Where the truth in beauty lies

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 August, 2009, 12:00am

Myths about acne

Skin myths abound in a city as preoccupied with appearances as Hong Kong, so we have dug down to find the truth about some of the more common beliefs.

While some people believe tanning can clear up spots, there is no proof that the sun's ultraviolet rays prevent or cure acne, says cosmetic physician Eric Lam Pang. What's more, too much sun dries out the skin, causing irritation which can lead to further breakouts.

Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but when it comes to washing your skin, less is more: washing frequently does not reduce the occurrence of breakouts.

Mr Lam says while washing removes dirt and oil from the pores, excessive cleaning causes skin to become dry, and scrubbing irritates it.

Washing carefully twice a day is the ideal way to take care of your skin.

The topical treatments that many acne sufferers resort to, such as serums, often contain salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. These are drying agents and do not necessarily speed healing. In fact, over-application will cause skin to become too dry, which will lead to further irritation and more blemishes.

If over-the-counter drugs don't seem to be working, don't just apply more or more frequently, visit a dermatologist.

Myths about stretch marks

Stretch marks come hand in hand with puberty, says Mr Lam. They're those squiggly lines that appear when bodies undergo rapid growth or weight gain over a short period of time.

Stretch marks are most commonly found on girls, but guys may get them too. They usually appear on the chest, thighs, hips and bottoms. Overweight people are more prone to stretch marks, but body builders get them too because of the rapid change in muscle mass.

Although skin is quite elastic, too much stretching causes a disruption in the production of collagen, a protein that makes up connective skin tissues.

But while stretch marks may be bad news for your bathing suit, Mr Lam says the good news is they fade over time.

Some people use spray tans to cover up their stretch marks - this is a sort of 'body makeup' and can work quite well. But tanning under the sun or a tanning bed, as well as being dangerous, will probably make stretch marks show up even more, as the stretched skin is less likely to tan than the rest of the body.

There is a large range of products available which promise to erase stretch marks. But most are costly and ineffective.

The only proven instant solution is surgery, which is not recommended for still-growing teens.

If you do find stretch marks as you grow, just sit tight - they'll fade in no time.


A common condition in adolescence, trichotillomania is a psychological disorder which causes sufferers to pull out their hair.

Doctors believe it is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

People with this condition pull their hair out from the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes or the body. They might take handfuls at a time, or pluck at it strand by strand.

Many sufferers then place the hair in their mouths. Some people are completely aware of their actions while others don't even realise what they are doing.

Either way, like any habit, it isn't easy to stop.

According to the Trichotillomania Learning Centre, the condition is a compulsive behaviour where the person has an overwhelming urge to pull their hair out, sometimes as a result of depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Compulsive behaviours generally involve chemical imbalances in the brain and may be hereditary, but doctors still aren't certain what causes them.

Some experts have linked trichotillomania to the chemical activity in the brain that involves neurotransmitters.

When something interferes with the chemical messages sent through these neurotransmitters, it may cause repetitive behaviour.

To overcome the urge, sufferers undergo cognitive behavioural therapy and take medication.

The therapy usually involves identifying the places or people that trigger a person to start pulling their hair out.

Once these are identified, therapists can find ways to change or remove these triggers.