YOU may have seen shock reports on television about how acne drugs are allegedly harming teenagers.
One of the most widely used drugs is isotretinoin, available in Australia under the brand names Roaccutane, Isohexal, Oratane and Accure, requiring a prescription from a dermatologist or a GP.
The drug works to reverse the changes in the skin caused by acne by reducing the amount of sebum in skin glands.
It is estimated that more than 10,000 teenagers and young adults are using the drug in Australia.
However, some users say one of the side effects can be depression; something the manufacturers deny.
Acne is the most common of skin diseases, affecting 85% of Australians aged 15-24 years old.
While it usually clears spontaneously for many people by their mid-20s, for some young people acne is a far more serious problem that can result in permanent physical scars and can affect their confidence.
While it's up to every parent and teenager to make their own decision about medication, in consultation with their GP, there is something else you can do to help troubled skin.
Fiona Tuck, director of skin experts at the Skinstitut and author of the Minx Myth, says a holistic approach including adjusting the diet and nutrient intake can help to create healthier skin and immune function as well as regulate hormonal balance and inflammation.
"Be patient, though, as it may take up to nine months to see results," she says.
She advises increasing wholegrains, nuts and seeds to improve selenium, vitamin E and zinc intake for antioxidant protection. Zinc also helps skin healing and is essential for a healthy immune system.
Vegetables, fruits and wholegrains have also been shown to help reduce acne breakouts, says Fiona, possibly because they cleanse the colon.
Oily fish is essential for fatty acids and vitamin D to reduce inflammation and help feed the skin.
"Obviously you will want to avoid skin-clogging hydrogenated fats and excess intake of saturated fats such as margarines, pies, cakes, pastries, deep-fried foods, fast foods, burgers, fries, full-fat cream and butter," says Fiona. "Dietary fat may be associated with excess sebum production."
Also avoid high GI and sugar foods such as sugar drinks, processed foods, raw processed sugar and honey.
"Chronic consumption of high-GI foods promotes hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance which in turn can increase levels of free insulin and androgens which can aggravate acne formation."
Also off the list are stimulants such as colas, caffeine, coffee as these may lower zinc absorption. Sorry.
Topical treatments such as hydroxy acids, retinol or prescription retinoic acid, antibacterial ingredients such as tea tree or benzoyl peroxide and professional treatments such as chemical peels, laser treatments and extractions may also help keep acne at bay.
What exactly is acne?
Acne vulgaris involves the formation of comedones, papules, pustules, nodules and/or cysts. Acne can be mild or extreme and is graded from 1 - 4 depending on the severity of the condition.
Acne develops when the follicles become blocked because of excess sebum and dead skin cells. Acne sufferers tend to produce a thicker, stickier sebum.
While acne is not an infectious or contagious disease, the naturally present microbes in the skin flora are seen to thrive in an anerobic environment.
This occurs because the follicle becomes blocked and the by-products of metabolism from the bacteria may produce inflammation.
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