Cocoa Cure: The Truth About Your Acne & How To Control It

pretty african american woman putting moisturizer on her skin

Do you suffer from adult acne? BlackDoctor.org sat down with one of the nation’s leading dermatologists to give us the lowdown on acne. Dr. Jennell Nelson, founder of Nelson Dermatology, provides some helpful information on what acne is, why Black people are predisposed to it and how to best control and cure it.

Dr. Nelson is a board certified fellow of the America Academy of Dermatology with special interests in scarring and ethnic skin disorders. She’s been serving the North Virginia community for over 10 years as a clinical dermatologist and skin surgeon, and she also sees Virginia-based patients online at www.DermatologistOnCall.com. Dr. Nelson’s leadership in the field of dermatology has landed her in numerous publications and high ranking amongst the top physicians in America.

She sets the record straight for all those who think only hormonal teens are affected by acne. Grab a pen and paper and get ready to learn something new.

What is acne?

Dr. Nelson: Acne is a skin condition in which pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and sometimes boils appear on the face and less often, the neck, arms, chest or back.  It is caused by overactivity of oil (sebaceous) glands in these areas.  This is due to hormones that are released in the body at the onset of puberty.  In skin of color, acne lesions lead to hyperpigmentation.  It is important to treat acne to maintain a clear skin tone.

Blackheads are caused by plugged pores and turn black due to a reaction between oil in the pores and the air.  Bacteria on the skin can cause further redness and irritation of acne. Two of every three teens suffer from some degree of acne, from the onset of puberty until adulthood. Although it is most common in adolescents, it may commonly also occur in adults.  Acne is not contagious, and it is not caused by diet, poor hygiene, or sexual thoughts or activity.  Your risk of developing acne is higher if you have a family history of acne.

What products or medications cause acne?

Dr. Nelson: Acne can be made worse with the use of some medications including certain birth control pills and testosterone (both hormones); by using certain types of makeup, hair products, soaps and cleansers that irritate the skin; by abrasive or harsh scrubbing; by popping or pinching pimples and blackheads (this forces the oils into the surrounding skin); stress; and for some women, their menstrual cycle.

Prescription medications known to promote acne development include progesterone-based birth control like the Depo-Provera shot or Mirena IUD, topical or oral corticosteroids, lithium, some antiepileptics, and iodides.

An old favorite product, original Noxema, is known to worsen acne.  It contains linum usitatissiumum seed oil (linseed) and glycine soja oil (soybean) which are known to promote the clogged pore that can lead to acne.