A problem that virtually every teenage girl has gone through in her life is acne. Not content with simply leaving a red blemish on one’s face, inflamed acne pimples – particularly the large, deep ones, or ones that have been squeezed – may sometimes leave behind depressed scars even after the inflammation has gone away. A quarter of adult females continue to experience acne, and some return with a vengence in the pre-menopausal years.
Acne is commonly caused by three things: too much oil in certain skin pores (due to hormones), blocked pores from skin cells that behave abnormally, or bacteria that have infected the oil beneath certain blocked pores. One’s diet also plays a role, as diets with a high glycemic load (e.g. foods that are high in sugar, carbohydrates and fat) have been shown to exacerbate acne.
Aside from acne, eczema (or dermatitis) is also a common skin condition, with contact dermatitis (such as to fragrance, cosmetics, nickel jewelry) occuring more commonly in women. While there are many types of eczema, atopic eczema is the most common; about 10 to 20 percent of people worldwide develop this disorder that causes patients to suffer from dry, itchy, inflamed skin. If you ever experience symptoms of intense itch, recurring rashes, scaly areas of skin, or rough and leathery patches of skin, chances are you are suffering from eczema.
While there is little you can do to completely cure eczema, much can be done in consultation with a dermatologist to determine the causative factors, control the symptoms and reduce frequency of flares. Sufferers of this condition may reduce outbreaks through frequent moisturization, avoiding harsh soaps and scratchy materials (such as wool), avoiding factors known to trigger eczema (such as heat, humidity, house dust mites, fragrance and other allergens) and managing one’s stress levels. Although over-thecounter creams or oral medications may sometimes bring relief to mild eczema, sufferers should always seek the medical advice and diagnostic confirmation of a dermatologist before using such medication, as not all itchy red rash is due to eczema, with other common possibilities being hives, fungal infections, psoriasis and drug allergies.
Another common skin problem in women is facial pigmentation, starting from pregnancy and increasing from the 30’s onwards. These range from speckled freckles to large patches of melasma, to moles, warts and even pigmented skin cancers. Depending on the type of pigmentation, topical creams, peels, lasers or IPL may be effective, and an accurate diagnosis should be made before embarking on the most appropriate treatment. Sun protection with behaviour, fabrics and sunscreen (in that order) is of utmost importance in prevention of pigmentation.
While all of the above conditions may be unsightly, disfiguring or even debilitating, none of them is as dangerous as skin cancer. As the ozone layer continues to thin, and people develop a false sense of security with sunscreen use, the incidence of skin cancer rises. Thankfully, skin cancer can be managed as long it is detected early, and one of the best ways to detect skin cancer early is through regular skin checks by an experienced dermatologist, in addition to regular self-examination.
When performed by an experienced dermatologist, the screening process is a fairly simple and straightforward procedure. By performing a total body skin examination and serial photography, the dermatologist is able to identify and monitor any unusual moles or lesions, which may be further evaluated by dermoscopy or biopsy. If a premalignant lesion (such as actinic keratoses) is found, it can be quickly treated with the use of cryotherapy or prescription creams, thus preventing it from progressing to squamous cell carcinoma. Skin cancers detected and treated early have a better outcome.