Expert Advice

What's the secret to clear skin?

Like hopeless crushes and nagging parents, acne problems don't always disappear at the end of adolescence.

What's the secret to clear skin?
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Like hopeless crushes and nagging parents, acne problems don't disappear at the end of adolescence. Here, three skin specialists show how to banish blemishes and welcome healthy, glowing skin.

A skin-care consultant says: Harsh cleansers can further aggravate the skin. Using a strong product that's stripping the skin of its natural oil may encourage sebum production. Try a gentle cleansing milk instead. And stay away from heavy foundations--your skin is meant to breathe freely. To fight the bacteria that cause acne to thrive, mix five drops each of tea tree oil and lavender oil with 1 teaspoon of hazelnut oil or aloe vera and apply the mixture to the affected area. You can use this treatment regularly, but back off if your skin becomes dry. Or you can try leaving a few drops of calamine lotion on overnight; it calms down the acne and soothes your skin. When the first tingle of a blemish occurs, ice the area for a few moments, let the skin warm, then apply one drop of thyme linalol twice a day. There are many types of thyme oil--use thyme linalol only.—Joni Keim Loughran, author of Natural Skin Care

A naturopathic doctor says: Clogged pores are often associated with androgen hormones, especially testosterone. Zinc and omega-3 fatty acids help to alter your hormone metabolism. I recommend getting 3 grams of fish oil or 30 to 50 milligrams of zinc a day; zinc should be taken in a 10-to-1 ratio with copper. It might also help to switch to organic meat and dairy products, since conventional types can contain exogenous hormones given to animals. Some research shows that people with acne have insulin resistance in their skin. When the skin doesn't process sugars effectively, bacteria on the skin converts sebum to free fatty acids, which cause acne. Try eliminating simple sugars and refined carbs from your diet or balancing your sugar levels by taking 400 to 600 mg of chromium daily. For women who get acne during PMS, vitamin B6 (50 to 100 mg a day) should control outbreaks by regulating hormone levels. Vitamin A can help decrease sebum production; consult your health-care practitioner for appropriate amounts.—Koren Barrett, N.D., Laguna Hills, Calif.

A dermatologist says: The four key players in the formation of acne are excess sebum under the control of androgens, plugged pores or follicles, bacteria and inflammation. Androgens trigger the production of sebum which, with an overproduction of dead skin cells, plugs pores--and plugged pores can create an environment where bacteria love to grow. Inflammation, in turn, typically occurs in reaction to the bacteria. People with acne don't have more androgens; rather, it seems they are more sensitive and react to them differently. Women can help regulate hormones by taking birth-control pills or anti-androgen medications. Topical retinoid creams clean out pores and prevent the development of new pimples. Sometimes I couple the creams with tetracyclines, antibiotics that fight bacteria and inflammation and are good for treating painful, tender pimples. (Tetracyclines can cause stomach problems and increased sensitivity to the sun.) In everyday skin care, less is more. Hot water and harsh scrubs hurt more than they help; instead, use a mild cleanser with warm water. Follow up with an oil-free moisturizer with sun-block to further protect your skin.—Julie Harper, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama


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