Skin problems and treatments


Those photos of top models or movie stars on the cover of a glossy magazine often make us wish our skin could be as smooth and flawless as theirs. Of course, we know the photo will have been airbrushed to remove anything in the least bit unsightly, and the fact is that most, if not all of us, have skin problems at some point in our lives. Luckily nowadays there are plenty of treatments and lots of expert advice to help you deal with problem skin. Here’s a quick guide to some of the principal culprits.


Teenagers battling with adolescence are all too familiar with the problems caused by acne as their skin becomes oilier. Surprisingly, however, about 20 percent of breakouts occur among adults. The tiny openings known as pores in your skin are affected by oil from your sebaceous glands. Whiteheads form in smaller pore openings and blackheads in larger ones. Often these swell up, become inflamed and tender and occasionally infected.

There are a number of possible treatments, depending on the severity of the breakout. For instance, using soap and water to clean your face twice a day can help prevent the spread of acne although it will not clear up existing inflammation. Specialist treatments and cleansers can minimize outbreaks, and you will find they often contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid, sulfur or benzoyl peroxide.

Your medical practitioner may recommend benzoyl peroxide for mild acne, on the basis that it will target associated bacteria. However, it can take up to four weeks for this to have an effect and you should continue to use it after your skin has cleared. It comes as a gel, cream, wash, and lotion, and you should be aware that it can cause dry skin. Benzoyl peroxide can also affect fabrics, so if you need to treat your back or chest overnight, wear an old nightdress or T-shirt that you can discard when treatment is finished.


Eczema is the term used for several medical conditions that can cause your skin to become inflamed or irritated. Your doctor may tell you that you have atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema if they think your skin problems are as a result of a tendency to develop allergic conditions such as hay fever or asthma. The condition is often inherited, and in the US, between 10 and 20 percent of infants are affected by eczema, which they usually outgrow at about ten years of age. Roughly three percent of children and adults may have lifelong symptoms, however, they can be controlled with proper treatment.

If your medical practitioner has diagnosed eczema, the recommended treatments will depend on its severity and your personal medical history. As with acne, keep your skin clean using water and soap that won’t cause dryness. Take showers that are warm and short and after washing always use a moisturizer that will keep your skin supple. Use a humidifier at home, so that dry air doesn’t irritate your skin and try to manage stress by taking exercise, starting a new hobby or spending enjoyable time with friends. If medications are prescribed, they are likely to include antihistamines, corticosteroids or hydrocortisone.


The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) causes several skin problems, including cold sores around your mouth. These can occur when you get a period, when you are stressed or if you are running a fever. Cold sores normally break out on your lips, while blisters inside your mouth are known as canker sores, and are not related to the herpes virus. Herpes is very contagious and can be passed on in saliva, so sharing drinking glasses as well as kissing can pass it on. As it can also affect the genital area, it is an embarrassing condition that is still somewhat stigmatized. There are a range of treatment options available, and a simple herpes test can help establish if you have contracted the virus.

Herpes cannot be cured, which is why being tested is important, however, certain treatments such as anti-viral drugs will minimize the symptoms and reduce the level of contagion. Also, new research in the field of immunotherapy is focusing on ways of stimulating the body’s immune system to respond to the virus. Regarding personal control – diet is a key factor when it comes to controlling outbreaks of herpes.

Skin problems are often temporary in nature, however, even when you know you may have ongoing issues, there are many ways in which you can be helped by lifestyle changes, by consulting a dermatologist and the use of medications.


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