Does Your Teen Suffer from Acne? Here are Eight Ways to Fight Back!
by Emme Diane
Teenage acne effects more than just your teen's skin. It can truly affect their confidence, self-esteem, self-image and how they perform at school and in life. With an overabundance of misconceptions and misinformation about acne, it can be difficult to help your teen find a solution for the clear skin they long for.
While acne is a multi-faceted skin affliction, there is a solution by following some simple rules and guidelines.
1. Acne is an inherited condition.
Yep! So this is one thing your teen can blame on you. The root cause of acne is an inherited condition that results in genetically defective pores. This defect causes the skin cells within the pore to hyper-shed resulting in a build up of dead, sticky cells that create a plug within the pore.
A normal functioning pore has a very clever self-cleaning process that is brilliant in it’s design. Basically, if you take a look at a pore, it is like a little hole in the skin. And just like how the top of our skin sheds dead skin cells, the lining of the pore does the same. A normal functioning pore will shed one layer of dead skin cells everyday, and the oil gland and sweat gland at the bottom of the pore will produce oil and sweat to help flush the dead skin cells out of the pore. This flushing or cleaning of the pore keeps the pore clean and clear…and acne free!
This is why some of their friends can go without washing their faces at night and they never breakout…they have normal functioning pores that keep their skin clear.
A genetically defect pore functions quite differently. Pores with the acne gene shed about multiple layers of dead skin cells a day, and this is too much for the oil and sweat to flush out of the pore. Instead, the oil and sweat create a biofilm (or a glue-like substance) that binds all the dead skins together creating a seed (or microcomodone), which “plugs” itself into the pore creating the beginning of a breakout. This microcomodone is not something that can be seen or felt…and to make it even more frustrating, it can take 90 days for it to form into a visible breakout. This means that the breakouts that your teen is having right now may have formed 3 months ago!
2. The term “Non-Comedogenic” doesn’t guarantee that a product is acne safe.
“Non-comedogenic” is a marketing term used in the beauty industry to indicate that a product does not contain pore clogging ingredients, therefore it will not cause breakouts. So does this mean that if a company states that their product is noncomedogenic, it is thereby safe for acne prone skin? Absolutely not!
Unfortunately for acne suffers, there is no governing agency that regulates this claim, meaning that this marketing term can be slapped on any bottle…even if it DOES have pore clogging ingredients in it.
In fact, many common prescriptions and over the counter acne products have many pore clogging ingredients in them (which is why they sometimes work for a while, but then stop working as the pore clogging ingredients overpower the acne fighting ingredients.)
Unfortunately, the same is true for natural, organic products on the market…these have some of the worst offenders.
This is why it is essential to become a pore clogging ingredient detective to make sure that all of your teen’s skin care products (and makeup products) are free from pore-cloggers.
is a list of pore clogging ingredient:
Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol
Apricot Kernal Oil
Cetearyl Alcohol + Ceteareth 20
Chondrus Crispus (aka Irish Moss or Carageenan Moss)
Cotton Awws Oil
Cotton Seed Oil
D & C Red # 17 (also be listed w/o D&C)
D & C Red # 21 (also be listed w/o D&C)
D & C Red # 3 (also be listed w/o D&C)
D & C Red # 30 (also be listed w/o D&C)
D & C Red # 36 (also be listed w/o D&C)
Disodium Monooleamido PEG 2-Sulfosuccinate
Glyceryl Stearate SE
Hemp Seed Oil
Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
Laminaria Digitata Extract
Laminaria Saccharina Extract (Laminaria Saccharine)
PEG 16 Lanolin
PEG 200 Dilaurate
PEG 8 Stearate
PPG 2 Myristyl Propionate
Propylene Glycol Monostearate
Rosehip Seed Oil
Sea Whip Extract
Shark Liver Oil (Squalene)
Sodium Chloride (Salt)
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Stearic Acid Tea
Sulfated Castor Oil
Sulfated Jojoba Oil
Wheat Germ Glyceride
Wheat Germ Oil
3. Foods Can Significantly Trigger Acne
While food and supplements do not cause acne, certain ones can definitely trigger and exacerbate acne. While many of the listed food triggers are common culprits for many acne sufferers, certain foods might be more triggering for your teen than others. When starting out, it is best to try to eliminate all of the potential triggers and then once they are clear, they can start reintroducing them one by one to see if they are, in fact, a trigger for you. Remember, knowledge is power and knowing what triggers your teen’s acne is invaluable.
