Category Archives: Understanding Acne

pms and acne

PMS and Acne – Can Anything be Done?

PMS symptoms vary from female to female and can vary from month to month but one of the common complaints many women have is that they often have acne breakouts just before their time of the month.  Is this a coincidence or does PMS cause acne?

PMS Can Cause or Worsen Acne Breakouts

The Acne guide says that up to 78% of adult women report that PMS causes acne for them.

It’s bad enough that PMS makes woman cranky, bloated, crampy, and generally feeling ugly inside and out. But to have a few giant zits turn up adds insult to injury, doesn’t it?  The cause of PMS acne isn’t just because you couldn’t resist the urge and scarfed down a family size chocolate bar. You can blame the hormonal surge, too. That surge can cause excessive oil secretions and this can mean pimples.  Not only can you get new pimples but you’ll often find that they’re the more painful kind and that if you already have a problem with acne, it’ll worsen the few days before your monthly period start.

Can Anything Be Done About PMS Acne?

  • Many women find that keeping an eye on the calendar and taking a bit of extra care in their daily face washing routine can diminish the severity of their breakout.
  • Watching your diet around PMS time can be helpful, too, so do your best to avoid succumbing to the junk food cravings. Do your best to drink more water and stay away from caffeine and alcoholic beverages during this time.
  • Get your 8 hours. Less sleep can equal worse PMS symptoms and worse acne symptoms.
  • Epsom salts can help acne. Using Epsom salts (as described in our Epsom salts and acne blog post) can also help draw big pimples that sit under the skin out faster so that they can heal faster.
  • Consider herbal supplements (with caution and medical advice, of course) that are known to help with PMS. Evening Primrose Oil is one to consider investigating as there are many positive testimonials where women with severe PMS and related symptoms found a dramatic improvement within a few weeks after starting to take Evening Primrose Oil.
  • Some suggest ensuring you take a multivitamin can help, too.
  • Keep a diary about your PMS symptoms and you may notice an emerging pattern. Perhaps you have worse symptoms when certain lifestyle issues are at play, such as stress, diet, lack of sleep, etc. A diary about your symptoms can help you pinpoint specific things that seem to exacerbate the problem.
  • Getting a prescription for birth control pills is a solution that some women seek as well as birth control pills have been known to reduce their acne and PMS symptoms (and some women take birth control pills to avoid their period altogether)

Having a “Good’ Period?

There’s a certain feminine hygiene product company that suggests that you can have a happy period. That’s probably never going to be true (at least not after the first few months in adolescence when you become a ‘woman’ and there’s a honeymoon period with your period that quickly ends!)  Listening to cues in your body can help you take action to minimize the affect PMS has on your skin and your mood (or you can just warn everyone to leave you alone for a few days!).

Please feel free to chime in below in our comments section if you’ve got anything to add here about fighting PMS and hormonal acne

 Photo credit Mike Licht, Flickr.


Stress Is Bad For Your Skin

Are you wondering if stress is causing your acne or making it worse? It might be a contributing factor for breakouts and increased severity of acne.  Topical creams can help clear things up faster than leaving pimples to clear up on their own but stress acne is the sort of acne has deeper roots than the surface of your skin.

Stress does a number of negative things to your body and your immune system and the body responds in a number of ways. One of those ways is that your body responds is with extra release of hormones, extra oil secretion in skin, and inflammation. All of these things can cause acne or exacerbate symptoms for people who already struggle with problem skin.

We all get stressed out from time to time. It’s a fact of life. But chronic stress can wreak havoc on your body.

Here are some things to do to minimize the impact stress will have on your complexion and the rest of your life, too:

Get enough sleep – How are you sleeping? Sleep is rejuvenating and restorative and it’s also essential to all our functions — mind and body. Not getting enough sleep, particularly when you feel like you’re under stress, will exacerbate the problem of acne breakouts and will leave you less able to cope with and eliminate the things that are causing stress for you. Don’t think you can get away with catching up on sleep later, when things settle down. Your body needs a consistent amount of sleep daily to enable you to function at your best.

Eat well – Do you eat poorly when you’re feeling under pressure? There are foods that could also make acne worse.  Stress eating won’t help your problems and could worsen skin breakouts (along with increasing the self-loathing feeling that typically follows stress eating) and bad food choices can make you feel worse. A healthy body can better combat a stressful lifestyle and eating well will increase your body’s immune system.

