For most teens, acne is just a fact of life. The key to minimizing its impact is to understand its causes, thereby helping you prevent and treat future outbreaks.
Dr. Raegan Hunt, pediatric dermatologist at Texas Children’s Hospital
Let’s face it: pimples can be painful and embarrassing!
The first thing to remember is that you are not alone. Acne affects nearly all teens. Studies show that 80 to 95 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 18 years old suffer from acne. In fact, for some individuals, acne can start even earlier, between the ages of 8 and 11.
The good news is that there are many helpful treatments for acne, so teens don’t have to let acne take control of their lives. I believe that if teens and young people are armed with knowledge about acne and they take control of it, they can feel great in their own skin!
Acne is caused by several factors. As hormones change with puberty, oil production increases from glands on the face, chest and back. The excess oil combines with naturally shedding skin cells and can clog pores, forming whiteheads and blackheads. The oil also provides “food” for acne-causing bacteria that live on the skin surface (p. acnes). When these bacteria become trapped in a pore by a skin-oil plug, they multiply inside the pore and create a red, swollen pimple.
Acne is not caused by dirt on the skin, so excess scrubbing will not help. In fact, too much scrubbing may irritate acne and make it look worse. Popping or picking at pimples also makes acne worse because it squishes the materials trapped in the pore into the surrounding skin where it causes more redness and swelling. Even more importantly, popping and picking at pimples may result in scars that last forever. Popping a zit tempts most people, but it’s not worth it! Get help from your doctor and let pimples heal with proper treatment and time.
To help keep skin healthy, everyone should wash their face in the morning and before bedtime with a gentle cleanser and apply a sunscreen to their face in the morning (UVA/UVB, SPF 30 or higher). If you sweat during sports or dance practice, wash your face shortly afterwards. Try not to touch your face or prop your head against your hand during the day. When using oily or greasy hair products, be careful that they don’t get on your forehead because they can clog pores. Make sure all of the skin moisturizers, sunscreens and makeup products you use are labeled as “oil-free,” “acne free” or “non-comedogenic.”
If you have a few whiteheads, blackheads or pimples, try an over the counter acne wash that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide once daily. Check the back of the bottle for one of these “active ingredients.” If you don’t notice improvement within two months, if the washes are too irritating to your skin, or if your acne is painful or leaving scars, talk to your doctor right away because you may need stronger medicine, and he or she can help design a plan that’s best for your acne.