Here’s a good excuse to give your partner the next time he or she complains about the sheer number of skin products on your vanity table. Compared with Caucasians, Asians have it a lot tougher when it comes to maintaining clear skin.
While acne affects people of all ethnicities, Asians face a higher risk of scarring and acne-related hyperpigmentation because their skin produces higher levels of melanin pigment, says Dr Henry Pawin, a dermatologist based in… Europe.
Melanin is a brown pigment that produces one’s skin tone.
Dr Pawin was speaking on his approach to acne management at the Aesthetic Asia 2011 conference of experts offering private skin treatment care.
Hyperpigmentation – where patches of skin become darker in colour than the surrounding skin – can occur after an acne breakout because of increased melanin production in the skin. Hyperpigmentation often manifests as freckles, sun spots or age spots, and the like.
In fact, even among Asians, acne-related hyperpigmentation is more common in darker-skinned Asians, says aesthetic physician Dr Nicholas Ngui from the DRx Clinic.
The bad news doesn’t stop there
In addition to “indented and pitted scars”, Asian skin also tends to develop keloids – thick, overgrown scars that can be disfiguring, according to Dr Ngui.
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions, and affects about 460 million people in Asia, according to recent research data by healthcare information service provider, IMS Health.
Don’t sit on it
While it typically affects teenagers, acne can affect adults too. Both doctors stress that the best way to prevent acne is to control it as early as possible.
“Scarring develops when the skin is so damaged by acne inflammation that it cannot regenerate normally, and is replaced by fibrous scar tissue. So curbing the acne inflammation as quickly as possible can prevent or minimise irreversible damage to the skin,” explains Dr Ngui.
Unfortunately, Dr Pawin notes, studies show more than half of acne sufferers do not seek professional help, and prefer treating the condition with over-the-counter products. In fact, he says that, from experience, most people tend to wait a year before going for their first consultation.
More often than not, self-medicating with over-the-counter products “is far from adequate in dealing with anything more than an occasional zit or two,” says Dr Ngui. While acne usually starts off mild, it can worsen very quickly over a few months.
The experts note that acne and its after-effects can be just as damaging psychologically as it is to the skin.
Dr Ngui cites an acne study among Hong Kong teenagers, of whom over 90 per cent suffered from the skin condition. More than 26 per cent were found to be disturbed psychologically by their skin woes, and close to 83 per cent were bothered by their physical appearance.
“For people at risk of hyperpigmentation, the faster you treat the acne, the better. When you start getting scars from acne, it can become a real catastrophe,” asserts Dr Pawin.
The numbers game