The main reason foods will trigger acne is due to dietary iodine. Many of us are familiar with iodized table salt. But dietary iodine is commonly used to preserve processed food, packaged foods, frozen foods, canned foods, fast foods, take-out foods, processed meats, salty snacks, condiments, energy/soft drinks. While it might seem to be overwhelming to eliminate all processed foods, do your best to avoid high sodium foods (such as Top Ramen, canned soups, soy sauce and other heavily salted foods).
Dietary Iodine is also naturally occurring in many foods, as listed below. In order to get clear and stay clear, do your best to eliminate those foods and substitute with some of the suggestions below
Sea Salt, Uniodized Salt
Mrs. Dash Table Blend, Flavor God
Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt
Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, Rice Milk (without Carageenan)
Dairy/soy free options for yogurt (such as almond/coconut milk yogurt)
Cheese substitute: Heidi Ho Cheese
Dairy/soy free options for ice cream (such as almond/coconut/cashew milk ice cream)
Whey/Soy Protein Shakes
Protein Bars made with Whey/Soy or Peanuts
Plant based or Vegan Protein Powders or Shakes (make sure they DO NOT contain the “super greens” or Biotin listed below
Plant based or vegan protein bars
Soy, Tofu, Soy Milk, Tempe, Edamame
“Super Greens” such as Spirulina, Chlorella, Blue Green Algae, Kelp, Seaweed, Maca Powder
Kale, Spinach, Alfalfa Sprouts
Biotin (most multivitamins/supplements on the market now contain Biotin so be sure to double check all vitamins and supplements)
Vitamins without Biotin
The other major food trigger for acne is foods that are high in androgen activity or androgen potency, which can affect our hormonal balance. (Androgens are the culprit for hormonal breakouts and stress breakouts…we will cover more about hormonal breakouts in the birth control section.)
Peanuts, Peanut Butter
Almonds, Almond Butter or other nut butter (with sea salt or unsalted)
Peanut Oil, Corn Oil, Canola Oil
Olive Oil, Coconut Oil (these are ok to cook with, but DO NOT use them on your skin!)
(Wheat/Gluten IF allergic/sensitive)
Gluten Free Diet IF allergic/sensitive
Heart, Liver, Gizzards, Pate, Foie Gras, organ meats
White Sugar, White Flour
Glycemic Index Diet
4. Laundry Methods Can Trigger Acne
Laundry detergents, fabric softeners
and other laundry additives can trigger acne due to fragrances and dyes or pore
clogging ingredients. But sure to use only fragrance/dye free laundry
detergents such as brands that say Free & Clear, Free of Perfumes and Dyes
or Free & Gentle. Examples of these are Cheer Free, All Free & Clear,
Tide Free, Arm & Hammer Free but there are many on the market. Also, avoid
using Chlorine Bleach. Safe Bleach for Acne Prone Skin: Clorox2 for Colors Free
Avoid all fabric softeners. The liquid or dryer sheet fabric softeners leave a waxy residue (which is extremely pore-clogging) on your pillowcases, towels, and washcloths that have direct contact with the skin. Natural wool balls contain lanolin which is also pore clogging. Your best bet to help eliminate static cling is anti-static balls which can be purchased at Bed Bath and Beyond.
5. No Picking Agreement
When there is an alien growing on your face, it can be hard to keep your hands off. However, picking and popping pimples most times will back fire on you creating a larger breakout, take months to heal and potentially create scarring. It can be hard to break this habit, but in order to clear skin completely, it is essential that picking on the skin is avoided.
Here is the “No Picking Agreement” I have my acne clients sign to stay accountable.
First, understand what happens when you pick your skin
- When you pick your skin, it pushes bacteria deeper into the follicle, bursting the follicle wall and infecting the surrounding pores.
