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Breaking Out: A Woman's Guide to Coping with Acne at Any Age Paperback – July 6, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Lydia Preston, a former staff-editor at Time-Life Books, has written about skin conditions for Self and Ladies Home Journal. Her consumer and health articles have appeared in Money magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, and National Geographic Traveler. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


by Tina Alster, M.D.

Acne is an elusive and resourceful foe. It is stubborn, with a remarkable ability to shrug off the most aggressive medical treatments. It is unpredictable, adept at appearing or disappearing without rhyme or reason. And it is malicious, capable of inflicting terrible damage in the form of physical scars that disfigure the face and emotional wounds that lacerate the psyche.

Most of the women who come to my office with acne or acne scarring have spent years battling this tenacious adversary. They are fed up with embarrassing breakouts and with remedies that haven't worked for them. Many are devastated by the facial scarring that confronts them each time they look into a mirror or catch sight of their reflection in a store window. And they all are sick and tired of waiting for it to just go away. Even though adult acne is a common phenomenon, with as many as half of all women experiencing at least occasional flare-ups, most of my female acne patients can scarcely believe that they are still breaking out in their twenties and thirties, let alone their forties and fifties!

A few years ago, writer Lydia Preston was one of these patients -- frustrated by years of fighting acne, and desperately unhappy about the scars on her face. These were experiences that she soon drew on when, after undergoing several surgical procedures to repair the scars, she collaborated with me on a book about my specialty, cosmetic laser surgery. I can safely say I have never met a journalist or researcher who became more thoroughly immersed in any subject.

Lydia spent hours watching me and the other dermatologists in my office at work -- and then spent many more hours grilling each of us about what she had observed. She interviewed my nurses and aestheticians -- and even my office manager. She pored over medical journals and textbooks. She attended dermatology meetings to hear other specialists lecture. And she sat down for long, heart-to-heart conversations with dozens of my patients -- many of them other acne sufferers -- gaining the kind of insight into their emotional and practical concerns that busy physicians rarely have the time to explore.

It is clear that she has brought the same dedication and passion for detail to this book about acne in women. As any dermatologist will instantly recognize from the names cited in the text, she has interviewed many of the world's leading acne experts -- true giants of dermatology, whose research constitutes the foundation for modern acne treatment. She has similarly sought out renowned authorities on acne scarring and scar treatment, on cosmetics and cosmetic chemistry, on alternative therapies, and on the psychological ramifications of skin disease.

The result is a uniquely comprehensive examination of the myriad complexities of acne and the confusing welter of treatment options. The book's exceptionally clear explanations of how acne occurs and how different remedies work or don't work to eliminate acne should come as a revelation to anyone frustrated by years of persistent treatment failure. It will certainly be a source of reassurance and wisdom to which any woman can turn with confidence at any time when an acne outbreak occurs -- whether she is exasperated by periodic flares or heartsick over disfiguring cysts or scars.

How do you sort through the hundreds of competing over-the-counter acne preparations that now crowd drugstore, supermarket, and department store shelves to zero in on the handful that are likely to be most effective for you? How do you avoid things that make acne worse? How can you work with a dermatologist to get the most out of prescription acne medicines? Treatments frequently fail simply because patients are not fully informed about how to use them correctly. What can you do to ensure that your medicines will work as they are supposed to? How will you cope with any side effects that may occur? And what steps do you take if your condition changes, as acne-prone skin inevitably does with age, or the hormonal shifts of pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, or any of a dozen other reasons?

What about acne scarring? Even very mild or occasional breakouts have the potential to leave permanent scars, and despite numerous exciting innovations in dermatologic surgery, these mutilating rents in the fabric of the skin remain among the most daunting challenges that face any cosmetic surgeon. In many instances, the most effective techniques are also the riskiest ones. How do you weigh the relative risks and benefits? How do you find a qualified practitioner who will employ the best and safest methods for your skin type -- and for the types of scars you have?

Finally, how do you heal the inner scars of acne? Countless studies testify to its damaging emotional impact. How does any woman get past those feelings to get over acne once and for all and move on with her life?

Breaking Out addresses those questions, and many more, with information drawn from Lydia's own experience with acne and the toll it takes, her years of reporting on dermatology, and her sympathetic exploration into other patients' concerns. I know it will be invaluable to all of my acne patients, and I look forward to recommending it to them.

Dr. Tina Alster, clinical professor of dermatology at Georgetown University, is director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery and consulting dermatologist for Lancôme, luxury products division of L'Oréal USA, Inc.

Copyright © 2004 by Lydia Preston

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Original ed. edition (July 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743236238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743236232
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,516,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have had cystic acne since I was a teen. I'm now 42 and there are no signs of it going away. I see a dermatologist regularly. I have tried literally hundreds of skincare products.

I purchased this book, read it cover to cover, and changed my skincare routine in response. I am using products I already had - a mix of OTC and prescription items - I just didn't have a good plan for using them.

To my amazement, I have now gone six weeks without a cyst. This may be the longest cyst-free period in my adult life.

Lydia Preston, you are my hero.

UPDATE: Three months, no cysts. I could seriously cry!
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Format: Paperback
As a newspaper reporter who covers health and fitness, and someone who's had acne-prone skin for 20 years, I'm impressed with this book. Preston did a lot of research and covers all the bases. It's clearly and concisely written, with a lot of little tidbits of information that help us to make informed decisions about our skin care. For example, many of the benzoyl peroxide products on drugstore shelves are 10 percent strength -- but for most of us, 2.5 percent or 5 percent gives the same acne-fighting benefits without all the dryness and redness and irritation. There's a great appendix in back detailing what products contain which ingredients. Preston has suffered from acne herself, and her writing reflects that. I was left with the impression that she knows exactly how you feel -- which is very comforting. A very helpful and reassuring book.
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Format: Paperback
I felt supported when I read this book. Everyone close to me in my life has always said that they don't see my pimples or skin my problem. When I press on and tell them I like to hear the truth of the matter, they go on to say, "so what you got acne - it shouldn't keep you from being happy."

And then the reality of how people feel comes out. People without acne see a person with acne as being lazy with ill-hygiene and an unwilliness to be socially confident. People without acne don't empathize with us. They don't understand that it is a handicap we carry and did not ask for or do anything to get.

If you have acne you know it's a big deal. And this book gets that. The first part of the book is healing to say the least. The second part of the book explains all the medications and the best way to take them. In fact, I used the right stuff once - but I used it the wrong way. Then, for the past 8 years I have tried countless fad ways to change. From going on and sticking with low-sugar diets like "the acne diet" to light therapy to strong medications from the dermatologist. Nothing ever kept me on a straight line.

The author points out that if you get acne as an adult it runs a course of about 20 years and if you don't take notice then you will go along a path that destroys your skin and become possibly disfigured.

I have hope after reading this book. There isn't a cure, but there is a way to use medications from the drugstore or from your doctor that really will keep your face in check. Like a diet - it's not a one time fix. You got about 20 years of staying on the plan, so it's a daily use plan.
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Format: Paperback
Much like the author I've battled moderate acne for many years now and out of my own frustration I've done a lot of online research myself. This book does have a lot of info in it, but if you're like me and aren't a "newby" with acne, you might find this book repetitive. There were a few things that I learned and found helpful however the other reviews of this book led me to believe that there was some magical information in here that would give me the power to clear my acne.
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