It’s one of the many wonders of teenage years.
While one child may never face skin problems, another is destined to fret about their face. An estimated eight in 10 adolescents will be affected by acne through their teenage years. While beauty is more than skin deep, problematic skin can lead to self-esteem issues and, in severe cases, scarring. Yet with proper treatment, acne doesn’t have to leave scars – emotionally or physically.
WHAT’S UNDER THE SURFACE
Contrary to the popular myth, acne is not caused by eating too much chocolate or greasy food. “External factors like diet don’t seem to make a difference in acne,” says Dr. Artur Henke with Placer Dermatology in Roseville. Instead, he says, heredity and hormones play the biggest roles. Pre-teens whose parents experienced skin problems will be more prone to breakouts during puberty years. “Mild acne can start in kids as early as age eight or nine but typically coincides with hormonal changes around 12 to 14,” Henke says.
“With acne, there’s a dysfunction of the hair follicle where oil is produced,” Henke explains. “Excess oil clogs pores, which can then get inflamed and have secondary infections from bacteria.” As a result, little red bumps, blackheads or pustules form on the face or other parts of the body.
PREVENTION AND EARLY TREATMENT
While acne can’t be completely prevented for those prone to problem skin, there are ways to reduce major flare-ups. The best approach is to use a mild cleanser to regularly remove dead skin cells, sweat and excess oil that can clog pores. It’s also important to use sunscreen, moisturizer or makeup that is noncomedogenic. When breakouts do occur, “over-the-counter products like benzoyl peroxide washes or creams tend to be successful in reducing oil and unclogging pores,” Henke says. He cautions, however, that some acne products can be harsh, overly drying, and can even stain clothing, so care when using is advised.
Myriam Liberman, owner of The Tiger’s Eye Skin Care in Folsom, has been treating acne with a natural clay treatment called “Natural Exfoliation.” “There are many instances, such as painful and bleeding acne or cystic acne, where a natural process can be more successful,” Liberman says. “The reason that clay is so effective is that the natural properties of the clay help to calm the skin and bring internal toxins to the surface. The skin is then exfoliated and impurities are cleansed, leaving the pores of the skin clean.”
WHEN TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
If initial treatment isn’t working, it’s time to summon the experts. “If the problem continues, ask your pediatrician or primary care physician if they are comfortable treating acne,” Henke advises. “If not, ask for a referral to a dermatologist.” To treat more moderate cases of acne, Henke says doctors usually prescribe a combination of benzoyl peroxide products and topical antibiotics, or medicated creams like Retin-A®. “For severe cases, we also use oral antibiotics for a few months to kill bacteria and reduce swelling,” Henke says. “If the acne still isn’t controlled, we start to think about Acutane®, which can only be prescribed by dermatologists.”
“Patients who are not getting satisfactory results with conventional therapy, or those who are reluctant to take oral medications for their acne, can benefit from laser and light based treatments. An added bonus here is that some lasers also improve acne scarring while also treating new blemishes,” says Dr. Scott Hearth, Board Certified Dermatologist at Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser Center in Granite Bay.
Above all, encourage your adolescent not to get discouraged. Acne is common, and like bad hairstyles and nicknames, it too can be a distant memory of their teenage experience.
CLEAR SKIN ADVICE FOR KIDS
Avoid touching your face. Dirt and oil from fingers can clog pores.
Be proactive. Don’t wait until breakouts are conspicuous to start treatment.
Be patient. The solution for clear skin may take a month or two.
Don’t pick. That can cause inflammation, infection and scarring.