A big, angry zit or patch of scaly skin may make you want to hide underneath concealer and an oversized sweater until it’s safe to come out, but stars have to step into the high definition spotlight instead. Here are celebrities who have gone on record about their skin problems, along with expert advice on how to seek relief if you relate all too well.
In her glossy coffee table read, “The Body Book,” actress Cameron Diaz recounts dealing with painful cystic acne throughout her teenage and twenty-something years. She attributes the relentless breakouts to a junky diet filled with sugary processed foods and dairy. “If you are what you eat, I was a bean burrito with extra cheese and extra sauce,” she quips in the book and claims her skin cleared up after she began eating healthier, clean foods.
2If you have cystic acne…
“For years, the relationship between diet and acne has been controversial,” says New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco, M.D. “But there is no doubt in my mind that there is a connection between what we eat and the condition of our skin; it’s just very challenging to prove.” Studies have so far suggested that refined carbs, dairy and high sugar may cause breakouts for some. Keeping a food diary may help you recognize patterns if you suspect diet may cause your acne.
From her days as the first African American Miss America and throughout a successful Hollywood career, Vanessa Williams says she has battled adult acne. The breakouts were so severe and stubborn, she says she even took the controversial prescription Accutane—which is often reserved for the most severe cases. Now flaunting seemingly flawless skin, the 50-year-old mom of four has since been a spokesmodel for Proactiv and has recently launched her own line of anti-aging skincare, Revitalistic Skincare.
4If you have adult acne…
A study from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology estimates that over 50 percent of adult women suffer from acne, with oral contraceptives, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause factoring in as major causes. “Skin generally becomes drier as we age, so harsh ingredients found in most acne medications are far too aggressive,” says Dr. Fusco. Instead, she recommends using a salicylic acid-based cleanser for treatment that doesn’t irritate, choosing only oil-free, non-comedogenic products, and changing your pillowcase frequently to prevent bacteria buildup.
As celebrity spokesmodel for the National Rosacea Society, Cynthia Nixon is not only vocal about her common condition that affects 16 million other Americans, but wants to help others realize that they don’t have to live with a permanent flush that 76 percent of sufferers say makes them feel self-conscious. “Up until five years ago, I had no idea why my skin would get so red…I thought it was just because of my fair complexion. The problem was, it never really went away,” she says.
6If you have rosacea…
If you think you have rosacea, it’s best to see a derm for a personalized treatment plan. Nixon worked with a dermatologist to identify several triggers that exacerbated the red rosacea in her face, like sun exposure, spicy foods and red wine. Diagnosed with a milder form known as subtype 1 rosacea, Nixon follows a treatment protocol of oral medication and sensitive skincare products to keep her condition in check. Other solutions include natural remedies like whole milk compresses and adding omega-3 fatty acid foods to the diet to ease inflammation, as well as prescription antibiotic solutions, sulfur preparations and laser treatments at the doctor’s office.
In an episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” Kim Kardashian high tails it to dermatologist Harold Lancer, M.D., after finding large flaky patches of red skin on her legs. Dr. Lancer suggests that stress may have brought on the autoimmune disease known as psoriasis that also affects 7.5 million other Americans—but that is of little comfort to Kardashian. “People don’t understand the pressure on me to look perfect…imagine what the tabloids would do to me if they saw all these spots?” she laments to the camera.
8If you have psoriasis…
Psoriasis is triggered when the immune system falsely sends out signals to rapidly increase skin cell growth rates, which results in the thickened, red-and-white patches that doctors refer to as “plaque.” These itchy patches can show up anywhere on the body, though they’re most common on elbows, knees and the scalp. Genetics often factor in: Kardashian’s mom, Kris Jenner, has also had psoriasis since age 30. Treatment options vary from topical steroids to vitamin D creams and injections to phototherapy, and are best assessed by a board-certified dermatologist.
Tamar Braxton, the younger sister of R&B songstress Toni Braxton, has gained recognition on the We TV’s “Braxton Family Values” reality series, and so too has the evolution of her skin color. Critics have recently contended that the singer has been lightening her skin with bleach, and Braxton responded by announcing she has vitiligo—the same complexion-color-changing condition that Michael Jackson most famously said he had, and which also affects 1 to 2 million other Americans.
10If you have vitiligo…
Experts suspect vitiligo is an autoimmune disease in which your system breaks down melanocytes in skin, leaving behind white patches. “Vitiligo is very difficult to treat. Excimer laser may work in some cases, and topical products like protopic ointment 0.1 percent may work as an immune stimulator,” says YouBeauty Dermatology Expert Jeanine B. Downie, M.D. Other options include oral medication, removing color from surrounding skin so that it matches the patches, or adding pigment with tattooing. Full coverage makeup like Dermablend can temporarily mask the difference in skintone.
While in her 30s, actress Michelle Monaghan says husband Peter White saved her life by detecting her skin cancer before it was too late. A mole had grown on the back of her leg that looked suspicious to White, and he urged his wife to check it out with a doctor. It turned out to be cancer, and Monaghan had surgery to remove the cells, which involved taking what she called “quite the chunk” out of her calf.
12If you are at risk for skin cancer… (which everyone is!)
“It’s time for everyone to take skin cancer seriously—each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers,” says Dr. Downie. Fortunately, even the most fatal melanoma type of skin cancer is 99 percent treatable if caught early, though that figure drops to just a 15 percent survival rate if the tumor advances past skin. Annual skin checks at the dermatologist are recommended for everyone, and those with a history of skin cancer lesions should make the trip twice a year.
About nine out of 10 people with the itchy, red condition known as eczema experience symptoms before the age of five—and country singer LeAnn Rimes was no exception. Diagnosed with the disorder at just two years of age, Rimes found the symptoms formative as she grew up. “Eczema had a profound impact on me throughout my childhood and teen years, and I’ve never felt comfortable discussing my condition before,” she said while launching a national awareness campaign.
14If you have eczema
“When one has eczema, there’s an alternation in the skin that allows essential water to escape, allowing pollen, dust mites and bacteria to enter,” explains California dermatologist Neal Bhatia, M.D. The dry patches then feel itchy, leading to scratching that can compound the problem by creating fissures in skin. Preventative measures include keeping skin moisturized with fragrance-free products, wearing gloves when washing dishes to prevent dryness, and using steroid lotions as well as light therapy at the dermatologist’s office for more advanced cases. Get the lowdown on how to fully treat eczema here.