Actors have skin findings that can be seen in movies and publicity photos. One of the more common are acne conditions. 

Zits are the Pitt's. What makes Jolie not Jolly?

International mega stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie tormented by acne? Comprehend that one of the most common conditions confronting those curing cutaneous complexities is comedones. Congested pores, that is. And one of the biggest misconceptions is that acne happens only to teenagers. The reality is that almost all adults experience some form of acne. These flares range from the rare deep cyst and closed pore to severe inflamed nodules. Acne lesions can be painful or itchy, and recurrent crops can be embarrassing and depressing. Fortunately, there are a multitude of treatments for acne.

Sometimes it helps just to know you are not alone. So look at your screen, Oh brave but pimply web surfer. Look upon the visages of two of the most glam stars on our tiny planet. Yes, realize, hearty denizen of the internet, that you have something in common with world renowned movie stars. Now go to your local dermatologist and get it treated. We all can't be Pitt or Jolie...

Certainly, teens are, per square inch of skin, more likely to have closed pores, white heads, black heads and cysts than those in their early twenties. Witness teen images of heartthrob actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The full gamut of acne lesions are noted. Beginning with closed pores and ending with markedly inflamed cysts, his is adolescent acne in bloom. We are sure there is some joke herein of Titanic proportions, but we are not going to go there.

Cinematic teen-dom is not alone. With the advent of overnight teen singing sensations such as pop divette Britney Spears, the music world also shows the commonality of teenage complexion problems. Despite heavy makeup and a winning smile, Spears' inflamed cysts draw our eyes. Like the traffic accident pulled to the side of the freeway of love, we cannot look away.



Yet acne in all its forms is very prevalent in adults as well. Note the comedones seen through the makeup of singer/ actress/ cultural icon Madonna. Brought on by stress, changing hormone levels and a family tendency, acne begins as superficial pores close. Despite ongoing urban mythology, diet does not seem to play a prominent role in causing acne. Deep to these closed pores, inflammation develops. This turns into pustules (white heads) or deep cysts. Pores that are partially open but plugged with material represent blackheads. This material, called keratin, has nothing to do with Madonna's song "Material Girl." Keratin can be drained or expressed, by skin doctors or facialists. This has nothing to do with Madonna's song "Express Yourself." Picking at one's own acne lesions can increase risk of scarring. 


Movie marvel Catherine Zeta-Jones...
...showed a crowded complexion in "Traffic."
Much like cinema star Jodie Foster...
...pimple-prone in "Panic Room"

For proof that hormonal balance has a huge impact on the skin clarity, just look at Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Traffic" and Jodie Foster in "Panic Room." Usually pimple-free, both actresses were pregnant during most of the principal filming. Pregnancy, representing the ultimate in hormone flux, often results in acne flares. Treatments are limited because of potential side effects for the fetus. Retin-A creams and the pill Accutane must be avoided. Fortunately, creams like azelex and the topical antibiotic erythromycin are generally agreed to not put the fetus at risk. Not being able to treat acne as a director shouts "Action?" It could make any star Panic.

Spider-man has acne. Uma's so ticked about hers that she want to "Kill Bill."

Are we in the midst of an acne epidemic? Much has been discussed about avian bird flu, ebola virus, lyme disease, and frequent french fry-philia. Yet when action heros like Spidey and Bill-Killin' Uma Thurman-ator are blemish-ridden, all hope against the crime of adult acne seems lost. There is no evidence that adult acne is more common now than in moviedom's earlier years, but there have been substantial changes in the world. And we don't mean increased environmental pollution, oxidants, or consumption of more fatty foods. None of those factors play much of a role with pimples. In the 21st century, women are less willing to wear thick makeup which was de rigueur to cover blemishes and small scars. With the advent of video, cameras are everywhere, so details are seen that were previously camouflaged. Makeup and lighting tricks devised to hide blemishes in movies don't work as well with digital technology like HDTV. So acne is certainly more visible than ever before. So the next time you wake with a face resembling a pepperoni special with extra cysts, consider that even the most heroic movie characters are acne ridden too. Sometimes even superstars need super treatments.

John Cusack and Tom Cruise's careers are breaking out (literally)


 Will he now be known as John Cus-acne?      Even control-freak Cruise can't control all his pores

Ah, the stresses of a movie star's life. Which disguise is most appropriate for a visit to the herbal masseuse? Which personal assistant to send to the grocery? In which 2000 square foot bed room to store the latest gold statuette? Dermatologists realize that where there's stress, there's acne. Whether it is a marked flare as seen with the thinking woman's leading man John Cusack. Or just the occasional inflamed nodule modeled here by the woman-with-a-pulse's leading dude, Tom Cruise. Stress disrupts the hormone balance, closes down pores, allowing bacteria to collect. In short, zit central. And it always occurs at the wrong time. Shooting the love scene with the gorgeous starlet du jour tomorrow? Presenting at the MTV movie trailer awards show the next day? "Access Hard Copy Tonight" paparazzo dead ahead? Get the producer on the cell phone to the dermatologist. This is not "Mission Impossible." Microdermabrasion, cold slush treatments, and injections of dilute cortisone will clear that face faster than you can say "Scientology rocks." Or your 20 million dollar movie pay check back.

© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.

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