Prevent, Treat and Overcome Teenage Acne
Did you know that our skin is the largest organ of our bodies? It’s essential for protecting our internal organs, muscles and bones. It holds us together! Skin reflects who we are and it is the first impression of us upon others. For teenagers, this can be a painful and embarrassing impression when acne strikes. To learn more about the condition and offer helpful tips, I reached out to Terry Renteria, RN, wound ostomy and continence nurse (WOCN) specialist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Acne comes upon each person differently; some go through life with few issues and others feel burdened by the condition. Acne is fairly common—three-fourths of all Americans ages 11 to 30 have acne and 17 million Americans have acne at any given time. It can persist into adulthood too. It shows up most commonly on the face, neck, chest, back and shoulders.
What is Acne?
Acne normally starts in the pubertal or adolescent years when the body increases production of a hormone called androgen. This hormone stimulates production of an oily substance called sebum, which mixes with dead skin cells and hair in skin openings known as hair follicles. This buildup of skin cells, oil and hair all clumped together causes pressure, which can burst open and cause skin inflammation. A bacterium called propionibacterium acnes or P. acnes, also gets involved and creates more inflammation. Other causes of acne include:
- Certain medications
- Oil-based make up
Types of pimples in a breakout include:
- Whiteheads—small and under the skin
- Blackheads—visible and black on the surface. The dark color is not dirt and cannot be scrubbed away.
- Cysts—clearly visible, painful, full of pus and can cause scars
Things to Know Before Treating Acne (Tweet this)
Since there are varying degrees of acne, there are different treatment recommendations. The degree of acne varies from person to person and can come and go, getting better or worse without prediction. Before deciding on an acne treatment, consider these tips:
- The goal of treatment is to reduce breakouts, prevent new breakouts and limit acne scarring.
- Treatment plans are gradual and take time and patience.
- Being dedicated to the treatment plan is important, so you can see if the treatment is working or causing side effects.
- Do not pick at or irritate acne because this can cause more inflammation.
- Laser hair removal, waxing and exfoliating should be avoided during acne treatment.
Treating Mild and Moderate Acne
Over-the-counter topical medications (applied directly to the skin) may be all that is necessary. Many of these products contain resorcinol, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulfur. These ingredients are responsible for:
- Breaking down blackheads and whiteheads (resorcinol, salicylic acid and sulfur)
- Killing bacteria, slowing oil production and a peeling agent to clear pores (benzoyl peroxide)
- Fighting inflammation (salicylic acid)
Other treatment tips
- If you have dry or irritated skin, creams work better.
- If you have oily skin, they may prefer a gel-based acne product.
- Treatment is best done at night and requires patience; make sure to read instructions on the product package completely.
- If the cream or gel treatment is not showing improvement, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics (Oral antibiotics are the same medication that treats MRSA, another skin issue)
- It is important to take what the doctor prescribes for as long as it is prescribed.
- A combination of treatments (topical and oral) may be required to see what works and what doesn’t work for each individual. Attention and patience is needed.
- It may take six to 12 weeks to see results.
- Try an over-the-counter topical treatment first and if you don’t see any improvement, contact your doctor.
- You may need to use topical creams or gels for a long time and use antibiotics during acne flare-ups.
- If you are on antibiotics, take what the doctor prescribes for as long as it is prescribed.
- Some antibiotics have side effects or stain teeth, so check with your doctor or nurse practitioner about how to take the antibiotics and what the side effects are.
NOTE: If you are using a product containing a retinoid, it can cause skin irritation and sensitivity to sun. Retinoids reduce inflammation and prevent new outbreaks.
Treating Severe Acne
Severe cases of acne should be treated by your doctor. A cosmetic doctor or plastic surgeon can provide treatments to prevent or reduce scarring.
General Tips for Controlling Breakouts (Tweet this)
- Wash face twice a day using mild soap and warm water (do not scrub).
- Don’t burst or pop pimples, this may cause acne to get worse. (Easier said than done, but it works!)
- Clean eyeglasses regularly.
- Let skin breathe. Don’t wear tight headbands, caps or sleeves unless they are newly cleaned.
- Keep hair clean and away from the face.
- Avoid prolonged sun exposure.
- If you shave your face, be careful and use warm water to soften the beard and a sharp, clean razor.
- Try to avoid stress.
- Hot and humid climates may cause or make acne worse.
- Avoid oil-based makeup and greasy hair products.
Treating acne is a process unique to each person. If you are dedicated and follow instruction on treatment plans and how to control breakouts, it can help your skin. Please share this blog post with parents and teenagers you know who are battling mild, moderate or severe acne.