Acne's About-Face - The Globe and Mail - January 29, 2005
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The newest generation of remedies isn’t aimed at teens, but at their mothers.

By Amanda Miller

Those who grew up in the 1970s will recall skin care ads featuring bright-faced teenaged girls who broke out, commiserated, cleansed and presented their dates with their pimple-free visages. The young ladies have since gone on to become women with deeper problems, but the thirty-something shopper may have recently noticed that she’s slipped back into their range. 

In drugstores and department stores, a new generation of acne remedies is baring its face. Only this batch of products promises to reduce wrinkles along with the blemishes that most women never thought would mar their complexions by “this age.” 

According to the American Dermatology Association, the median age for people seeking acne treatment is 26 – just as many people above that age as below it are likely to have pimples, and women twice as often as men. Dr. Paul Cohen, a Toronto dermatologist and a consultant for Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre, thinks the increasing number of adults who are seeking treatment is partly the result of an overall aging population; however, the boom in new products is also due to a wider demand for non-surgical ways to “stay looking good.” 

An array of pore cleansers, exfoliants, suspended micro-beads and other modern-sounding formulas is attempting to bridge this gap. Bioré’s Pore Perfect Shine Control Foaming Cleanse, the quaintly named A-Cute Derm B Prox 2.5 Cleansing Lotion, and Pro-Retinol 100 per cent Vegetal Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Blemish Multi-Care Day Treatment from Yves Rocher range in price from $20 to $50, while the four-step Clear Acne ATP starter kit (available at runs about $130. 

Spas such as Toronto’s Elmwood, Montreal’s Tonic and Vancouver’s Éliane are offering more treatments tailored to acne-prone skin, while catalogue-sales agencies like Avon are also in on the trend, pitching multiple-purchase discounts. 

Unlike comfort-in-numbers teen campaigns, adult-targeted advertisements for acne remedies typically present a woman scrutinizing her face in solitude not for only pimples but also for wrinkles, dryness and blotches. 

Whereas their predecessors employed alcohol to dry up acne, thereby encouraging the development of wrinkles, and oil-based ingredients to reduce the signs of aging, which in turn clogged pores and caused acne-flare-ups, these new products offer combination treatments that rely upon water-based formulations. 

A growing number of them, including Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Gel Cleanser, incorporate milder, natural antibacterial extracts such as cinnamon bark and ginger root. Dermatologica’s Medicated Clearing Gel contains tea tree oil. More potent ingredients such as Retin A derivatives, vitamin A and glycolic acid are generally found in higher-end products, many of which come in tiny tubes with nozzles tapered to dispense pea-sized servings. 

But do the new acne treatments work? Cohen says, “It is important to understand that adult acne can be a chronic condition requiring lifelong management.” He emphasizes that following the directions provided with the products, as well as being patient, is essential. The treatments usually take two months to work. Also, the causes of acne may be hormonal, genetic, or even rooted in oily face creams and heavy cosmetics – which may be news to their users, the same target market for anti-aging and other skin-care products. 

Cohen cautions that exceeding the recommended application in the hopes of achieving more rapid results or choosing a product too powerful for one’s skin type is more likely to irritate skin and make it unable to tolerate further treatment. 

Leanne McCliskie, education manager of Toronto’s newly opened International Dermal Institute, a school for aestheticians, agrees. She says that other common mistakes include choosing products intended for the wrong skin type, and excessive exfoliation, which can damage skin and leave the face more vulnerable to the sun. 

In general, over-the-counter cleansers and remedies are best suited to uncomplicated acne, a mild cosmetic concern rather than a serious, persistent problem. The results may not always be stunning; however, for women who are persistently plagued by that one pimple that surfaces just as the last one clears up, a bottle of frothy cleanser may instill a sense of seizing control. 

McCliskie says the new treatments should be seen as more long-term than quick-fix. “Why would you stop? With proper skincare, it’s a continual process, as the skin is the body’s largest living organ and changes daily due to diet, stress levels, and other such influences.”

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