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Gold dust that beats pills for adult acne

- By LIBBY GALVIN Health · Skin Conditions · Medications · Medicine · Therapy · Medical Treatments · Health Conditions · Pharmacology · Kate Hudson · Stella McCartney · Royal Free Hospital · British Skin Foundation

Gold dust skin ther­apy sounds like the kind of gim­micky, glit­tery face masks favoured by celebritie­s such as Kate Hud­son and Stella McCart­ney. But now der­ma­tol­o­gists are us­ing gold par­ti­cles — to­gether with a laser — to treat adult acne, and be­lieve it has the po­ten­tial to re­place harsh drugs.

Tiny grains of sil­ica wrapped in gold are mas­saged into the pores and travel down to the oil glands, where they are heated by a laser passed over the skin. The heat ab­sorbed by the par­ti­cles cre­ates a con­trolled burn, over time shrink­ing the oil glands.

As many as 80 per cent of peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence acne at some point, ac­cord­ing to the NHS — char­ac­terised by un­sightly and of­ten painful spots on the face, back or chest.

More than 5 per cent of women and 1 per cent of men over the age of 25 have on­go­ing prob­lems with it. out­breaks are caused by oil block­ages in the pores com­bined with in­fec­tion by the

Cutibac­terium ac­nes bac­terium. ‘The first line of treat­ment for mild to mod­er­ate acne is top­i­cal oint­ments such as ben­zoyl per­ox­ide or retinoids, which have min­i­mal or man­age­able side- ef­fects such as red­ness or flak­ing,’ says dr Ai-lean Chew, a con­sul­tant der­ma­tol­o­gist at King’s Col­lege Hos­pi­tal NHS Foun­da­tion Trust.

‘For more se­ri­ous acne, or if the top­i­cal gels fail, the next step would be an­tibi­otics, or for women, hor­monal drugs such as the con­tra­cep­tive pill. By the time pa­tients come to me, they’ve usu­ally tried all this so the next step might be isotretino­in.’

An­tibi­otics kill the bac­te­ria that cause spots, while isotretino­in — bet­ter known as Roac­cu­tane — at­tacks the oil glands, re­duc­ing oil pro­duc­tion. Although these medicines can be ef­fec­tive, both come with well-pub­li­cised down­sides.

long- term an­tibi­otic use con­trib­utes to an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance. Roac­cu­tane, the ‘last re­sort’ in the battle against acne, re­quires pa­tients to have fre­quent blood tests to check for liver dam­age, and women pre­scribed the med­i­ca­tion must use two forms of con­tra­cep­tion be­cause it can cause se­ri­ous birth de­fects.

As Good Health re­ported last week, it can also — in rare cases — cause life-chang­ing prob­lems with im­po­tence, and is linked to a raised risk of de­pres­sion. The ef­fect of the novel gold and laser treat­ment, called Se­ba­cia, is sim­i­lar to Roac­cu­tane; it shrinks the oil glands, where acne be­gins, but un­like drugs which have an ef­fect through­out the body, Se­ba­cia works only on the oil glands where it is ap­plied. It in­volves three treat­ments given one week apart, though it can take six months to a year to see the full ef­fects.

‘You have to wait for these glands to shrivel up prop­erly and die off, and you may have slightly un­sta­ble mo­ments dur­ing that time where they try and re­cover and you’ll have a lit­tle blip in your spots,’ ex­plains dr Saqib Bashir, a con­sul­tant der­ma­to­log­i­cal sur­geon at King’s Col­lege Hos­pi­tal and Skin55 on Har­ley Street, one of the clin­ics of­fer­ing the ther­apy.

A study con­ducted at nine pri­vate prac­tices in Europe and pre­sented at the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for der­ma­to­logic Surgery con­fer­ence in oc­to­ber showed a 79 per cent im­prove­ment six months af­ter treat­ment.

‘Gold is used be­cause it is an in­ert sub­stance,’ ex­plains dr Chew, who of­fers the treat­ment to her pri­vate pa­tients at Skin55. ‘It can de­liver the pig­ment to the skin with­out caus­ing harm.’

‘First, a liq­uid con­tain­ing gold mi­cropar­ti­cles is painted on the face and mas­saged in,’ ex­plains dr Bashir. ‘The mi­cropar­ti­cle, which is ac­tu­ally black in colour, is tiny enough to glide down the pore into the oil or se­ba­ceous gland at the bot­tom of it. Then we use a laser to “zap” all over the face.

‘The pig­ment of the par­ti­cle acts as a tar­get for the laser. When hit by the laser, the gold heats up, ad­min­is­ter­ing a con­trolled burn and ef­fec­tively cau­ter­is­ing the oil gland so it shriv­els up and can’t make oil any more.’

laser treat­ment for acne is not new. ‘When you use a laser to treat acne nor­mally, with­out the gold par­ti­cles, what they are do­ing is killing bac­te­ria,’ ex­plains dr Bashir. ‘But they don’t al­ter the oil gland it­self.’

Stephanie, 32, has acne and tried the new treat­ment sev­eral months ago. She is so em­bar­rassed by her blem­ished skin that she was re­luc­tant to re­veal her full name. SHE

de­vel­oped acne in her teens and was pre­scribed the con­tra­cep­tive pill at 15 years old. ‘ That got it un­der con­trol un­til now,’ she says. ‘I came off the Pill to try for a baby but as soon as I had my first pe­riod, my face flared up and hasn’t gone down since.’

Stephanie was treated with Se­ba­cia five months ago and is wait­ing to see if it has helped. ‘At least it is another op­tion,’ she says.

dr Adil Sheraz, a con­sul­tant der­ma­tol­o­gist at The Royal Free Hos­pi­tal in lon­don, and spokesman for the Bri­tish Skin Foun­da­tion, says Se­ba­cia may be a good op­tion for those who can­not tol­er­ate other treat­ments.

He says: ‘An im­por­tant as­pect of acne is ex­ces­sive oil pro­duc­tion from the se­ba­ceous gland.

‘ Se­ba­cia treat­ment aims to tar­get this gland and re­duce the oil pro­duc­tion. The the­ory here seems quite sound and the tri­als to date seem promis­ing. Any new safe treat­ment for acne, which can be a very stub­born con­di­tion to treat, should be wel­comed.’

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