Reduce caffeine – Don’t burn the candle at both ends and drink extra coffee or caffeine-laden carbonated beverages to help you keep going. Caffeine doesn’t typically help when feeling stressed. Don’t cut yourself off completely if it’s something you’re accustomed to having but curb your caffeine intake. Consider increasing your water intake instead as it will help you feel better. Increased water consumption is often linked to a clearer complexion.

Exercise daily – Exercise can help acne. It can also help you increase your focus and energy so that you can reduce your stress.

Boost immunity – Strive to boost your immune system. Many people increase their vitamins, eat foods that are known immune system boosters (yogurt, garlic, tea, sweet potatoes, fish) and find that this helps them better manage stress and keep their skin in optimum condition.

Make an action plan to battle your stress– If stress is plaguing your life, what are you going to do about it? Look for the source of your stress and make an action plan to improve things. If needed, talk to your doctor for advice.

Take care of your skin – Keep a solid skincare regimen to keep acne at bay at all times, especially when feeling like you’re under stress!

photo: Alan Cleaver, Flickr


Issues with Acne Scarring?

Scarring that has come as a result of acne is a difficult issue to deal with for millions of people worldwide. The scars are most often on the patient’s face, or in other highly visible areas, making them a constant source of insecurity and stress. Thankfully, a number of new and effective solutions are coming to light as powerful treatment to restore your face, back, neck or arms to their previous state.

It seems so unfair. A person goes through a part of their life where they suffer from acne, including the social stigma and self-confidence effects, and when they finally break free from that mess, they are left with unsightly scarring; a problem that is not mitigated by time. Thanks to the advances in dermatology in the last decade, however, these scars are quickly becoming more of a temporary inconvenience than a lifelong burden.

There are many options depending on the type of acne scarring you have. Among the most common types of scars from acne are ice pick scars. These are narrow pits in the skin that form from acne episodes, leaving the skin looking like it had been poked with a series of needles. Usually found on the cheeks or temples, boxcar scars are another common type of scarring. They are have sharp, angular edges, resembling the type of scars that might have developed as a result of chicken pox. Damage occurring under the skin during acne often results in rolling scars, which are shallow and extend over a greater area. Hypertonic scars are raised and lumpy, above the surface of the skin and are usually the result of much more severe acne episodes than the other forms of acne scarring.

For ice pick scars, boxcar scars and rolling scars, treatment usually involves some kind of laser resurfacing of the affected area. This can be quite costly. Treatments that can be used in tandem with surgery or on their own are chemical peels, dermabrasion and punch techniques. Each of these must be done by a trained and trusted skin care professional. Dermabrasion is the most costly, and does not necessarily have good enough fan-fare to pursue straight away. Punch techniques are relatively cheap and have received a much higher degree of positive feedback.

For rolling scars, skin augmentation (again, done by a skilled and trusted professional) has seen positive results. In this process they actually inject the rolling pits with silicon or other liquid to fill in the recesses in the skin tissue. Skin rolling/needling has also seen positive effects. This involves using a tattoo like needle gun to penetrate the skin at a consistent depth, encouraging cell growth and tissue regeneration.

For hypertrophic scars there are fewer options, but many people have found steroid injections to be an effective treatment. With this treatment steroids are injected into the scar tissue, reducing the inflammation in the scar and consequently reducing the size of the scar.

While there is no fail-safe silver bullet to getting rid of acne scars, they are by no means untreatable. For each type of scarring there are methods that have shown to be effective to others. Now may be the perfect time for you to give them a try.

Women Acne Issues

Acne continues to be a growing problem for people of all ages. All around the world there are a growing number of pollutants in our food or in the air that irritate the skin, leaving scores of people with unsightly white-heads, black-heads, pimples and of course the dreaded result, acne scarring. This problem can make anyone insecure, but it can be especially debilitating for women.

Women with acne experience social ostracizing both from men as well as members of their own sex. For a gender that seems to be prized for its beauty, the appearance of acne can make even the most beautiful women experience a troubled self-image. Here are some things that may affect female acne in a negative or positive way.


The shifting balance of hormones in the female body can be a significant cause of skin problems for women. Whether it is due to diet, exercise, or one’s menstrual cycle, these hormones can adjust skin chemistry and result in a growing nightmare for ladies young and old. Drinking green tea regularly has been shown in some studies to alleviate the effects of ebbing hormones on skin condition, although there is still a great deal of research that has yet to be done to add credence to this theory. Like most acne issues, keeping follicles open is often the best method that can be used to alleviate this issue. This is best done by keeping an effective daily cleansing habit.

