Acne and Teens
Acne is an unfortunate rite of passage for many teenagers. Here’s what you need to know about teen skin care and acne prevention and treatment.
By: Gregory Germain, MD
Most teenagers have one or a combination of three kinds of pimples—red, inflamed lumps; whiteheads; and blackheads. Some pimples usually go with the turf of adolescence, but acne doesn’t have to go hand in hand with puberty.
Acne often flares up when a person is under a great deal of stress or when hormone levels are on the rise—that’s why girls often breakout when they are getting their period. Certain substances can cause acne to become worse—oil-based cosmetics and creams, steroid drugs used for body-building (an important thing to mention to young athletes) and certain medications and chemicals.
Thorough skin care can help some kids escape major breakouts. Your child should wash her skin each morning and night with a gentle soap and water. There also are many good acne washes that clean dirt, exfoliate skin and prevent breakouts in teens.
Be understanding if your child becomes self-conscious about her skin. And by all means, if she has a persistent case, consult your pediatrician. There are several over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help improve her complexion—and her self-esteem.
The Experts' Share
Noted parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba and dermatologist Dr. Linda Stein Gold sat down with us to discuss acne and behavior in teens. Here is what they had to say:
Dr. Stein Gold: 85% of kids have acne and a large percentage of them have it so bad that they need to go to a dermatologist and seek help. I think that treatments have gotten a lot more sophisticated over the years. There are a lot of myths our there, when I was growing up – no chocolate, no pizza, no soda, no French fries – and we’ve actually learned that that’s just not true, when it comes to causes of acne.
Medicines have gotten more sophisticated with time. There are less side effects with Retin-A, there’s a new medication called Differen, which also works really well, but doesn’t cause redness and side effects. I think that the real message for parents and kids is that this is a long term problem, and it doesn’t go away overnight. We get misconceptions when watching TV and you see a medicine that cures acne overnight, and that is just wrong. It takes weeks -- it can take 6 -8 weeks -- for acne to get better when we look at clinical trials.
If you have cysts, you can’t go to the drugstore to treat that. Unfortunately, that is also the acne that leaves scars, and I am a big proponent of jumping on it and getting in control of it early, because the scars can happen. We are seeing acne with kids younger and younger, we see 8 year old kids coming in, so start the conversation. As a dermatologist, we use topical Retinoids, as I discussed, we use antibiotics, and in most severe cases we would turn to Acutane. It is important though to see the child, so that the treatment can be tailored to their type and level of acne.
Dr. Michele Borba: How great to be able to teach kids that change takes a while, so get them a calendar and start it when they take the medicine for the first time. Then they can realize that not only is it a change for the acne but they can use this system for all types of change. Behavior change takes 21 days.
To read more about their work with acne and children, visit MyChildsAcne.com.