“Why am I getting gray hair and acne!?!” Musings of a NYC dermatologist

board-certified dermatologist

Dina D. Strachan, M.D. board-certified dermatologist director, Aglow Dermatology

Acne vulgaris is arguably the most common disease seen by dermatologists in the United States.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not just a disease of teens.  Yes, the majority of teens experience acne at sometime but acne affects a number of adults—mostly women.  Until around age 44 year 12% of women and 3% of men will battle acne.  Despite the tendency in our culture to chase the trappings of youth acne is one of those things most of us would gladly leave behind.

Although it is not itself life-threatening, acne can cause permanent disfigurement (scarring), and has been shown in a number of scientific studies to be associated with psychosocial problems such as depression, anxiety, shame, social inhibition and even suicidal thoughts.  People with acne have been shown to suffer more psychological burden than people with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and epilepsy.  Acne in women may also be a sign of an underlying hormonal problem, particularly if it is associated with irregular menstrual periods, obesity, hair loss (on the scalp) and excess hair (on the face and body).

The good news is that there are a number of excellent treatments for acne and many of the psychological stresses also respond to treatment.  Another upside—many of the treatments for acne, such as topical retinoids (e.g. Retin A, Ziana, Differin, Tazorac, Epiduo, Atralin, tretinoin, etc), azeleic acid (e.g. Azelex and Finacea), and chemical peels have anti-aging effects on the skin – a side effect most people don’t mind.  Another reason for the adult to treat acne–acne is associated with inflammation, which is believed to accelerate the aging process.

There is always a bright side.  So having acne, depending on if, and what you treat it with, may, in fact, result in younger-looking skin.  You’ll have to talk to your hair dresser, however, about the gray hair.

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Posted in: Cosmetic Dermatology, General Dermatology