DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 17 years old. I have pimples all over my face. The only thing that helped was an antibiotic, but it made me sensitive to sunlight. My parents don’t want me to continue to use an antibiotic. Can you help? — G.G.
ANSWER: Let’s start with a couple of mistakes made by most people with acne. Don’t scrub your face or any place where acne has broken out. Scrubbing causes irritation and worsens acne. Use a mild soap like Dove when washing. Don’t squeeze pimples, whiteheads or blackheads. You force bacteria into adjacent skin.
Acne develops because of clogged pores through which hairs grow and through which sebaceous (oil) glands empty their oil onto the skin. The first signs of trouble are whiteheads or blackheads. They indicate that the pore is plugged. Deep in the pore, down from the blockage, the oil glands continue to secrete oil and greatly distend the pore, which can rupture. Bacteria thrive on the oil. At this point, a pimple is born. Acne control involves unplugging the pore, eliminating the bacteria and putting the brakes on oil production. The oil production is in high gear because of the increase of male hormones at this time in life.
Benzoyl peroxide unplugs pores. Brand names include Clearasil and AcneClear, both available without prescription, as are many other brands.
From this point on, effective medicines require a prescription. The first choice is retinoids — Renova cream and Retin-A. They’re often used on alternating days with benzoyl peroxide. The next step up is antibiotics. In creams and lotions, they aren’t absorbed very much. Clindamycin and erythromycin are two such products. If no progress comes from skin-applied antibiotics, then oral antibiotics are the next step. Tetracycline, doxycycline and minocycline are examples. Your parents should reconsider their ban on their use. Even if they sensitize you to sunlight, simply stay out of sunlight when using them. They worked for you.
I haven’t listed all acne medicines. Bad acne, like yours, calls for treatment by the family doctor or a dermatologist.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am writing on behalf of several neighbors who have started soaking golden raisins in gin. Each of them takes nine such raisins a day. They claim this was a method shown on television to remedy arthritis. Have you ever heard of this? Our curiosity is getting the best of us. — E.G.
ANSWER: I have heard this many times. No one has proven it works. No reliable information suggests it might work. I don’t believe it’s a legitimate arthritis treatment.
However, if you like gin and like raisins, then the practice is OK, so long as you don’t go overboard on taking in too much alcohol.
The booklet on arthritis describes the different kinds of arthritis and their treatments. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 301W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./ $6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.