At least 90% of adolescents have acne — it affects teens of every size and shape, in every country from America to Zimbabwe. A recent study by the American Medical Association revealed (not surprisingly) that acne is one of today’s teenagers’ biggest worries. “Acne can, without question, affect self-esteem,” says Diane Berson, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at New York University School of Medicine. “Some kids have it so severely that they don’t even want to go out of their house. They make excuses for not going to social functions.”1
It seems unfair, doesn’t it? Just when you’re beginning to grow up and get some ideas about exactly who’s behind the face in your mirror, you’re staring at a minefield of bumps and blemishes. It can be downright depressing — but since everyone has acne, you’re supposed to suck it up and suffer through it… right? Wrong! Today we know more about fighting acne than ever before. And the best way to stop acne is to find out why it starts when it does — during adolescence. Get rid of your acne with Proactiv® Solution – GO NOW!
Why does acne strike teens? At the onset of puberty, the body begins to produce hormones called androgens. These “male” hormones are a natural part of development for both boys and girls, but boys tend to produce more of them — and therefore tend to have more severe breakouts. Why? Our faces and bodies are covered with tiny hairs, each one fitting snugly into a hair follicle, sometimes called a pore. Deep within each follicle, oil glands are hard at work producing sebum, which travels up the hair and out onto the surface of your skin. Sebum’s job is to form a protective layer between your skin and the world, keeping it soft and smooth.
But when androgens enter the picture, your oil glands go into overdrive. They produce extra oil, which can clump together with the dead skin cells on the top layer of your skin. When this sticky mixture finds its way into your pores, it acts just like a cork in a bottle — trapping oil and bacteria inside. Unfortunately, your oil glands just don’t know when to stop; they keep producing oil, and the follicle becomes swollen. Your body’s natural defense system, white blood cells, rush to the area to clean up the mess. The result? Red, painful bumps. Yucky black spots. Zits. Blackheads. Pimples. Acne. It has nothing to do with what you eat, or how often you wash your face.
How can I strike back against teen acne? The best way to zap zits is to prevent them from showing up in the first place! Following are a few simple practices than can help you minimize your breakouts.
A Tip on Avoiding Teen Acne – Keep it clean. Since teenagers produce more oil, it’s important to wash twice a day with warm water and a mild cleanser. Since your skin does need some sebum in order to stay healthy, don’t be tempted to overwash; your glands could pay you back by producing more oil.
Teen Acne Advice – Skip harsh scrubs. It’s okay to exfoliate, but be sure to use a gentle formula with small, smooth grains. Avoid products with almond or apricot shell fragments; they can irritate or even tear your skin and further aggravate your acne.
Avoiding Teen Acne – Say no to alcohol. If you use a toner, avoid products with high concentrations of isopropyl alcohol, or common rubbing alcohol. Alcohol strips the top layer of your skin, causing your glands to produce more oil. The result? Dry, flaky skin — and possibly more blemishes.
Ways to Avoid Teen Acne – Don’t squeeze or pick. Squeezing or picking your blemishes with fingernails, pins or anything else can force bacteria deeper into the skin. This can cause greater inflammation and infection, increasing the chances that your pimple will leave a permanent scar. Remember, a zit that’s bugging you today will go away if treated properly; if you pick at it, it may stick around forever.
Being Smart about Teen Acne – Hands off! The bacteria that causes acne, Propionibacterium acnes, hangs out on your skin all the time; it doesn’t lead to acne until it gets trapped inside the hair follicle. Touching your face, including rubbing or even resting your chin in your hands, can drive bacteria into your pores — where it can begin its dirtywork.
Dealing with Teen Acne – Choose products wisely. If you wear make-up, be sure it’s oil-free and non-comedogenic — that means it won’t clog your pores and make your breakouts worse. The same goes for your sunscreen and even your hair products; sticky sprays, gels and pomades can aggravate acne, too.
Getting Ahead of Teen Acne – Be smart about sun. If you think tanning helps your acne, you’re right — and wrong. Small amounts of sun exposure may improve acne for a few days. But suntans (and burns) also make you shed your dead skin cells faster, so in the long run, you’ll end up with more clogged pores. And that means more acne. Another thing you should know: some kinds of acne medication make skin more sensitive to the sun. So if you’re headed outside in sunny weather, be sure to slather up with sunscreen. Look for sun protection products that are oil-free and have a “sun protection factor” (or SPF) of at least 15 for both UVA and UVB rays.
Avoiding Teen Acne – Accessorize wisely. Heat and friction (rubbing) can cause acne flare-ups. So steer clear of hats and headbands — and if your sports team requires you to wear a helmet or any other equipment that might rub against your skin, try lining it with a layer of clean, soft cotton. And remember to shower immediately after exercising — don’t sit around in a sweaty uniform, no matter how cool you look.
Teen Acne Treatment – Find a regimen and stick with it. Most cases of mild acne can be improved with “over-the-counter” products, or products that don’t require a prescription from your doctor. There is a wide range of treatments available, and there’s a good chance one of them will work for you. If you start treatment before your acne gets severe, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding physical and emotional problems down the road. But if your acne gets worse or lasts more than a couple of weeks, see a dermatologist. Here’s a quick listing of the most common products used to treat acne — click on the links that interest you for more information on that course of treatment.
• Benzoyl Peroxide: Kills the bacteria that causes acne.
• Salicylic Acid: Unclogs your pores and encourages skin renewal.
• Tretinoin (Retin-A®): Promotes healthy sloughing.
• Antibiotics: Kill bacteria and reduces inflammation.
• Oral Contraceptives: Help regulate hormone levels.
• Anti-Androgens: Inhibit the body’s production of acne-causing hormones.
• Isotretinoin: Treatment for severe cystic or nodular acne.
Relax — it’s not your fault. The most important thing to remember about acne is that it’s not your fault. You didn’t make your face break out by eating too many french fries, wearing make-up or daydreaming about your crush. Now you know a few of the things that can aggravate acne in teenagers. But since acne is different for everyone, you should watch your own skin carefully for things that trigger breakouts — and avoid them. If your acne still hangs around, see a doctor.