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Tuesday, 28 July, 1998, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Acne sufferers exploited by cosmetic chains
The cosmetics counter is no place to get acne treatment
Cosmetic companies are preying on the vulnerability of acne sufferers, a pressure group has claimed.

The Acne Support Group has called for tighter regulation of the cosmetic industry.

Research shows that women with acne are more likely to go to a cosmetic counter than a pharmacy for help.

However, taped recordings of cosmetic staff show that some are failing to refer customers with acne to doctors for what is a medical condition.

Vulnerable people

Acne Support Group
Acne Support Group logo
Alison Dudley, chief executive of the ASG, wants tighter regulation of the cosmetic industry and better education about conditions like acne and rosacea - another chronic skin disorder - among its staff.

She said: "People with acne are very vulnerable and some (but not all) members of the cosmetic industry prey upon the fact.

"I would like to see better education as well as tighter regulation in this industry.

"Many ASG members have spent huge sums of money on skin care products they have been told by sales staff will cure their skin."

Chronic skin disorder

Acne is a chronic skin disorder caused by inflammation of the hair follicles and small glands in the skin called the sebaceous glands and almost always begins during puberty.

It is estimated that 85% of people have acne at some point in their lives.

Studies show that no amount of cleansing the skin can get rid of the problem - the most effective treatment is from a doctor or pharmacist.

Dr Ravi Ratnavel, consultant dermatologist at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, welcomed the call, saying: "Most skin conditions such as acne and rosacea will respond well to treatments prescribed by a physician.

"The cosmetic industry can only provide products that clean, perfume, change the appearance, correct odours, protect or condition the skin.

"Acne is not caused by dirt, so no amount of cleansing will deal with the problem.

"The cosmetic industry must realise its responsibility to the public."

Sufferers are depressed

A survey of 1,985 people by the ASG revealed that three out of four people with acne felt depressed and almost half felt anxious.

Almost all would prefer to have a cure for the skin condition rather than 5,000 cash and 15% felt suicidal.

More than a third felt they would have a better job if they didn't have acne, the survey revealed.

Among the women questioned, 37% spent 120 a year on skin care products and 27% spent the same amount on make-up.

Over sensitivity

Acne is caused by over sensitivity of the immune system. Some people are hyper-sensitive to the bacteria which gets trapped in hair follicles.

A whitehead results when the hair follicle becomes blocked. If this reaches the skin's surface and is exposed to the air it turns black and is therefore known as a blackhead.

If the wall of the plugged follicle breaks, the affected area swells and becomes a pimple. When this happens below the surface, acne nodules or cysts can form.

Squeezing spots can spread the problem and may lead to scarring.

Acne can be exacerbated by stress.

Antiboitics work

Antibiotics are the most effective treatment. They can be taken by mouth, or used in a lotion, cream or gel, which should be applied daily before bedtime.

Benzoyl peroxide works for many sufferers. It comes as a gel, lotion or cream, and should be spread thoroughly over dry skin.

Isotretinon (Accutane) can be used to treat severe cystic acne which Does not get better with other treatments. A plus point is that it helps against scars forming, but a serious side-effect is that it can cause women to miscarriage or damage unborn babies.

See also:

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