Teen Acne: What causes it, how to treat it and when to seek help

What causes it, how to treat it and when to seek help



The teen years are often consumed with school, sports/activities, friends and, unfortunately, acne. Teens typically are more concerned about personal appearance than they will be at any other time of life, and a whopping 85 percent of them have to deal with the challenge of acne (ucdmc.UCDavis.edu). Acne can begin as early as age 11 for girls and a within a couple of years later for boys. This acne can last through the teen years and into the early 20s, with some people experiencing it into their adulthood. Acne happens when an oily substance called sebum clogs the pores, usually on the face, neck, back, chest and shoulders. 

Treating mild cases of acne includes washing the face twice a day with warm water and a mild soap. However, over-washing can leave the skin irritated and dry (WebMD.com). The use of over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide twice a day is effective in killing the bacteria in the skin, unplugging the oil ducts and healing the pimples (HealthyChildren.org). Most makeup is fine to use, but non-comedogenic is best, and mineral-based cosmetics should be avoided.

Some severe, stubborn cases of acne require the help of a doctor, often a dermatologist. If over-the-counter medications are not working, prescription medication will likely offer better results. Trying home remedies for 10-12 weeks is often necessary before seeking the assistance of a doctor (Acne.About.com). These treatments do have side effects to be aware of, so open communication with your doctor is imperative.

No matter which treatment plan you use, remember to be patient. It may take three to six weeks of a consistent routine to see change and up to 12 weeks for maximum improvement. Also, be consistent. Follow the program every day and don’t stop and start each time your skin changes. Make sure to follow directions and don’t overdo it by thinking more treatment will equal better results. Finally, it’s important to only use your medicine. What is good for your friend may not be good for you.

While acne is a common complaint in the teenage years, with the right treatment it can be well controlled and managed. 

    Jessica Heine is a labor and delivery nurse. She lives in Olathe with her family.

As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns. 

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