Acne- it’s not just skin deep. Whether you’re a teenager or an adult, the suffering caused by recurring acne or even the occasional breakout can be an emotional scratch leading to a lifelong scar. Acne affects both men and women and can happen at any age, but it’s not a curse that must be endured or simply outgrown. It is important to remember that your journey with acne is exactly that- your journey. For some, mild acne that lingers can be a daily nightmare in personal or professional settings. There are also those with what I would consider severe acne who are completely unbothered by their condition. The most important thing to me, as a dermatologist, is to keep the communication open about how acne is affecting you. A few key points: 1) For most, acne is not just superficial- it can be emotional, embarrassing, and it’s exhausting. I often say “I’m happy with how it’s going, but how do you feel”. Answer your dermatologists honestly, and we’ll do the same. We can usually work to bridge the gap of understanding if our clinical assessment is different than your view. Often simply discussing expectations and timelines can lead to the answer. 2) Realize that there is not one medication that works every time for every acne patient- despite what that commercial on TV might say! Each individual is different. There is no magic wand. It may take several visits (and sometimes multiple medications) to get it just right for you. Use your medications as prescribed. Please be patient, and again, keep those lines of communication open.3) Medications can have side effects, and they don’t work as quickly as we’d like (think months not weeks sometimes). This is the most difficult aspect for patients and physicians alike- trust me, we all want it “gone yesterday” too. The commonly repeated “it will get worse before it gets better” is not completely untrue, but it’s not what you think. The irritation and dryness commonly experienced with acne medications can cause patients to perceive their acne as worse. Keep in mind, the acne is slow to change and irritation comes on quickly. It should be annoying, but not painful, and moisturizers should help. If it keeps you from using your medications, let’s discuss it. A simple change in application can usually remedy the problem, but if it’s significant, a medication change is only a phone call away. Don’t simply give up. And please, keep your follow-up appointments so we can monitor both your successes and failures.
I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at this- there is help. We are here to listen, to educate, and to discuss. There is no simple fix, but we have the resources and the expertise to develop a plan that’s right for you.