The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, November 01, 1972, Page PAGE 6, Image 6

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Medicine can mangle acne
by M.J. Wilson
If you can read that word without a quick
pang of revulsion and embarrassment, you are
among the fortunate few who have never
suffered 'the excruciating torments of acne.
Eighty-five per cent of the adolescent
population has, at one time or another, stared
miserably at a mirror reflecting a face spotted,
as the lotion ads say, with "unsightly
blemishes." Acne could hardly come at a worse
time-a period when young people already are
burdened by physical and psychological
growing pains and are deeply sensitive about
the faces they are turning to the world.
Like such other familiar maladies as the
common cold and chicken pox, there is no way
yet to prevent the onset of acne. But, happily,
modern medicine is coming up with some
effective methods of treatment and, in the
process, exploding myths about acne's cause.
Growth is basically what brings on acne. The
pustules form with puberty when male
hormone production increases in both boys and
The hormones stimulate growth of body hair
and oil glands of the skin. When excessive oil
becomes compacted in a pore, a blackhead
forms (it's dried oil, not dirt). When the oil
backs up and ruptures the oil-duct walls, that's
a pimple. Infection often spreads in a red
splotch around the blocked duct.
Recently, doctors have found that
birth-control pills, which slow the secretion of
male hormones, are effective in halting acne
among young girls. Broad-spectrum antibiotics,
such as tetracycline, also are proving useful in
preventing pustule infection.
Doctors wish that more teen-agers would
avail themselves of medical advice rather than
suffer in ignorance and risk scars on their
psyches as well as on their faces. As Malvina M.
Kremer, psychiatrist in charge of the adolescent
clinic at Metropolitan Hospital in New York
City, observes:
"The eruption of facial blemishes strikes at
one of the most vulnerable aspects of the
adolescent's sense of security and competence:
social acceptability and desirability."
Furthermore, according to Kremer, "the
popular mythology which attributes acne to
'bad' thoughts and practices, especially
masturbation,, is stitj surprisingly widespread,",,
fostering deepanxiety and guilt feelings. " ? rv-
Another myth punctured by medicine, but
still perpetuated by some doctors, is that
favorite teen-age sweets and snacks are a leading
cause of acne or play a major role in aggravating
"There is absolutely no evidence that dietary
changes influence acne," says Dr. Albert M.
Kligman, a University of Pennsylvania
dermatologist. "It is dastardly to deprive
adolescents of chocolate, soda pop, nuts, sea
foods and so forth; doctors interdict foods as a
The medical profession also hasn't much use
for the some $40 million worth of patent acne
lotions and creams sold each year. Although
many "are of some benefit," a pamphlet of the
American Medical Association (AMA) states,
"most of them will produce dryness if they are
used excessively."
The best thing to do for acne, according to
the AMA, is to wash the face gently twice a day
with soap and hot water and shampoo hair
regularly to remove oils.
Under a doctor's care, female hormones can
be administered to girls. Antibiotics,
application of Vitamin A, ultra-violet or x-ray
therapy and lancing of inflamed pustules may
be prescribed. The AMA warns that squeezing
pimples and blackheads can damage tissues and
increase the chance of scarring and infection.
What still puzzles researchers is why some
people get acne and others escape it, and what
triggers the chemical changes in the body that
eventually cause the disorder to subside.
Answers to these questions might enable
doctors to check acne before it starts.
"There is something peculiar about the acne
patient," says Kligman. "There is no acne
without oiliness but not all people with oily
skin develop acne. Acne is not infectious. If
lesions are present, they should be treated, but
acne cannot be circumvented."
Nor can doctors explain why pimples always
seem to blossom just before a teen-ager's big
date. ("Severe emotional stress may exacerbate
acne," acknowledges Kligman.) When that
happens, the AMA's rather Pollyannish advice
may restore morale:
"Above all, you must believe that a pleasant
personality, a well-groomed look and a smile
are more important than a clear skin in making
you attractive."
Better still, stay away from mirrors.
Newsweek PMture service .
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daily nebraskan
Wednesday, november 1, 1972