Teenage Acne: Causes & Treatments

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Updated: 11/03/2020

Summary:

Teenage acne is often triggered by hormonal changes that occur during puberty, causing skin to become much oilier. With the right treatments and guidance, acne can be kept under control.

  • Follow a skin care routine suitable for oily and acne-prone skin
  • Look for acne treatments for teens including products formulated with acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and adapalene (a topical retinoid)
  • For more severe acne, consult your dermatologist, who can create a personalized treatment plan for you
  • Sticking to your recommended treatment is the key to its success

WHAT CAUSES TEENAGE ACNE?

Did you know that nearly 85% of teenagers suffer from acne1? That’s the vast majority! If you are dealing with breakouts, you are definitely not alone. But what is the root cause of teenage acne? In most cases, it is triggered by hormonal changes2. Genetics may also play a role; if your parents had acne, you may be more likely to develop it as well3.

During puberty, your body begins producing more hormones called androgens. One of the most commonly known is testosterone. Androgens have many effects on the body: in both boys and girls, they stimulate the growth of body hair and increase muscle and bone mass. In boys, higher levels of androgens also cause the voice to “break” and facial hair to grow.

As for the effects of androgens on skin, these hormones communicate directly with the sebaceous (oil) glands, telling them to produce lots of oil. As a result, during puberty, the face, and often the back, become oilier. When there is too much oil, the skin’s pores may become blocked with a mixture of sebum and dead skin cells. From here, different types of blemishes can form, ranging from blackheads to pustules to deep, painful cysts.

For more information about oily skin, acne and the different types of acne, click here.

WHAT IS THE BEST ACNE TREATMENT FOR TEENS?

Worried about your teenage acne and looking for a solution? It is recommended that you consult with a dermatologist for the best course of treatment for your skin. Your skin care professional may recommend over-the-counter treatments formulated with acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or adapalene (a topical retinoid).

In more severe cases, you may be prescribed an oral antibiotic such as doxycycline. For very severe and resistant acne, your dermatologist may suggest treatment with Isotretinoin. Regardless of your form of treatment, dermatologists emphasize the need for regular follow-up, and compliance – that means sticking to the treatment – is the key to success.

Are there any in-office acne treatments for teens?

There is no one-size-fits all solution when it comes to acne. In addition to topical and oral acne treatments, your dermatologist can perform in-office treatments to help manage your acne. These include:

  • Chemical Peels: During this procedure, your skin care professional will apply a chemical solution featuring a high-concentration of ingredients such as salicylic acid. This solution rapidly exfoliates your skin, allowing dead skin cells to shed more easily. It also creates a controlled injury to skin, revealing new, healthy skin cells underneath.

  • Extraction: In cases of non-inflammatory acne such as blackheads and whiteheads, your dermatologist may use special sterile tools to manually remove the contents of a pimple.

  • Light Therapy: C. Acnes bacteria is often linked with the development of acne. This bacteria can be killed with certain types of light. Most often blue or red light is used, but your dermatologist will determine which treatment is most effective for you.

Often times, in-office treatments such as chemical peels and light therapy are deemed most effective when performed in a series of multiple treatments. 4-6 treatments is often quoted, but your skin care professional will work with you to determine the most optimal course of treatment based on your specific skin type.

To avoid the possibility of scarring, pigmentation, or other skin damage, it is very important that these treatments are administered by a licensed skin care professional. They should not be performed at home.

Because many of these in-office treatments make skin more sensitive to sunlight, a broad spectrum face sunscreen should be used daily. Look for formulas such as Anthelios Clear Skin SPF 60, which are oil free and non-comedogenic, meaning that they won’t clog pores or cause breakouts.

TEENAGERS - NOW’S THE TIME TO START GOOD SKIN CARE HABITS!

A good skin care routine is vital for oily and acne-prone skin. Here are some tips to help keep your acne under control:

  • Cleanse Daily. Use gentle cleansers formulated specifically for oily and acne prone skin. Look for ingredients such as salicylic acid and zinc pidolate.
  • Avoid harsh scrubs. Acne prone skin needs to be treated gently. Using harsh exfoliating scrubs may trigger redness and inflammation.
  • Moisturize. If you have acne prone skin, you may be tempted to skip using a moisturizer. However, many acne treatments are formulated with exfoliating ingredients that can have a drying effect on skin. When your skin does not receive enough moisturize, it may start to produce even more oil. If you are looking to offset these effects, opt for an oil free moisturizer such as Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer to replenish moisture and help restore the skin's natural protective barrier. If you’re looking for a mattifying moisturizer that targets excess oil, try Effaclar Mat Mattifying Moisturizer.
  • Be Patient. Acne treatments can take at least 6-8 weeks before they begin to work. During the early weeks of starting an acne treatment, your acne may appear to worsen before it improves (this is normal). Continue with your treatment as directed unless you get irritation that becomes severe.
  • Makeup is okay to use. However, opt for non-comedogenic formulas that won’t clog pores. It is also important that you remove makeup using a gentle cleanser before going to bed.
  • Wear Sunscreen Every Day. Many acne treatments can cause skin to be more photosensitive. As a result, a broad spectrum facial sunscreen should be applied daily to protect your skin.
  • Consult with a dermatologist. If over-the-counter skin care products aren’t providing you with the results you’re looking for, consult with a dermatologist. They can help develop a treatment plan personalized for your unique skin needs.

Remember, however severe your teenage acne, there are effective acne treatments for teens out there. The key is to get professional advice from a Dermatologist and stick to your recommended treatment.

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