Adolescence is tough enough with teens having to navigate their new world of changing bodies and social pressures. Add acne to this crazy mix and it's likely to make any teen want to hide in their room until their formerly clear skin reappears.
Why do teens get acne?
Yes, blame the hormones, but genetics play a big role too. The fluctuation of hormones (namely the androgens) causes excess oil production which promotes the development of acne by clogging the pores with sebum and dead skin cells. This creates an environment where acne causing bacteria can thrive.
Debunking common myths
- Eating greasy or sugary foods has not been shown to directly cause acne. But for other health reasons, you can easily see why it's best to keep those foods in moderation. On the other hand, whole fruits, vegetables and plenty of water can improve the look of your teen's skin. So, do your best to encourage healthy eating.
- More is not better. The more you wash or the more products your teen uses, is not necessarily a good thing. Less is more when it comes to treating acne. Wash twice daily with a mild cleanser (non-comedogenic and/or hypoallergenic) such as Cetaphil. Don't go crazy with over-the-counter acne medications. Too many at once could really irritate and further exacerbate your teen's acne.
- Tanning is not good. Some teens think the sun or tanning will mask their acne. The truth is, the sun can further dry out or irritate acne treated skin -- not to mention the risk for skin cancer by staying out in the sun without sunscreen or using tanning beds.
Aside from using a twice-daily mild cleanser, teens suffering from acne will need some additional help. For mild acne consisting of mostly white or black heads, a topical retinoid cream applied before bed will typically keep things under control. Ask your child's pediatrician which retinoid cream might work best, since these come in varying strengths and formulations.
Teens with inflammatory acne (papules and/or pustules) will need the addition of a combination topical cream/lotion that contains benzoyl peroxide and a topical antibiotic. Using this in the morning and the retinoid cream at night will help control breakouts and reduce the inflammation and bacteria present in this type of acne. Use of sunscreen during the day is a must, since these medications make the skin much more sensitive to the sun's rays.
Moderate to severe acne that may include cystic and/or nodular lesions on the face will likely require a trip to the dermatologist and a prescription for oral antibiotics. Oral isoretinoin (Accutane) is another strong oral medication used in these cases. Because of its side effects and potential for causing birth defects, close monitoring and screening of teens using this is mandatory.
Dr. Mom's Bottom Line^ The key to success in treating teen acne is patience and perseverance. It takes up to 8 weeks on a specific treatment regimen to really see a difference. So be patient and persist with the treatment outlined by your child's pediatrician. Teens should not suffer in silence or embarrassment. Get them help today so they can face the world with confidence tomorrow.