-age youth who is troubled with acne? Do not take it too seriously. It no doubt looks far worse to you than it does to others. You may be particularly sensitive about it because you have become very conscious of your appearance, quite likely due to your budding interest in the opposite sex.
In fact, if you are a boy, your having acne might even be said to be something for which to be thankful. How so? you ask. In that, for one thing, it is evidence that you are not a eunuch. Eunuchs are not plagued with acne, for acne is triggered by the male or androgenic hormones. Proof of this is seen in that eunuchs get acne when they are given male hormones. (Female hormones have the opposite effect. That is why some doctors give these female hormones to girls bothered with acne.) And for another thing, since acne in both males and females is a result of increased activity of what are called “male hormones,” it might be said to be an indication that you are progressing physically, and it is hoped also mentally and emotionally, toward adulthood.
But just how does this hormone work to cause acne?
Your skin consists of several main layers. The upper layer, known as the epidermis, may be subdivided into a number of layers, the topmost of which might be likened to shingles on a roof. Beneath the epidermis is the dermis, in which are found the blood vessels, nerves, the sweat and oil glands and the hair roots. Sweat glands have their own openings or pores leading from the dermis to the top of the skin. The hairs rest in tiny openings alongside which are from two to five oil glands that lubricate the skin as well as keep it soft and smooth and serve to protect it.
At puberty the “male hormone,” in both boys and girls, seems to increase the oil production of these glands. Also it appears that the cells of the upper layer of skin grow more rapidly than they are shed. As a result some 80 percent of both girls and boys have a bout with acne, boys more severely than girls, but the girls earlier than the boys. A severe case of acne is invariably associated with a very oily skin, which condition often continues even after the acne disappears. Another explanation could be that the approach of puberty puts a strain on the kidneys, with the result that the skin is overburdened with the problem of removing impurities from the blood. It is a known fact that sweating has a beneficial effect on kidney patients.
Since increased hormonal activity accompanies puberty, does that mean that nothing can be done about acne? Not necessarily, even though it is quite likely that in severe cases susceptibility to acne is inherited. This is seen from the fact that youths with severe cases of acne often have parents who were likewise plagued in their youth.
Among the things that might aggravate acne are failure to keep the skin clean, or the use of irritating soaps or the habit of squeezing blackheads or pimples.
In view of the fact that oiliness of the skin is associated with acne, exposure to oils could make it worse. Thus if one’s occupation required one to be around or in touch with oil or oil products, this could worsen one’s acne. An interesting report appeared in Archives of Dermatology, May 1970, on the subject of “pomade acne.” This was found to afflict Africans who make use of pomades to keep their hair straight. Interestingly, it showed that ordinary Vaseline or mineral oil products were far less likely to cause an acne condition than were the fancy, high-priced and highly advertised products.
It is also generally recognized that emotional problems can aggravate or cause acne. Thus Dr. Morris Fishbein, a leading medical author and editor, noted that “even antagonism between the acne sufferer and parents or close associates” can cause a persistent case of acne. And so it is not surprising that leading dermatologists, such as Dr. Gordon Sauer, hold that nervous tension, as when youths worry unduly over examinations or school sports, as well as a lack of sufficient rest and sleep can be responsible for acne.
Many years ago it was believed that sex had something to do with acne, as it accompanied puberty, when youth becomes sex conscious. However, while modern medical authorities, by a large majority, strongly stress that there is just no connection between masturbation and acne, there still could be a relationship, indirectly. In what way? In that if the practice creates an emotional problem, causing one to worry about it, this could have a bearing on one’s having acne. But youths can be afflicted with acne without engaging in this practice, and, on the other hand, they could well be indulging in it and yet not have acne.
And finally there is the matter of diet. While for ever so many years skin specialists were prone to hold that diet played a decisive role in acne, the medical profession by and large has discarded the view that diet has any bearing on it.
What Can Be Done About It?
There are two avenues of approach open to one afflicted with acne, and both can be utilized. There is the topical remedy. That is, the remedy is applied locally, to the skin. There is general agreement that, since acne is worse in the winter than in the summer, sunshine has a beneficial effect on acne. However, not so general is the agreement as to the use of sunlamps in treating acne. If they are used, care must be exercised so that one does not burn the skin. It is best to start with very short periods of exposure to the sunlamp and then gradually increase the amount.
Dermatologists generally recommend extra precautions in keeping the skin clean. Recommended by latest writers on the subject is that the skin be cleansed often and thoroughly with a soap that has a great deal of drying effect. This could be an old-fashioned laundry soap or some modern medicated soap. Since it is usually not convenient to wash the face often every day, these skin specialists recommend astringent lotions. Swimming is also said to be of help. In fact, according to such modern authorities as Dr. Milton Ross, the acne problem is basically a matter of “a few ounces of soap, medication and conscientious hard work.” This may often, though not always, be the case.
The Systemic Approach
The systemic approach considers acne as more or less a symptom and tries to get at the contributing causes. This approach recognizes that stress is likely to play a prominent role in acne. So the situation might be improved if you learn not to worry unduly about school examinations, sports events or personal problems. Especially try to cooperate with your parents, appreciate their good points and do not exaggerate in your mind their shortcomings. This may go far in relieving tension at home. Remember, the Bible says that love builds up and covers over others’ weaknesses. Love in your family circle may well make the difference between your having a light case or a severe case of acne.—1 Cor. 8:1; 1 Pet. 4:8.
Recommended also is exercise, for that which improves your general health will also work against acne. It therefore follows that you should see to it that you get sufficient rest and sleep. Learn to exercise self-control by turning off the TV set when it is time for sleep.
Vitamins are recommended by some. While in certain cases they have not proved effective, in other cases they have. And while vitamin A is the vitamin usually prescribed for acne sufferers, the B, C and D vitamins are also said to be helpful.
What about diet? Since the modern trend is to ignore diet almost entirely in dealing with the trouble, what should a teen-ager who has a serious acne problem do?
Do not be like the young woman who wrote to a leading medical authority, complaining about persistent acne in spite of doctors and medication and who said she kept eating sweets and pastry because the doctors said that diet had no bearing on acne. Rather, be wise and experiment. Find out for yourself. A well-balanced diet is essential for everyone’s health. Professor of Dermatology Dr. Sauer recommends: DO NOT EAT chocolate, peanut butter, ice cream and such things. Avoid excesses of sweets and fats, especially French fried potatoes and spicy foods. Go easy on oysters and like seafoods. Try to do without nerve and headache medicines. If such self-denial brings relief, is it not worth while? On the other hand, be sure to eat enough fruits and vegetables.
Why not follow these suggestions for two or three weeks and, if no improvement is noted, it may be that your remedy lies in a different direction. It may be that you need extra vitamins, exercise, more rest and sleep to get rid of tensions. Or you may want to go to a dermatologist for medical treatment.
But, after all is said and done, it is well to remember a few basic principles, you teen-agers with the acne problem. Concentrate on developing a good, sunny disposition and the fine qualities that make people enjoy your company. Make it a point to be always neat and clean. Do not get impatient with the problem, for most likely you will find it to be but a temporary affliction. Remember that it can even be a blessing in disguise if it makes you less vain and more sympathetic with the suffering that other persons have to endure. Since ever so many persons had the same problem in their youth, most of them will understand. Appreciate and thank God for the blessings you do have, not least of which is youth and strength.—Prov. 20:29.