Up to 50 million people in the United States suffer from acne. About 85% of young people, between the ages of 12-24, have at least one bout of mild acne. If your teen or tween has developed acne, you may wonder how to help them feel better about their skin and prevent flares, too.
Acne usually first appears in adolescence because puberty triggers the release of the hormone testosterone and other androgens. These hormones stimulate breast growth and menstruation in females and body hair and lower voices in males, as well as all of the other secondary sex characteristics.
Though your teen may be excited by the changes in their bodies, they’re probably not thrilled by the changes in their skin. Most teens feel self-conscious about acne.
At Academy Park Pediatrics, PC, our team diagnoses and treats acne at our Lakewood and Highlands Ranch, Colorado offices. You and your teen can take steps, too, to prevent their acne from flaring, worsening, or causing scars.
Teenage girls who are prone to acne flares may benefit from hormonal contraceptives that reduce the production of androgens, such as testosterone, that are involved in acne. Contraceptives help balance their hormones so their skin doesn’t produce as much sebum, and their follicles stay clear instead of becoming clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells.
Teenage boys with severe acne may benefit from an oral medication called Accutane®, which is a derivative of Vitamin A. However, Accutane may lead to severe side effects, so we evaluate your child carefully before prescribing it.
In certain cases, even teenage girls may benefit from Accutane. However, the medication can cause birth defects if your child becomes pregnant. Girls must be on hormonal birth control before taking Accutane.
Your teen should be encouraged to gently cleanse their face twice daily using non-comedogenic products that dissolve and rinse away dirt and excess oil. However, caution them against scrubbing with a washcloth or any other harsh methods, including granular scrubs. Harsh and rough cleansing can damage skin and lead to more problems.
Acne lesions develop in pores (i.e., hair follicles) that have become clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells. Therefore, encourage your teen to use products that help their skin cells shed instead of building up. Try topical treatments such as:
They may also benefit from regular skin treatments, such as masks or chemical peels, that help keep skin healthy and pores clear. Your teen should also keep their hands off their face as much as possible and avoid popping pimples. Both habits can worsen acne.
Another factor involved in acne is the proliferation of bacteria on the skin. Healthy skin hosts bacteria, too.
However, when you have acne, the clogs of oil and dead skin in the pores provide a feast for bacteria, so they begin to proliferate. Excess bacteria on the skin causes the inflammation in clogged pores that become pimples, papules, and cysts.
We may recommend topical medications that contain antibiotics that kill excess skin bacteria. Your child may also benefit from oral antibiotics.
If your teen has acne, they should use a non-comedogenic moisturizer to avoid dryness, irritation, and flaking skin. If they wear makeup, be sure that the ingredients are noncomedogenic.
Also ensure your teen doesn’t sleep in their makeup, which can clog pores. They should gently cleanse their face before bed and upon arising in the morning.
One of the mistakes teens and adults make when treating acne is applying medication to current lesions only. Because acne starts underneath the surface of the skin, in the pores, it’s important to treat your entire face by applying medications to healthy skin, too.
Acne medications, such as benzoyl peroxide and retinoids, help your follicles shed excess skin cells and keep them clear of sebum clogs. By using a thin layer of topical medication on skin that’s currently clear of lesions, you help prevent clogs that develop into acne lesions.