By Richard P. Holm, MD
Some say that humans are the only animals that are able to achieve self-consciousness, and one can argue that great social good and bad has resulted from this human self-awareness. However, for the individual, there are several reasons why it can be very harmful to spend too much time looking into a mirror, and the obvious one is called acne.
Think about the overwhelming self-consciousness you experienced as a teenager while hormones were raging at the same time that acne was blossoming all over your face. Can you remember looking into a mirror before that first date, seeing a rosy red bump growing right on the tip of your nose, and then making it so much worse by squeezing it? I can.
Something like 89% of all adolescents grow up with acne problems and frequently it continues into adulthood. It is interesting to note that typical acne in youth is appropriately named acne vulgaris, and the version of such a chronic facial skin infection in adults is given the nicer name acne rosacea. I think the heaviest toll from acne by far is psychological, and all the consequences of reduced self-esteem. What could be more important to any young individual than to develop a healthy sense of self worth?
It appears the treatment for acne vulgaris and rosacea is pretty much the same. There are anti-infectious lotions, creams, and pills that can help, and I prescribe them when necessary. Primary care providers can handle most of it, and a referral to a dermatologist occasionally is needed. I especially like Vitamin A cream called tretinoin, which has the fortunate side effect in adults of decreasing wrinkles. I think more important, however, is that one should learn to prevent drying out the natural oils and harming the normal flora of the skin with too much washing and the overuse of soap. Certainly much of the scarring, which can follow acne is a consequence of picking, so that should also be avoided.
If you think about it, most of the problems related to acne are a consequence of excessive looking into a mirror. That should be a lesson to us all.