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Acne in Teenage Skin

Acne in Teenage Skin


Acne is the most common skin condition, affecting 85 percent of teens in the United States every year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Understanding what causes acne and knowing what can aggravate and effectively reduce the problem can make a teen's life a little easier.


During adolescence, hormones called androgens cause the skin to produce excessive amounts of a natural oil called sebum. When sebum gets trapped in pores, bacteria thrive on the oil and cause inflammation, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. In cases of slight inflammation, a whitehead or a blackhead, also called a comedo, appears. If the blockage goes deeper into the skin, a pimple is created. Deep blockages can cause pus-filled pimples, nodules and cysts.


One major myth about acne is that it is caused by consuming sweets like chocolate and soda. Although eating too much of one food may worsen breakouts in some teens, no single food is thought to aggravate acne, according to Nemours Center for Children's Health Media. Another myth is that tanning can help reduce acne. While tanning may initially cause acne to look less obvious, excessive sun exposure may ultimately cause the skin to break out more, according to Nemours.

Aggravating Factors

Not washing the face on a regular basis can cause oil to build up and lead to breakouts. Heredity, menstruation, hormones and emotional stress are also thought to contribute to acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Moreover, eating foods that contain some vegetable oils may aggravate acne if the oils directly contact the skin, particularly around the mouth.


Teens with acne should use a mild cleanser and lukewarm water twice a day to keep their faces clean. Harsh scrubbing and soaps with dyes and perfumes can aggravate the skin and cause more flare-ups, according to Nemours. Nemours also recommends that teens only use skin products labeled noncomedogenic, nonacnegenic and oil-free, meaning that they won't clog pores. Also, keeping the hair out of the face can reduce the face's exposure to oil. Finally, teens may successfully curb oil production by using one of many brands of over-the-counter ointments that contain small amounts of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

Stronger Treatments

Teens with acne that doesn't respond to lifestyle adjustments and over-the-counter ointments may see a dermatologist or doctor who can prescribe a stronger topical product, such as tretinoin, adapalene or tazarotene, according to the Mayo Clinic. Teens with severe acne may even require an oral antibiotic or a powerful medication called isotretinoin. A doctor may also recommend an oral contraceptive to females who have acne caused by hormones or suggest a laser or light therapy that can cause the sebaceous glands to produce less oil, the Mayo Clinic says.

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