New weapons against treatment-resistant adult acne

April 14, 2011

The quickest solution for one giant pimple is a cortisone shot
The quickest solution for one giant pimple is a cortisone shot

Ten days before your wedding the stress is mounting. Besides completing work projects, you have to pack wedding clothes, vacation clothes, presents for the bridal party and favors for your guests. You have to be at your “fighting” weight, your hair and nails have to be in optimal condition and your skin has to be bridal.

In spite of your dermatologist-prescribed preventive medication, your face is now erupting in discrete mucus-filled acne pustules. Starting in your teens, you’ve prowled drugstore shelves, experimenting with soaps, creams, gels, masks and patches. You’ve seen a cross section of dermatologists, been on different pharmacological cocktails and won the award for having the most treatment-resistant adult acne in your hometown. What is the next step?

The April 2011 issue of Self recommends high-tech intervention after you’ve already tried over-the-counter products containing 5 percent bacteria-killing benzoyl peroxide, 2 percent salicylic acid (pore declogger that quells inflammation), sulfur (drying ingredient) and prescription retinol and birth control pills for hormonally-related acne, as well as prescription retinoid creams and antibiotics.

The quickest and easiest solution for one giant zit is a cortisone shot. This will sting a little and set you back about $150. Your zit will be swollen for a few hours, but will be gone by the time you get to the airport.

For allover bumps and clogs, your plastic surgeon may recommend a light chemical peel, which stays on for about five minutes, bolstering the effect of your prescription-strength acne drugs. You will look a bit pink following treatment, like any blushing bride. In about two days, your skin may begin to flake off and will continue to do so for three days. Begin this treatment a couple of weeks before your event.

For the worst cases of acne, plastic surgeons resort to the Isolaz laser and photodynamic therapy (PTD). Isolaz lifts the skin gently with a vacuum and opens pores, suctioning out oil before a bacteria-killing light shines deep into your pores. After six to eight weekly treatments, at about $300 each, it’s estimated that 75 percent of people become acne free. Each session is about $300. Obviously, you’ll have to start the treatment well in advance of any big event.

PTD uses a blue light on skin that has been pretreated with Levulan, a light-sensitizing chemical. It is reputed to put even severe acne into remission for six to 12 months. This treatment feels like rubber bands snapping against your skin. You’ll be red and swollen for a few days and then your skin will flake and peel. You will want to hole up with the TV set for a very long weekend.

The world of needles, lasers and peels is a challenge. There are light chemical peels, deep chemical peels, fat injections, injectables, laser hair removal, micropigmentation and microdermabrasion. In addition to healing acne, these treatments can smooth skin, decrease redness, and get rid of brown spots. After examining your skin, a board-certified plastic surgeon from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery will present your best options. 


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

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About ASAPS
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

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