ASK THE DOCTOR

Meet Dr. Jennifer Gruen. 

Dr Jenn knew she wanted to be a pediatrician from the age of 8!  After many years in practice she is now a partner at Village Pediatrics in Weston CT.  She’s here to answer all your questions about your body and your health.

If you have a question for Dr. Jenn please email her at askthedoctor@strongmagazineforgirls.com


Dr. Jenn tellS us more about coping with acne

 

Question:

Does eating chocolate or potato chips make acne worse?  And what is the best way to get rid of my pimples?

 

Answer:

The short answer is NO, your diet does not significantly affect your likelihood of getting acne.  In teens, the most common offender is puberty, which causes increased oil secretion that plugs up the pores in your face, chest and back. Often the “T-zone” of the face (across the forehead and down the middle of the face- your nose and chin) suffers the most.  Stress, shaving, oil based make-up and certain medications can make acne worse.

 

Now onto the longer answer- how do you prevent or get rid of pimples? To control acne, we need to address the causes: excess oil production, extra dead skin cells in the hair follicles, and growth of bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes, or P acnes) in the oil clog.  All these factors lead to the inflammation (redness, pus, swelling) that seems to emerge at the least convenient times! 

 

To help control excess oil, and to remove make up or grime that can clog pores, make sure to GENTLY wash your face twice a day with a mild or non-soap cleanser (harsh soaps and vigorous scrubbing will cause more irritation.)  No need to buy expensive toners or cleansers, Dove sensitive or Neutrogena bars will do the trick.  Do NOT squeeze or pop your pimples- this will only increase inflammation and possibly cause more extensive infection!

 

Several over the counter (OTC) medications are very effective against acne.  Most common are washes or creams with benzoyl peroxide (BP) or salicylic acid.  Salicylic acid helps open blocked pores and suppresses bacterial growth.  However, BP is probably the most effective, safe and inexpensive remedy.  Easiest to use as a face wash (look for Panoxyl brand), BP is able to penetrate the skin’s surface where it releases oxygen that can kill P acnes.  It also helps clean out cellular debris in the pore and treats inflammation.  BP is available in several strengths- start low (2.5%) to avoid too much irritation and increase (to 5 or 10%) as needed. If your skin becomes too dry, try using a light, water-based lotion such as CeraVe to rehydrate your skin, and only use the cleanser in areas that are prone to pimples. Warning, BP can bleach blue,green, and purple fabrics, so you might want to use the cleanser at night, and then sleep on white sheets!

 

Other OTC products include sulfur, sodium sulfacetamide, and resorcinol- these have mild anti-bacterial properties and also help break down cell debris within the pores.  However, some of these products are expensive, and are not necessarily better than common drugstore treatments.

 

If OTC treatments don’t control your symptoms, definitely visit your doctor, who can make sure there aren’t any other physical conditions making your acne worse, and who can prescribe stronger medications.  These might include a topical (clindamycin) or oral (minocycline) antibiotic aimed at P acnes or a vitamin A derived medication (such as Differin or Retin-A) which prevents shedding of cell material into the pore. Often these products are combined with BP, which works in tandem to clear up those annoying pimples.

 

All topical acne treatments can make you sun sensitive, so be sure to use sunscreen when appropriate.

 

Some teens develop inflammatory, cystic acne which can cause large, tender lesions under the skin and cause scarring.  This type of acne can be treated with oral contraceptives (in girls), or with Accutane, an vitamin-A derived oral medication that requires careful monitoring by a dermatologist due to significant side effects.

 

Did you know?

Early acne lesions are called whiteheads and blackheads.  Blackheads are not black because of dirt in the pore, the black color is due to melanin, a skin pigment, being pushed to the surface and undergoing a chemical reaction with oxygen to darken.

 

Did you know?

“Acne” is derived from the Latin word “acme,” meaning “prime of life.”  This is probably because it is most prevalent during the teen years.  Mentions of acne in history books dates back to the time of the Pharoahs!


NORMAL BREAST SIZE?

Question:

Is it normal for one breast to be bigger than the other?

 

Answer:

Yes, this is not only totally normal, it is very common in puberty as breasts start to develop.  Breast “buds” usually emerge anytime from age 8 to age 13 and often one side appears well before the other.  Even adult women often have mildly assymetric breasts, but this is quite hard to notice even when wearing a bra or swimsuit.  If you are concerned with your breast appearance, visit a specialty lingerie store where you can find inserts to help even out your chest, but don’t worry as time will probably do the job for you!

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