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Point, Shoot, Combat Acne

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This column features weekly tips and advice from a revolving cast of industry leaders, on hand to discuss your beauty dilemmas, from blemishes to Botox. To submit a question, e-mail celia_ellenberg@condenast.com.


I’ve never had particularly reactive skin but have been experiencing both face and body breakouts as of late. I’ve also recently started developing my own film and am wondering if those chemicals could be attributing to the breakouts. Please advise.

Stealth exposure to chemicals is a common cause of new breakouts. Chromates from developing photographic film are a classic culprit. It’s called aerosolized allergic contact dermatitis. The chemical is in the air and when it hits your skin, it sets up an immune reaction in your skin. It often takes multiple exposures over weeks to develop the rash. Contact dermatitis can be red, bumpy, itchy, dry, and scaly. It can become super-infected with bacteria and other infectious elements. Sometimes it isn’t as obvious as it might seem. It could be the cleaning agents you have started using in the darkroom or a new fragrance totally unrelated to your photography work. Sometimes it is just acne, triggered by stress or a new local environment. Or if you started a new medication and walked in the sunshine, you could have a photosensitivity reaction. Nickel, the metal used in jewelry, belt buckles, and snaps, can also be a culprit; people who have had their ears pierced have a significantly higher incidence of contact dermatitis even years later! The good news is you can identify the cause with a patch test by your dermatologist. And don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt.


Ellen Marmur, M.D., is the Chief of Dermatologic and Cosmetic Surgery at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. A skin cancer survivor herself, Marmur specializes in skin cancer surgery, cosmetic surgery, and women’s health dermatology. She recently published Simple Skin Beauty, a book that focuses on how to maintain the health and beauty of your skin at every stage of life.

Photo: Getty Images

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