Acne and eczema aren't just beauty dilemmas--they may
actually be your skin's way of sending out an SOS that an illness is lurking in
your body. By Karina Giglio, Women's Health Beauty is more than skin deep, and
we're not just talking about having a congenial personality. "Our skin can
reflect what's going on inside our body," says dermatologist Anne Chapas,
M.D., of Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City. "As part of the
immune system, the skin defends against environmental factors. But when your
body is fighting an ailment, it can get overwhelmed and things like acne and
redness can show up." Here, how to read the signs in the mirror.
There's a reason many women have breakouts on their chin
right before their period: That part of the face is particularly sensitive to
rises in progesterone and testosterone. Many women simply experience mild acne,
but if your breakouts tend to be more severe or painful and are no match for
OTC treatments, it's time to see your ob-gyn.
"Deep, cystic acne on the chin or along the jaw line
can be a sign of underlying polycystic ovary syndrome [PCOS] and other types of
hormonal abnormalities," says Chapas. Left untreated, the condition can
increase your risk for diabetes and infertility.
Get healthy: For certain patients, going on birth control
pills is an effective way to balance hormone levels and clear up skin. (The
pill is also very effective for treating symptoms of PCOS.) If you prefer a
nonhormonal option, ask your M.D. about spironolactone, a prescription med that
blocks testosterone receptors, thus preventing the skin's oil glands from going
into overdrive in some patients. Skipping dessert can help too, since extra
insulin stimulates the hormone production linked to breakouts. "Some
studies show that eliminating processed sugars and sticking to whole grains,
fruits, and vegetables may also mitigate the hormonal stimuli that can lead to
acne," adds Chapas.
Look better now: Chapas recommends using a product that
contains salicylic acid and sulfur. Try Murad Acne Spot Treatment ($18, murad
.com). Dab it onto the pimple and surrounding area so the salicylic acid can
open and clear the pore; sulfur calms the inflammation. In the meantime, cover
up with a matte cream-to-powder concealer, which stays put even as your chin
moves when you talk, eat, or laugh. "Apply with a tiny brush to get each
pimple," recommends makeup artist Emily Kate Warren.