Acne & Teenagers
Acne can be embarrassing and painful, particularly for teenagers who are disproportionately affected by it. According to the University of Michigan Health System, more than 90 percent of teens will suffer from acne to some degree. Myths abound about the causes of acne, and teenagers may be unsure of the best methods of treatment for their acne.
What is Acne?
Acne occurs when oil glands in the skin get clogged and become infected or inflamed. The three most common types of pimples are whiteheads, blackheads, and raised red pimples. The red bumps tend to be the most painful. Whiteheads occur when clogged oil glands are closed off, while in blackheads the clogged gland remains open. The black color occurs when the clogged gland is exposed to air. In teens, acne is the most common on the face, shoulders and neck.
Teenagers are most prone to acne because of fluctuating hormone levels. This is why acne usually clears up by age 20, although it can last until 25 in some individuals, depending on when hormone production balances out. