Acne is a common pediatric problem. It is most often seen in adolescents, and can cause symptoms that are felt both physically and emotionally, in some cases having a profound psychological impact contributing to low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Many parents struggle to help their teens with acne, how to prevent it, and how to deal with the seemingly inevitable breakouts.

What Causes Acne In Teens?

Most cases of acne in teenagers are caused by overly active oil glands in the dermal layers of the skin. This causes a buildup of oil, as well as dead skin cells and bacteria. As the buildup continues, it leads to inflammation in the dermis, which manifests as swelling, redness and pustules in the affected pores.

Acne is more prevalent in teens because of the high hormone production during puberty which stimulates the oil glands in the skin. Genetics can also play a factor in a teenager’s likelihood of suffering from acne. If either parent struggled with acne in adolescence, your child will be more likely to have it, too. Acne can wax and wane throughout adolescence, only finally clearing up when puberty ends.

Is There A Way To Prevent Acne?

Unfortunately, there is no 100% effective method for preventing acne. However, some of the following tips might help reduce the severity, frequency, and the number of breakouts:

Washing Your Skin

Washing your skin is by far the most important thing a teen can do to help prevent acne. Not only does it help remove excess surface oils and dead skin cells, but thoroughly washing your skin can help unclog the pores. Just keep in mind that washing your skin too much can potentially damage the upper layers of the dermis, which causes the skin to be too dry. Excessive washing can also irritate any acne that’s already there. And be careful not to rub too vigorously with a towel after washing. Vigorous rubbing can clog pores. Patting the skin dry is best.

Washing Thoroughly After Exercise

Teen athletes are increasingly prone to acne. This is because sweat can clog pores and make any existing or developing acne worse. Also, heavy wet clothing rubbing against the skin can induce acne. Teens should change out of workout clothes and shower promptly after finishing exercise.

Avoid Overly Tight Clothing

Acne is more likely to develop on the chest or back from frequently wearing tight clothes. As the fabric rubs on the exposed skin it can irritate and trap sweat, which can further clog pores.

Careful Use Of Skin Lotions

Many teens use skin products, such as lotions or makeup, which can potentially clog the pores, or irritate existing acne. It’s best to look for skincare products that are non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic, which means that they are less likely to cause acne.

Carefully Apply Hair Products

Hair products like hair spray and styling gel, can also clog pores and irritate the dermis. When using them you want to try to keep them away from your face as much as possible. A lot of hair products contain oils that can make acne worse.

What Is The Best Way To Treat Acne?

There are many OTC (over-the-counter) skincare products that can help clear pores and treat minor acne flare-ups. Though useful, many products designed to treat acne may dry or irritate skin. As with all medication treatments, the goal of acne therapy is to strike a balance between the beneficial and harmful effects – more good effects without suffering too many bad ones is desirable.

The most effective and popular OTC acne-fighting products especially for treating closed comedones (pimples and pustules) have active ingredients that include benzoyl peroxide, clindamycin, or salicylic acid. These compounds can help dry up acne while helping to clear away the oils that clog pores.

The retinoid creams – Retin A or Differin for example – can be very effective at treating open comedones such as black heads.

If your teen is having problems finding the right OTC acne products, you should consult their pediatrician. Your child’s primary physician might be able to prescribe special gels or creams, oral medications, or a combination of both.

Is It OK To Pop A Pimple?

The simple answer is “no”. You should avoid squeezing an inflamed pimple as it can actually push infected material and pus deeper into the dermal layers of the skin. This can lead to more swelling and redness and even scarring, which can be permanent.

Prescription Acne Medications

Your child’s pediatrician can provide prescription acne medication. This usually requires an in-person visit to examine the skin for severity and type of acne (How widespread is the acne? Does it involve just the face, or has it spread to the shoulders, chest, and back? Are there just pimples or other features such as pustules, blackheads, scars, or red areas?)

The doctor will also want to know about lifestyle factors such as diet, work, participation in sports and the use of skin or hair-care products.

For severe acne conditions, your pediatrician can refer your child to a dermatologist for advanced care.

As with any other condition, eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, and maintaining good hygiene promote healthy skin. Call or contact your pediatrician if you have questions about your child’s acne.