By Viviane Kertesz
Maybe you had perfect teenage skin, or perhaps you’ve been battling pimples all your life, but lately you’ve noticed your very adult skin flaring up way too often. With just months to go before W-day, this certainly does not fit into your plan. You want everything to be perfect, and that includes facing the day with dewy, rosy and absolutely flawless skin.
Despite your best efforts, right now, it looks like this won’t be the case. Though it hardly seems fair – you’ve been the model of skincare diligence – studies show that nearly 50 percent of women break out as adults. The truth is, you’re dealing with a problem that’s actually bigger than you know. “Acne is caused by a combination of many factors including genetics, stress and hormones,” says Dr. Robin Billick, chief of dermatology at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital. Add to that overproduction of oil, plugged hair follicles, bacteria and even exposure to weather extremes. While getting married is one of the happiest moments of a girl’s life, it’s considered one of the top four biggest life changes – so it’s no wonder your wedding stress is written all over your face.
Acne 101: Acne can be mild to extreme and can appear in many forms from blackheads and whiteheads to papules, pustules, nodules and cysts (unfortunately, many people have a tragic combination of all these skin blemishes). If your spots are mild and you’ve found a non-prescription potion that is an effective zapper for you, medical attention is not necessary. But, if your acne is more severe, it’s important to consult with a dermatologist who will determine the best options for your skin.
“When a new patient books an appointment with me, I ask them to bring in everything they’ve ever used to treat their acne,” says Dr. Kellett, a dermatologist at Toronto’s SpaMedica. “It’s like a kindergarten show-and-tell.” Dr. Kellett reports most times her patients misdiagnose their skin and end up using the wrong products – a medical pro can recommend the right fixes for you.
Another reason to turn to a professional? “Leaving severe acne untreated can lead to cysts,” explains Dr. Frank Beninger, director of cosmetic surgery at Toronto’s Beresford Clinic. “Cystic acne can cause permanent scarring, at which point the only solutions is cosmetic surgery.”
Spa Solutions: Some specialty spa treatments may help your condition if you choose wisely. “Facials are good if you’re going to someone who’s reputable and is using products suitable for oily skins,” says Dr. Kellett. Peels are another spa option (about $80 to $150 per treatment). They range from mild lactic peels (milk-based for sensitive skin), to powerful glycolic acid and salicylic acid peels.
“Almost anyone will benefit from a glycolic peel,” says Toronto dermatologist Dr. Martie Gidon. “It gets rid of dead surface cells, helps unclog pores and delivers glowing skin.” If you suffer from moderate to severe acne and need a quick pre-wedding fix, Dr. Gidon recommends a peel of 30% to 70% glycolic acid no less than seven to 10 days before your event, which can be coupled with a daily regime of topical antibiotics to dramatically improve your skin’s appearance and texture.
Another option that’s a hit with former acne sufferers in recent years: microdermabraison. This is recommended exclusively for those suffering from acne scarring. The treatment exfoliates the top layer of skin cells by projecting a powder of fine crystals over its surface, resulting in smoother, younger- looking skin.
Holistic Help: While any medical expert embrace a combination of traditional and modern treatments in fighting acne’s blight, other authorities – like Dr. Nicholas Perricone’s ambitious The Acne Prescription – swear by a more holistic approach to pimple prevention. “Because acne is multi-factorial, you need a multi-faceted approach to treating acne,” says Dr. Elaine Chin, a woman’s health and antiaging specialist at Toronto’s Beresford Clinic. “Make sure that you are healing your skin from the inside out – pay attention to diet, supplements, appropriate skin cleansers, moisturizers and makeup.”
Getting Serious: A few new therapies are emerging – here we outline two of the biggest breakthroughs.
1. Light Source Plus Radio-Frequency Energy: This combination is a revolutionary therapy that has been around for less than a year. “The intense pulsed light is thought to act on the bacteria that causes acne, whereas the radio-frequency energy is thought to decrease oil production,” reports Dr. Kellett, who’s spearheading the first Canadian clinical trial. “Results like a decrease in the development of new acne papules are visible about three weeks into treatment.” Dr. Kellett recommends a series of two treatments per week for six weeks, ending about a month before the wedding, mainly for patients with mild to moderate acne.
2. Levulan Kerastick Plus Photo-Therapy: A topical medication activated by a “blue light” source of 415 to 420 nanometers may be the most promising of the cutting-edge acne therapies. The drug, Levulan Kerastick, has undergone rigorous clinical trials and achieved FDA and Canadian approval, but only as a topical skin cancer-treatment option. It’s still not widely accessible despite its made-in-Canada label. For acne, this drug-device combo is thought to work by targeting the oil-producing gland deep in the skin while attacking the surface bacteria. With benefits that seem to outweigh its side effects, this is one technology to keep your eye on. Dr. Martin Braun, medical director of the Vancouver Laser and Skin Care Centre, currently offers the procedure. “It’s the medical equivalent of shock and awe,” Dr. Braun says. He considers its acne-treating benefits second only to Accutane – only without all of Accutane’s unwanted side effects.
In the end, the best thing to remember is your complexion is a barometer of what’s happening inside your body. So, if the stress of your seating assignment is registering on your forehead in an unfortunate way, then delegate remaining W-day duties and be more diligent with your skincare. If more serious action is in order, relax. Consult a professional and make a plan. After all, if modern technology can remove wrinkles, it can surely help leave you blemish-free for the big day.