It’s a rite of passage. As kids get older, their once-perfect faces
become marked with acne that pops up out of nowhere. Anyone can get acne,
the most common skin condition in the United States. The blemishes affect
40 to 50 million Americans – most of them teens.
“As boys and girls enter
puberty, their bodies start to produce more androgen hormones, which cause oil
glands in the skin to become larger and produce more oil,” says
Lisa Hoang, MD, a pediatrician with
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group in Tustin. “This oil, also called sebum, keeps the skin from drying
out, but it causes dead skin cells to clog the interior of the pore.”
Bacteria that live on the skin’s surface will make its way into the
clogged pore and begin to multiply. The pore swells and reddens, causing
pimples, blackheads and whiteheads on the face and other parts of the body.
Dr. Hoang understands that acne can be difficult for teens.
“Teens often feel intense peer pressure to look confident and attractive,
and they see acne as a major source of embarrassment,” Dr. Hoang
says. “Teens are at the stage in their lives where they need to
build self-esteem and a positive sense of identity while, at the same
time, their bodies are undergoing physical changes. Acne can affect a
teen’s self-esteem. It’s important for a teen to know that
he or she is not the only one with this skin condition, that acne doesn’t
cause major health problems, and that it can be controlled.”
To curb breakouts, Dr. Hoang recommends a simple three-step approach that
every teenager can adopt: “First, wash the face gently with a non-abrasive
cleanser twice daily and after sweating. Never pick pimples. That causes
inflammation and possible scarring,” Dr. Hoang says.
The second step, she says, is dabbing problem areas with an over-the-counter
product that contains salicylic acid and/or benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic
acid unclogs the pores, and benzoyl peroxide reduces inflammation and
The third step is using a “non-acnegenic” or “non-comedogenic”
moisturizer; acne products can dry and irritate the skin.
Dr. Hoang says it’s also important to keep pillowcases, bed sheets
and anything else that touches your face clean.
If acne is not responding to home treatment, or if it is causing feelings
of low self-esteem, it’s time to see a doctor.
“Your pediatrician can provide advice on a program to keep acne under
control. There are more effective medical acne treatments now than there
were years ago, but not every method works the same for every person,”
Dr. Hoang says. “It’s important to get the help of a medical
professional to determine how best to clear up the skin.”
Dr. Hoang encourages teens treating acne to be patient and not become discouraged.
“It takes time for skin cleansing and spot treatment to work. And
as the skin heals, you have to continue good
skincare habits in order to keep breakouts from coming back. The results won’t
show up the next day, but they will come. Stick with it and you will see
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