Acne is a nearly universal complaint among teenagers, affectingover 85% of those between the ages of 12 and 17 at least occasionally, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. In most cases, hormones released during puberty are responsible for the appearance of blemishes during the teen years. These hormones stimulate the skin's sebaceous (oil) glands, producing oily skin that is more prone to breakouts. Because teens are extremely conscious of their image and appearance, an acne outbreak can be emotionally devastating.
While hormonal changes during puberty cause many types of acne to be unavoidable, with a diligent skincare regimen, many teens can help control breakouts from becoming severe, minimize the appearance of blemishes and prevent scarring.
- Keep skin clean. Teens produce more oil, so it's important to wash your face every day with warm water and a mild cleanser to remove excess surface oils and dead skin cells. Always remove makeup before going to bed to avoid clogging pores.
- Avoid over washing. Harsh scrubbing can lead to dry, irritated skin, which can actually increase inflammation and trigger glands to produce more oil.
- Don't pick. Squeezing and picking at acne can make breakouts worse. Picking at blemishes can also lead to greater inflammation and infection, increasing the risk for scarring.
- Keep hands off. Avoid touching your face throughout the day, as your hands carry bacteria.
- Use oil-free products. Avoid oil-based makeup. Instead, look for products that are noncomedogenic or non-acnegenic.
- Shower after sports or physical activities. Sweat and oil can settle on the skin's surface, trapping dirt and bacteria in the pores.
- Watch what you eat! Sugars and simple carbohydrates will worsen your acne. This is especially true with sugary drinks like soda, canned juice, sports drinks and sweetened coffee drinks. If you diet is mainly rice and pasta, try decreasing these foods and increase your intake of vegetables and lean meats. Dairy products are controversial, but if you drink more than 2 glasses of milk per day, you should avoid skim and lowfat milk. Whole milk or milk substitutes (almond, soy or coconut milk) are preferrable. Organic dairy products or those made from "hormone free" or "BGH free" cows are less likely to contain hormones which can also affect your acne.
- Control your stress. Stress worsens acne. Get enough sleep and plan ahead to avoid stressing yourself out.
- Start with OTC products such as salicylic acid products or benzoyl peroxide products. Most drug stores have a section for acne products in the skin care isle. Don't over pay for fancy products as they usually contain these same ingredients.
- Visit your dermatologist. If your skin problems persist, visit your dermatologist for professional treatment.
Being a teenager is tough enough without having to worry about breakouts. The good news is that effective treatments are available for acne - and the earlier treatment is started, the lower a teen's risk of lasting facial scarring and emotional damage. When home care is not helping, talk to a dermatologist about treatment options. Your dermatologist can help tailor a treatment plan that is best for a teen's unique skin type and needs.