Antibiotic Use

Some women use topical antibiotics regularly to combat acne. While this can have an immediate effect and last for a short span of time, it will likely disrupt the balance of chemicals in the skin in the long run, and will leave you with the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria finding a home somewhere on your body. The use of long term antibiotics also weakens the immune system a considerable amount, leaving your body that much less equipped to fight invaders in your pores or follicles.

Birth Control

Birth control has been lauded in many separate arenas for its benefits on fighting acne. This is mostly due to its role in reducing androgen levels. Androgens are hormones that work in the female reproductive cycle, but have also been attributed to a higher incidence of acne and other skin problems. While birth control does play a role in acne’s reduction through this medium, there are also many other compounds in modern birth control regiments that may make acne worse, simply by changing the chemicals at play within your body. Any time the delicate balance of your body is disrupted by outside chemicals, the end result could be even worse acne than you had to begin with. Be sure to do the research into whatever birth control products you are considering to find out exactly how they might react with your body before using them.

The Emotional Scars of Acne

As anyone who has ever suffered from acne knows, this very common skin condition is one that can leave permanent scars on the face. Unfortunately, it can also leave serious emotional scars that can be very difficult to heal if they are not properly dealt with. Teenagers and young adults who have a healthy outlook on life and a good self image are much less likely to develop emotional issues related to acne. But those who do not may not be so fortunate, especially if acne is present simultaneously with:

  • a lack of meaningful friendships
  • the recent breakup of a romantic relationship
  • poor perception of one’s overall physical appearance
  • a general lack of self-esteem

Appearance is Everything

Unfortunately, we live in a world where first impressions based upon physical appearance are extremely important. This is further exacerbated by product marketing aimed at convincing consumers that they need certain beauty products, clothing, and accessories in order to be considered stylish. The excessive need in some people to look attractive can cause an equally disturbing obsession with acne.

Even young people with a mild case of acne can become so obsessed that even the slightest hint of a new pimple will send them into a tailspin. In cases where acne is severe, a person may be reluctant to go out in public during peak hours or even refuse to leave home altogether. Finding a solution for people who suffer such trauma is essential.

Other Factors

As mentioned in the introduction, other factors can contribute to developing emotional scars from acne. For example, a young person who has trouble developing meaningful friendships may be very quick to blame his complexion. He can easily convince himself that others don’t want to be his friend because they are repulsed by his acne. As irrational as this may sound to adults, it is a very real fear among teenagers.

A lack of romantic relationships in a young person’s life is also very often linked in her mind with the presence of acne. A teenage girl may be so convinced of her lack of physical attractiveness as to hinder her ability to even develop romantic relationships. The resulting lack of self-confidence can further hinder those relationships and make a serious problem even worse.

Parents Can Help

Beyond seeing a dermatologist for help with the medical issue, parents can also be of help on the emotional level by employing strategies to boost the young persons of self-esteem. One of the best things parents can do is to engage the young person in activities that he or she is good at and truly enjoys. Parents can also get the entire family involved in volunteer opportunities and other things that will keep the minds of impressionable young people occupied in pursuits that are not concentrated on personal appearance.

One of the worst things you can do for a child suffering from low self-esteem is to allow him to spend large amounts of time doing nothing. This idle time gives him the opportunity to focus on his problems, thereby making it an even bigger problem in his mind. Activities that take his mind off himself and refocuse it toward the needs of others will quickly help him gain perspective.

The emotional scars left by acne are very real in today’s world. Young people need to be taught how to cope with these issues before the emotional scars develop, so that they can venture into adulthood with good self esteem and a healthy outlook on life.

Infant and Childhood Acne

It’s common knowledge that acne strikes almost all teenagers universally. But did you know that acne can also occur in infants and pre-teen children? It’s true. And although infant and childhood acne is generally no more serious than teenage acne, it should be addressed if it persists for more than a couple of weeks, as it could be a sign of a more serious underlying problem.

Acne’s Real Cause

Regardless of all the things you’ve heard that might cause acne, including stress, poor diet, and poor personal hygiene, the pathological cause is an increase of sebum which clogs hair follicles, trapping dead skin cells and other debris inside. The resulting minor infection manifests itself as a pimple, white head, or black head. Now, it may be true that the previously mentioned things can promote acne, or hinder the body from properly dealing with it, but in and of themselves they are not the root cause of the issue.

