What Are the Causes of Teenage Acne?

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Acne is so prevalent in teenagers, it’s almost an expected rite of passage as your child transitions into adulthood. According to the KidsHealth website, around 8 of 10 tweens and teens get acne. Old wives’ tales and enduring myths claim that acne is caused by chocolate, poor hygiene and stress. However, acne starts with the brand-new hormones that flood your teen’s growing body.


Anatomy of a Pimple

As hormone levels increase during your child’s tween years, the sebaceous glands in her skin become bigger and begin to secrete excessive amounts of oil. Under normal circumstances, oil makes its way up the hair follicle and onto the skin. But when there’s too much of it, it combines with dead skin cells to form a plug. The bacteria normally present on the skin’s surface get trapped within the follicle as well. This creates the perfect environment for a pimple to form.

Acne Types

There’s more than just one type of acne lesion. Less obvious lesions include whiteheads and blackheads, also known as “comedones.” Papules, pustules and cysts — pimples — are red and inflamed because infection is present. The American Academy of Dermatology, or AAD, has three classifications for acne: mild, moderate and severe.

Myths About Acne

Contrary to what your teen may have been told, acne isn’t caused by fried or greasy foods, chocolate or soft drinks. The AAD indicates that no evidence linking diet to acne has been found. Acne doesn’t mean that your teen’s skin is dirty. While good basic hygiene helps prevent pimples, over-scrubbing can irritate the oil glands into producing more oil, making acne worse. Stress isn’t the culprit, either; the AAD indicates that it’s more likely that acne causes stress — not the other way around.

Skin Care Basics

If your teen has acne, first try starting him on a basic skin-care regimen. Have your child wash his face with a mild cleanser in the morning and evening, as well as after he perspires heavily, such as after gym class or another physical activity. Wash using fingertips only, advises the AAD. Wash cloths and facial pads have a harsh texture that can irritate blemished skin. Mild cases of acne may resolve with over-the-counter topical treatments. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests first trying a lotion with 5 percent benzoyl peroxide applied in the morning and at night. If pimples don’t go away, try a topical acne treatment with 10 percent benzoyl peroxide. Acne won’t vanish in a few days. It may be three to six weeks before your teen notices a clearer complexion.

Let a Dermatogist Help

Most people eventually outgrow acne. However, because pimples can be a devastating factor in your teen’s development, this skin condition needs to be treated. One of the biggest myths associated with acne is that it should be allowed to run its course. However, acne can leave behind severe scars that last a lifetime. A dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the skin, can prescribe stronger remedies for your teen, such as prescription lotions and gels and oral antibiotics. According to the AAD, severe acne — acne that consists of numerous pimples and deep cysts — does not resolve without medical treatment.

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