Acne is usually normal and occurs to some degree in almost all teenagers.
Acne occurs when the glands or pores in the skin become clogged with excess oils which allow acne bacteria to grow. Acne is common on the face but also may occur on the shoulders, neck, upper back, and chest.
Treatment strategies depend on the motivation of the teenager and severity of the acne.
For some individuals, acne is not a concern and therefore treatment is not necessary except in the rare cases of severe potentially scarring acne.
For others, even mild acne can be bothersome and treatment is helpful for their self-esteem.
Acne worsens during teenage years due to the increased hormone levels which is why acne can also worsen just before menstrual periods in girls.
Acne can also worsen from a diet high in sugars, certain skin or cosmetic products that clog pores, and stress.
- Wash the skin twice daily with a gentle cleanser or soap and warm water, avoiding harsh gritty cleansers or scrubs.
- Avoid scrubbing with brushes, cloths, loofa’s, or anything else abrasive.
- Do not pop, break, or otherwise manipulate pimples. This can lead to worsening acne, scarring, or infections.
Treatment is based on reducing the amount of oil and/or bacteria on the skin.
- Benzoyl Peroxide is usually the first recommended treatment and is found in many over-the-counter acne treatment products. It works by both reducing the amount of bacteria and limiting the oil production from the skin.
- Topical Retinoids including tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene are a prescription cream or gel that works by unplugging pores. It may cause mild skin irritation/dryness or sensitivity to the sun.
- Antibiotics are another effective treatment against acne causing bacteria. Your doctor may prescribe either topical antibiotic creams, gels, lotions, or oral antibiotic pills as part of an acne treatment plan.
- Other treatments for especially difficult to treat acne include hormonal treatments that decrease the amount of oil production in the skin in females and isotretinoin (also called Accutane) which is a pill sometimes used for very severe cystic acne that causes scarring.
Patience and consistency are keys to treating acne. Almost all acne treatments take time to work, up to 2 months in some cases.
The most common side effects of these treatments are skin dryness or irritation. Using an oil-free moisturizer can help prevent dry skin and irritation.
Skin protection can also help acne spots resolve faster and prevent additional irritation to already sensitive skin. Using sunscreen or a combination moisturizer with sunscreen is an important part of acne treatment.
If acne is severe or causes scarring, there are strong and effective mediations that are available. See your doctor to discuss acne treatment options.