Beating Back-to-School Breakouts


Back-to-school time is filled with a variety of emotions, from excitement and anticipation to anxiety and even, sometimes, fear. As we know, appearances are a large part of the back-to-school craze. For adolescents and adults with acne, breakouts are often accompanied by frustration and embarrassment.

Understanding some of the causes and treatments of acne may provide some relief emotionally and physically. It is important to realize that acne is not just for kids. Adults in their 20s and into mid-life (and beyond) can develop acne. Individuals should not necessarily rely on just outgrowing it, but rather treating it and maintaining their skin.

Skin deep Acne refers to blackheads, whiteheads, pustules (commonly known as zits) and, sometimes, deep boils, like lesions. It can occur on other areas of the body as well. It forms for a variety of reasons, including hormonal influences that affect oil gland size and function. Increased oil can cause hair follicles to plug, causing an increase in bacterial growth. Bacteria produce substances that cause the follicles to break open and become inflamed and this
causes “pimples.”

Scrub-a-dub-dub Acne is not caused by dirt — it is not a “being dirty” problem. However, washing the face with a mild cleanser twice daily is helpful to remove surface dirt, oil and make-up. Cleansers such as Cetaphil and Dove are sufficient and gentle. Harsh detergents can sometimes irritate skin and make acne worse. Stripping the face of oil by using alcohol-based toners is sometimes too irritating. By irritating the skin, oil production and inflammation may increase and worsen the acne. Over the counter products containing benzoyl peroxide, retinol, salicylic acid and glycolic acid can be tried to help reduce breakouts. Acne treatment is a lot of trial and error, but a gentle cleanser twice daily is a good start. Avoid manipulating skin lesions (i.e. picking, poking them), as this can cause further inflammation and scarring.

Dieting doubts Diet alone is not necessarily a factor in acne development. However, many people indicate acne flares with excess intake of various foods ranging from sugary (high glycemic index) to even dairy products. This is strictly on an individual basis. There are few scientifically proven studies that link diet as a causative relationship to acne development and/or treatment. A balanced diet and adequate water intake will certainly not hurt anything. And, in fact, antioxidant-rich diets may help deter premature aging and acne issues.

If you or someone you know struggles with acne, see a skin specialist. Your provider may be able to further give you suggestions and treatment options that can alleviate the emotional and physical stress.


Dr. Robyn Messing

Dr. Robyn Messing, DO PLLC, is a Lansing physician with specialized training in medical dermatology, dermatological surgery and procedures. Her office is located next to Ingham Regional Medical Center at the Pennsylvania Campus in the Lansing Medical Office Center. She can be contacted at (517) 372-2253.

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