Book Review: Breaking Out: A Woman’s Guide to Coping with Acne at Any Age, Lydia Preston (2004)

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Comprehensive Guide to Acne Treatments

five out of five stars

As a teenager, I was plagued with the occasional flaming red pimple. Although my skin was usually clear, I didn’t fully appreciate this until my mid-20s, when – to my surprise – I started to have more frequent and severe flare-ups. Like many people, I assumed that acne was a “teenager’s problem,” so I was both puzzled and frustrated when my acne only worsened with age – despite the inordinate amount of time I devoted to skin care.

Over the previous six months, the situation has become intolerable. Now approaching 30, the periods of flare-ups far outnumber clear days. Objectively, I know that I don’t have it “that bad,” but it’s bothersome nonetheless. I decided to take action and map out a plan of over-the-counter treatments before turning to a dermatologist for help (a last step for me, since, in my experience, dermatologists seem to overcharge and under-deliver!). At first, I tried to locate advice on the Internet. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a site with comprehensive and consistent information; for example, home remedies ran the gamut, from lemon peels to shaving cream to tumeric. There are literally as many “folk remedies” as there are acne sufferers!

Rather than try to sort through this information overload, I instead turned to my local library. The most recent book on acne treatments they owned was “Breaking Out,” so I checked it out right away.

I have to say, I think I hit the jackpot the first time around! “Breaking Out” is a comprehensive guide to acne treatments. Preston covers all the bases; she discusses acne myths and truths; OTC treatments that work (as well as those that don’t); various prescription remedies; and even more drastic therapies, such as Accutane and hormones. A longtime acne sufferer herself, she’s definitely done her research – and she also addresses her audience with empathy. She features interviews with a number of prominent researchers in the field, but the discussion is never dry or boring. Rather, she manages to break down the science behind acne causes and treatments so that it’s easily comprehensible to laypeople.

After reading “Breaking Out,” I drew up a plan to deal with my acne: a facial wash containing 2% salicylic acid (twice a day), together with a 10% benzoyl peroxide cream (again, twice a day), and an oil-free moisturizer with sunblock (as needed). When I went to my local grocery store, book in hand, I was able to tackle the five mini-aisles of cosmetics with ease: I knew exactly what I wanted, and what products/ingredients I should avoid. Although it’s only been a few weeks, it already seems like I’m getting fewer pimples (though I suppose it could just be my imagination!). Best yet, I feel confident, empowered to solve the problem, as opposed to sitting back and passively accepting the advice of clueless dermatologists.

Even though the guide is directed at women, men might find it helpful as well – particularly the chapters on various treatment options. I’d also recommend the book to men whose partners are afflicted with acne. Preston addresses the emotional aspects of acne, and her advice to women might help men understand how acne affects the emotional health and well-being of their partners.

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)