Acne is the most common skin problem in the nation. It affects millions of people – mostly teenagers. Acne is caused by blockages and inflammation that develop deep inside the hair follicles and produce lumps beneath the surface of the skin that we call pimples.
There are two things about teen acne that Megan Gittings, a dermatological nurse practitioner at Associated Dermatology and Skin Care Clinic of Helena, wants everyone suffering with it to know:
- It’s not your fault.
- It will take time to heal, so start now.
Let’s look at the causes and treatments of teenage acne.
- Acne Is Caused Primarily by Genetics and Hormones
If a teen’s parents struggled with acne, it’s more likely they will. And it’s most likely they will during their teen years when their hormones are raging. That’s bad news for those who want a quick fix, “but it’s nice to absolve yourself of guilt about it,” Gittings says. The other good news is that the production of hormones ebbs in a few years, leading generally to relief from acne.
- Dairy Consumption Can Exacerbate Acne
Because inflammation is an element in acne, food that promotes inflammation, like dairy, can make matters worse. Gittings encourages patients to reduce their consumption of milk, cheese, milk chocolate and other dairy products. Whey powder, which is found in many protein shakes and other processed foods, is a concentrated form of dairy that should be avoided.
- Blood Sugar Spikes Can Inflame Symptoms
A study showed the Atkins diet, which eliminates carbohydrates, has had a beneficial effect on acne. A teen can avoid blood sugar spikes by simply reducing their carb loads without going on the Atkins diet. Such as reducing soda, candy and simple carbohydrates.
- Product Buildup Can Clog Pores
Teens who fail to wash off makeup every night, or cleanse hair products from their hair every day, can make the situation worse. Additionally, says Gittings, it’s important to keep hands off the face and forehead. Teens who touch their faces or run their hands through their hair often are more prone to acne.
- Some Medications Trigger Acne
Corticosteroids, testosterone and lithium, to name three. Corticosteroids include cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone, used for a variety of health issues.
- Greasy Foods, Bad Hygiene and Cosmetics Aren’t the Cause
Except as noted above, fast food and makeup aren’t the culprit. However, chocolate can aggravate acne.
- Washing the Face Constantly Makes It Worse
“Cleansing is important, but don’t overdo it,” says Gittings. That can cause a rebound effect where the skin produces more oils. She recommends washing once daily with a facial cleanser and using an over-the-counter medicated cleanser like benzoyl peroxide (Clearisil, Proactive and many others) or salicylic acid (Garnier, Clinique and Neutrogena facial cleanses).
- Bacteria May Play a Role
For some patients, Gittings will prescribe an antibiotic to counteract the bacteria causing a severe outbreak.
- Differin Cream Is Now Over the Counter
A retinoid that opens the pores and removes debris has been shown in clinical studies to reduce acne outbreaks. It is now available without a prescription but must be applied daily for three months for sustained improvement.
- If All Else Fails, There Is Prescription Medication
If more conservative treatments don’t get the desired results, Gittings and her colleagues prescribe Accutane and other prescription drugs for severe or persistent acne.
- It Takes 8-12 Weeks to Treat
Is your teen anxious about returning to school with inflamed skin? Start them on treatments now so they have the summer months to start seeing results.
Contact Associated Dermatology and Skin Care of Helena to make an appointment. Call (408) 442-3534 or visit AssociatedDermHelena.com.
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