- Generally, an oozing scab is created that is much harder to conceal with makeup than a closed bump from a blemish.
- A picked pimple can take months to heal completely, whereas an unpicked pimple can and will heal quickly with icing and following your home care routine and regular facial treatments.
Second, identify the type of picker that you are:
- Unconscious Picker - You casually touch and/or pick your face while using the computer, reading a book, or watching television. This is a very dangerous type of picking because you often won't realize you're doing it.
- Bathroom Mirror Picker - You go in to grab the floss and end up spending fifteen minutes in front of the mirror, picking and popping.
- Idle Picker - You pick while you're waiting for the
bus, you pick while you're on the phone, and you pick while you're waiting
Now that you know what type or types of face picker you are, you can decide what tips and methods will help you most.
- Instead of picking, ice those pimples for 2 minutes twice a day. This will help tremendously for the pimples to clear quickly.
- Keep your hands busy. Do crossword puzzles or play video games while you're waiting for the bus. Give yourself a hand massage while you watch television. Start a knitting project to keep yourself busy at night.
- Place signs that say "NO PICKING" up on your bathroom mirror, in your compact mirror, on the TV remote, your car visor mirror or rear view mirror…or wherever you are likely to see them when you start to pick.
- Wear Gloves. It may sound silly, but it will be impossible to pick your face while wearing gloves. You can wear them overnight, too, if you tend to sleep with your face on your hands. Just be sure to wash the gloves regularly.
- Get your nails done. It is more difficult to pick your skin if you have acrylic/silk/gel nails.
- Avoid putting your hands on your face. To avoid this, stop using your hands, such as when sitting at the table. DO not put your hands on your face and use it for hand resting.
- Put your hands in your pocket when you are just walking between places. While sitting down on a chair while in front of the table, lay your hands or hold your hands on the table or put your hands on your lap or put your hands right under your thighs and sit regularly on your hands. This may seem silly but it helps with the need to touch your face. You can do this during a job interview, or places like a simple restaurant.
- Get other people involved. A close friend, parent, or roommate can be a very valuable asset. Ask them to gently remind you of your “no-picking agreement” if they notice you touching your face.
- Don't give up. Like any bad habit, you may not be able to quit picking overnight. Try not to become discouraged.
make the commitment to stop picking your skin:
- Am I willing to fight the urge when I want to pick my skin? YES NO
- Am I willing to practice self-control for the sake of clearer skin? YES NO
- Am I willing to use the tips to keep myself from picking my skin? YES NO
- Am I willing to be honest about my picking, and if it becomes an uncontrollable habit, I will consult with my doctor? YES NO
Please sign this pledge to yourself and begin the journey to clear, beautiful skin!
6. Sweat and Acne Breakouts
If your teen is active in sports, it is imperative that they wash their skin right after sweating. Time is of the essence here because the sweat is a perfect breeding ground for acne bacteria to multiply and for the pores to clog almost instantly.
If they are not
able to wash their skin right away after sweating, the best thing to do is to
use fragrance free baby wipes to cleanse the skin until they can get to a sink
to wash their face.
7. Never skip a night
If your teen skips
a day, or a night or post sweating, they will breakout. Being religious with
your skin care routine if you are acne prone is absolutely essential. While
getting into this habit can be a little challenging for some teens, I have
found that the majority of the teens I work with have found a way to stay
consistent and compliant.
8. Getting regular facial treatments
While it is possible to clear acne without facial treatments, professional skin treatments will accelerate the clearing of acne. At Emme Diane, our Clear Skin Program includes facial treatments every 2 weeks along with the proper homecare to get clients clear in approximately 90 days. Each acne treatment has a specific focus for what the skin needs at the time of treatment. Sometimes the skin will need more hydration, other times it will need more anti-bacterial and/or anti-inflammatory action. There are 4 reasons for getting treatments bi-monthly:
- For exfoliating the skin so that home-care product can penetrate the pore more easily.
- For hydrating the skin so that the skin is receptive to your home-care regimen. The products also tend to dry out the skin somewhat as you are getting used to them.
- For extracting existing acne impactions.
- For killing acne bacteria inside the pore.