Infantile Acne

Acne that occurs in children under the age of two is categorized as infantile acne. It is not as rare as childhood acne, but it is significantly more rare than teenage acne. When an infant develops small pimples is almost always due to changes in hormone levels while still in the womb. Infants naturally produce very little sebum on their own, but they are very susceptible to excess sebum production in the first few months of life if their mother’s hormone levels during pregnancy were just right.

Fortunately, infantile acne generally clears up on its own within a few weeks. If it does not, parents are advised to seek the advice of a doctor. In either case, avoid the temptation of popping or picking at pimples on your baby’s face. Just like with teenage acne, doing so can cause further infection and leave scars.

Childhood Acne

As a clinical diagnosis, childhood acne is that which appears in children between the ages of 2 and 6. This period of a child’s life is generally considered the “acne free zone” because developing acne at this stage is extremely rare. The child is not naturally producing large amounts of sebum, and he’s free from the influence of his mother’s hormone levels, so his chances of developing acne are extremely low. That’s not to say that childhood acne is necessarily a serious problem, because it may be minor.

As with infantile acne, if your child develops pimples prior to the age of 6, and they don’t subside on their own in a couple of weeks, it’s best for you to make an appointment with your doctor. It is possible that childhood acne is a symptom of an underlying issue affecting your child’s natural hormone levels. Certain medications or premature growth abnormalities can also cause childhood acne. In most cases, these issues can be dealt with and the acne cleared up relatively easily.

Understanding The Difference Between Acne and Boils

Acne vulgaris, more commonly known simply as acne, is perhaps the most common inflammatory skin disease currently known to man. It affects the majority of light and fair-skinned teenagers to some degree, and some even find they are still dealing with it into their adult years. Unfortunately, because it’s so common, victims of other more serious diseases can sometimes confuse their skin lesions with acne. Such was the case with an American man who was very fortunate to avoid serious consequences from an incorrect self-diagnosis in 2007.

“Bill” began having acne outbreaks in his teen years which continued into his 40’s. At one point he had a sudden outbreak of lesions on his upper legs, groin, and buttocks; an outbreak he assumed was simply a severe case of acne. He treated the lesions the same way he always treated acne, assuming they would clear up in a couple of days. Instead, the lesions spread and grew, in some cases to the size of a golf ball. When Bill finally decided something was wrong he was examined by a doctor who told him he was suffering from boils related to an MRSA infection.

What made this diagnosis so important is the fact that MRSA, under certain conditions, can develop from mere boils into a full-blown, potentially fatal, flesh-eating bacterial infection. Fortunately, Bill’s diagnosis came soon enough to treat his boils and avoid further complications.

The point here is that what appears to be acne may not be necessarily so. If you have any questions, confirm your condition by visiting a dermatologist or general practitioner. Otherwise, there are a few tell-tale signs that perhaps your skin lesions are something more than acne:

  • Lack of a Defined Head – Acne lesions, commonly known as zits or pimples, almost always develop a white or black head. If a doctor were to lance these lesions, both pus and an oily fluid would be expunged. In the case of boils, there is usually no noticeable head.
  • Delicate Skin – Although experts recommend that you don’t try to pop or lance your pimples, if you’ve already done so you’ve noticed how delicate the surface skin is. With a pimple, a sterilized needle could penetrate the skin and enter the infected hair follicle with relative ease. With boils, such is not the case. The surface skin, as well as the underlying tissue, becomes incredibly dense, making it very difficult to lance in the early stages.
  • The Core – When acne pimples finally do burst, the subsequent material that flows out is very minimal and is usually discharged right away. With a boil, the core of the infection rests deep within the skin and consists of dead tissue which the bacteria have destroyed. Rather than discharging quickly and in a single instance, the core may take several hours, or even days, to fully discharge. After the core is completely gone a boil can sometimes bleed for hours.
  • Overall Size – While it’s extremely rare, pimples rarely grow any larger than a moderately-sized pea. Boils on the other hand, can grow to be extremely large, as demonstrated in Bill’s case. Along with the large size, sufferers will notice that the pain from boils runs far deeper than that of pimples.

Although acne breakouts tend to be more of a nuisance than anything else, there are other skin diseases with far more serious implications. If you are at all concerned that what appears on your might not really be acne, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor.