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Your Life: Health: SAVE YOUR SKIN; Beat blemishes and keep your complexion clear with our spot-on tips.

Byline: BY CHARLOTTE HAIGH

WE'VE all had a spot of trouble with our skin and felt like hiding away from the world. But don't despair, help is at hand.

Skin conditions may not be life-threatening but can still have a huge impact on self-esteem, says Dr Emma Edmonds, dermatologist for the British Skin Foundation.

"So it's important to seek treatment from your GP - and there's a lot that can be done." There are also lots of things you can do to help yourself. Here are the most common skin problems and their solutions:

ACNE

WHAT IT IS: B

Basically spots are caused by pores being blocked by excess oil, bacteria and dead skin cells. "The word acne doesn't just refer to severe spots - it's the medical term for any blemish," says Alison Bowser, of the Acne Support Group. It often starts during teenage years, due to hormonal fluctuations, but it's a myth they are the only sufferers as many adults are affected.

WHAT CAUSES IT: Not chips or chocolate - it has

nothing to do with diet. And it's not linked to how clean your skin is either. Some people are simply genetically prone to acne. Male hormones called androgens make things worse.

That doesn't mean you have more male hormones, just that your skin is more sensitive to their effects.

WHAT YOUR DOC CAN DO: Creams and gels unblock pores and kill bacteria on the skin. Most of these have no major side-effects. Your doctor can also offer oral antibiotics or the Pill to balance hormones. If acne is severe, you may be given a vitamin A derivative, although some have had bad press due to side-effects. "But severe acne can cause life-threatening distress, so it is always worth considering all the options," says Ms Bowser.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Choose oil-free skincare to prevent pores getting blocked. Swap your usual foundation for Jane Iredale Amazing Base (pounds 35, 020 8450 7111) - it's made of anti-inflammatory minerals that allow your skin to breathe. Stress can

trigger acne, so relaxation techniques may help. You could also investigate N-lite

light therapy - one study found 87 per cent of people noticed some improvement after a single treatment. From around pounds 150 for a full-face treatment, call 0845 855 0844.

The Acne Support Group: www.m2w3.com/acne or call 0870 870 226.

ECZEMA

WHAT IT IS:E

Eczema happens when your skin overreacts to everyday stimuli, such as household dust. It becomes red, inflamed, flaky and itchy. It's common in childhood, with 20 per cent of all kids suffering from it. According to the National Eczema Society, up to 70 per cent of these will grow out of it by their mid teens.

WHAT CAUSES IT: Genetics play a part. But it's recently become far more prevalent in

children and there may be an environmental reason for that.

WHAT YOUR DOC CAN DO: "Topical steroids help," says Dr Edmonds. "Although people worry about these thinning the skin, that's unlikely. In severe cases, you may be given oral steroids or immunosuppressant drugs - but these can have side effects."

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Droppings from house dustmites are thought to trigger eczema in many sufferers. So opt for blinds and wooden floors instead of curtains and carpets, which harbour dust. Invest in dustmite proof bedding - the Healthy House has a good range at www.healthy-house.co.uk or call 01453 752216. Monitor your eczema to see if it flares up when you wear perfume.

Or keep a food diary to see if certain foods are linked. Use soap-free cleansers and moisturisers - try Jurlique

Calendula Cream (pounds 20.50, 08707 700 980). Some sufferers

find oat-based creams helpful - try A-Derma Exomega Cream (pounds 9.95, 0845 117 0116).

The National Eczema Society: www.eczema.org, 0870 241 3604.

ACNE ROSACEA

WHAT IT IS: T

This is a permanent flushing of the skin, usually around the nose and cheeks. Rosacea is thought to affect up to 10 per cent of the population, with fair Celtic skins most at risk. It usually appears in middle age and can cause inflammation of the eyes and a lumpy, misshapen nose.

WHAT CAUSES IT: We don't know exactly, although genetics are involved.

WHAT YOUR DOC CAN DO: Your GP can give gels and antibiotics, which work well to reduce inflammation.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Most sufferers have certain triggers - including caffeine and spicy foods. Dr Edmonds says: "Traditionally, it's been thought that alcohol could make it worse, but the jury's out on that." Aloe vera gel can be soothing - try Higher Nature The Ultimate Aloe Vera Skin Gel (pounds 9.20, from www.highernature.co.uk or call 01435 884668). Creams like Avene Anti-Redness Rich Moisturising Cream (pounds 12.50, 0845 117 0116), can reduce the appearance of redness. Some people find the Sher System water therapy programme helpful - visit www.sher.co.uk

PSORIASIS

WHAT IT IS:T

he immune system tells the skin to produce new cells too quickly. So you get a build-up of cells on the surface, leaving thick, silvery scales of skin. About 12 per cent of cases are linked with a debilitating type of arthritis. Psoriasis affects about two or three per cent of the population.

WHAT CAUSES IT: There's a genetic link in a third of cases. Other people develop it after a trauma to the skin.

WHAT YOUR DOC CAN DO:

Vitamin D and coal tar lotions help, while drugs are sometimes given in severe cases. One of the most helpful treatments is UV light therapy.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Although no direct link has been proven between psoriasis and diet, some studies suggest fish oils may help.

The Psoriasis Association: www.psoriasis- association.org.uk 0845 676 0076.

Shedding unsightly marks

HERE are some other distressing skin conditions and what you can do to alleviate them:

Thread veins - vitamin K cream can ease these dilated capillaries, try Jason Vitamin K Creme Plus (pounds 19.95) from health food stores.

Stretch marks - caused by weight gain and pregnancy, vitamin E oil can help to prevent faint marks getting worse. Or try new Rodial Stretch Mark Eraser, pounds 58 from www.rodial.co.uk - it's pricey but has been shown to help in 75 per cent of cases.

Dandruff - it's not caused by dryness, but is normally linked to a fungal overgrowth on the scalp, so ask your pharmacist for a medicated shampoo.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 6, 2005
Words:1069
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