Lindsey Emery, a freelance editor in Portland, Ore., asked about her bumpy skin. We passed her question on to Julie Harper, MD, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Paul M. Friedman, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Texas, Houston, and author of Beautiful Skin Revealed: The Ultimate Guide to Better Skin.
Q: I've noticed small red bumps on my face, jawline, and neck. Could it be rosacea? Or is it acne?
She's tried almost every drug on the market, from Retin-A to Cleocin T to
tetracycline, not to mention all the drugstore lotions and potions she's
lathered her skin with. But nothing can take back the feelings of
unattractiveness and self-doubt, the devastating days when merely leaving the
house was difficult.
Like Specter, many women are battling acne into their adult years -- and
feeling frustrated about it. And increasingly, many of them are trying a new
approach, one that goes beyond the traditional treatments such as retinoids,
benzoyl peroxides, and antibiotics: They are using the birth control pill to
For Specter, hormone manipulation (which is how the pill works) became an
option several years ago, when she got involved in a serious relationship and
wanted both birth control and a new acne treatment. After talking with her
doctor, she decided to start taking Ortho Tri-Cyclen, a birth control pill
that's shown some success in treating adult acne. Ortho Tri-Cyclen reduces
androgens (male hormones) and regulates a woman's hormones so their swings
aren't as severe and don't throw a woman's body -- and complexion -- into flux.
While all women have some level of androgens, an excessive amount can lead to
Women and Acne: The Painful Truth
The number of women (and men) who struggle with acne well into their 20s and
30s is huge. In fact, a study published in the October 1999 issue of the
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatologyfound that of 749 adults
between the ages of 25 and 58, 54% of women and 40% of men suffered from some
form of acne. What's more, the prevalence of adult acne in both sexes did not
decrease substantially until after the age of 44.
That acne is a teenager's disease is just one of the misconceptions
associated with the condition. Another is that dirt and oil on the skin cause