Acne is a common skin condition that usually starts in puberty due to a surge in hormones
Acne causes oily skin and spots.
Spots can take on many forms – blackheads, whiteheads , papules (small red lumps under the skin), pustules (like papules but filled with pus) , nodules (painful hard lumps under the skin), and cysts (large pus filled swellings)
What causes acne?
Sebaceous glands are located next to the hair follicles in the skin. They are responsible for producing oil to help keep our skin moisturised
They are stimulated to produce excess oil by hormones, typically testosterone.
The oil then mixes with dead skin cells and blocks the pore that the hair follicle exists from.
This blocked pore then can bulge outwards – creating the ‘spot’.
Normal bacteria that exist on the skin surface, usually causing no problems, are attracted to the blocked pore and cause it to become infected – causing the painful inflamed spot.
Acne in people of Asian descent
Acne is no more common in Asians compared to other ethnicity, however due to darker skin types Asians are more likely to experience scarring and pigmentation where they have had spots.
Always see a medically qualified professional to assess and advise on treatment because it is easier to treat acne before scarring or pigmentation occurs.
The purpose of treatments is to address the causes behind why the acne has happened i.e – unclog the pore, reduce the hormones, reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin
Depending on stage/degree of acne you may be offered:
Medicated creams containing benzyl peroxide, retinol – unclog the pores and remove dead skin
Oral antibiotics – reduce bacteria
Chemical peels – unclog the pores
Contraceptive pills – reduce hormone levels
LED therapy – reduces bacteria
Oral retinoids – only dermatologist can prescribe this and reserved for severe acne due to the risks attached with the medication, but works really well in most cases
If you have scarring –
micro needling – tiny needles penetrate skin and stimulate new collagen to help plump out scars
surgical procedures – for more sever scarring – helps release the scars or can be filled with dermal fillers
If you have pigmentation-
De-pigmenting creams – can help reduce the melanin in the pigmented areas and improve overall skin tone
Topical prescription strength retinol – helps to unclog pores, reduces oil production and increases skin turnover
Psychological effect of acne
Plenty of research and evidence that tells us that acne sufferers can experience problems with self-consciousness, embarrassment, self-esteem and self-image.
Interestingly the degree of psychological issues is not related to the severity of acne, i.e mild acne can have profound effects on a person’s mental wellbeing.
So seeking treatments for acne shouldn’t be seen as a cosmetic /vanity issue but should be encouraged.
Lots of myths around acne – all have been disproved
Acne is due to poor diet, caused by ‘dirty skin’, only teens get acne, squeezing a spot helps a spot clear up faster!
At MySkyn we can provide a medical assessment and all of the above treatments ( except oral retinoids).
With the summer months approaching and the extended hours of daylight (and hopefully sunshine) we will all be spending more time outdoors.
Really good news because sunlight helps
- our emotional well-being as it boosts the chemical serotonin in our brains, which affects our mood
- to produce much needed Vit D ( essential nutrient that’s important for bones, blood cells and immune system),
- to regulate our internal clock and helps with better sleep
But it is important to be safe when in the sun. A lot of people of South-Asian heritage think they don’t need to take any precautions when out in the sun. South Asians can develop all of the consequences of excessive sun exposure – sun burn, skin cancer, hyperpigmentation, UV ageing.
Here’s some skin science
The top layer of skin is called the epidermis.
It’s made up of lots of layers of cells. Its function is as a barrier to infection and to regulate water loss from our body.
The pigment making cells, called melanocytes , are located at the bottom of this layer.
These produce the pigment called melanin which travels to the surface of the epidermis and causes the skin to become a certain colour.
All humans have the same number of melanocytes, regardless of our ethnicity. But in genetically darker skinned individuals, these pigment making cells are more active than those in lighter skinned people.
Melanocytes release a background amount of melanin that gives us our skin colour -pale skin produces little to no melanin while South Asian skin produces a lighter melanin—phaeomelanin—and black skin produces the darkest and thickest melanin: eumelanin.
What does melanin do?
Melanin production is triggered by the sunlight as the skin attempts to protect itself from the harmful UV rays and this ‘protector’ for our skin is able to absorb UV rays, and therefore, acts like natural sunscreen . It also is able to protect our skin against harmful factors in the air and on the skin to a certain extent. So as South Asians we are lucky that we have this natural protection.
How can the sun harm our skin?
UVB rays generally damage the surface of the skin and cause burns (UVb for burns). Burns can lead to patches of uneven pigmentation and in worst case scenarios- scarring. South Asian skin has a tendency to develop uneven patches of pigmentation and scars more easily than lighter skin types.
When the harmful rays reach the DNA of cells this can trigger changes that lead to speeding up of the ageing process, resulting in signs of ageing such as wrinkles, leathery skin and sun spots. Hyperpigmentation is one of the biggest skin concerns that South Asians seek medical advice about and apart from hormones, UV exposure is the biggest trigger of patches of uneven skin tone.
Sun doesn’t just cause ageing and burns but can have potentially life changing effects
If the DNA is damaged significantly this can lead to the worst effect and cells can change to form skin cancer. Skin cancers are less common in non-white racial ethnic groups, but when they occur, they tend to be diagnosed at a later stage and, as a result, have a worse prognosis.
How should we protect our skin?
Multiple studies show that South Asians use sunscreen much less frequently than others – maybe we don’t feel ‘at risk ?’. This could be because we aren’t ‘sunseekers’ culturally, so don’t feel the need to apply and get a false sense of protection because we don’t burn or tan as easily. There is a general lack of awareness of the damage the sun can cause even if we are indoors amongst all ethnicities.
Best ways to protect the skin
Avoid direct sun exposure in peak hours when the sun is at its hottest (11 am to 3pm)
Important to get into the habit of using sunscreen even in winter – because the harmful UVA rays can travel through windows.
Wear an SPF of at least factor 30 – check out our website for more info on how to choose the correct SPF
Wear a hat and sunglasses when out
Get into the habit of incorporating SPF into your daily skincare routine
Seek medical advice if you have any worrying skin lesions – a lesion that is not healing, bleeding, itchy, rapidly growing or changing colour. Your GP is the best person to see if you have any concerns about a skin lesion.
Remember prevention is always better than cure – SPF can help prevent signs of ageing, new pigmentation and reduce chances of skin cancer developing. Stay safe and enjoy the British summer.