More than 85% of teenagers and young adults have this common skin problem — but there are ways to control it
By Barbara Pierce
If there’s one thing teens can count on, it’s acne. More than 85% of teenagers and young adults have this common skin problem, says the American Academy of Dermatology online.
Most young people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience at least a minor case of acne. Sadly, at the age when appearance becomes most important, acne begins.
For most teenagers, this very visible skin problem is upsetting. It can cause a teen’s self-esteem to plummet; kids who have acne can be bullied. Also, studies show that acne can lead to depression and/or anxiety. The longer one has acne, the more likely these problems are to occur.
In puberty, oil glands get stimulated when hormones become active — this is why it is common for teens. And, the tendency to develop acne is partly genetic.
If your teenager is troubled by acne, dermatologist Ramsay Farah of Farah Dermatology in Rome offers these tips to help manage teen acne:
Keep skin clean
The first line of defense against acne is a skin care routine. Gently wash your face up to twice daily and after sweating to remove dirt, oil and makeup. Use a gentle, nonabrasive cleanser. Apply it with your fingertips, as scrubbing with washcloths, sponges and other tools can irritate the skin.
In a cleanser, look for products that are labeled as noncomedogenic, which are formulated not to clog pores. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are both helpful ingredients as well; benzoyl peroxide is good for oily skin, but could irritate more sensitive skin. If you have more sensitive skin, look for salicylic acid.
Don’t over-wash or use harsh scrubs. Acne is not caused by dirt. Two gentle washings a day is enough. Too much cleaning can leave skin irritated and dry, triggering glands to produce more oil, increasing the likelihood of pimples.
Choose the right skin care products
Use gentle skin care products and ones that say “alcohol-free” on the label. Avoid products that can irritate your skin, including astringents, toners, and exfoliants. These products can dry your skin and make acne worse.
The oil from your hair can cause acne on your forehead. If you have oily hair, shampoo more often than you do now and keep your hair away from your face.
Stick to your treatment
Trying new acne treatments too often can irritate your skin and cause breakouts. Give your treatment time to work. It may take several weeks to few months before you see a difference. If the treatments are irritating, see a dermatologist and experts like Ethos MedSpa in Chesterfield, MO or Harvey Aesthetics & Wellness in Beckley, WV.
However, in one study, dermatologists found that when parents reminded their teens every day to use their acne medicine, the approach backfired. The teens said the daily reminders felt like “nagging.” This caused the teens to use their acne treatment less often. Fewer reminders from parents may be more effective.
Keep your hands off
Touching your face throughout the day can cause acne to flare. While it can be tempting to pick, pop or squeeze your acne, doing so will make the acne take longer to clear and increase your risk for scarring and dark spots called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. When this happens, you will need to get treatment such as this hyperpigmentation treatment in Hendersonville, TN.
Stay out of the sun and tanning beds
Along with increasing your risk for skin cancer, tanning damages your skin and can worsen acne. Some acne medications can also make your skin very sensitive to damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds.
Look for a sunscreen that says “noncomedogenic” or “won’t clog pores.” For more effective protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (or UPF) number on the label.
Over the counter medications that are reasonable to try include benzoyl peroxide.
If the acne hasn’t improved after three months, it’s time to visit a dermatologist. The first thing they’ll likely try is topical prescriptions. Over the counter medications can help; stronger versions of these products require a prescription.
If your teen sees a dermatologist, giving your teen time alone with the dermatologist can help everyone. It allows the dermatologist to find out want your teen wants and create a bond. This can be a lot harder to do when a parent is in the exam room.
Hormonal changes related to birth control pills, menstrual periods and pregnancy can trigger acne. Other external acne triggers include heavy face creams and cosmetics, hair dyes and greasy hair ointment — all of which can increase blockage of pores.
Clothing that rubs the skin may also worsen acne, especially on the back and chest. So can heavy sweating during exercise and hot, humid climates. Stress is known to trigger increased oil production, which is why many teens have a new crop of pimples on the first day of school or just before that big date.
Acne is a common and treatable condition. Support from friends, family and health care providers can play a critical role in helping teens feel confident and comfortable in their skin.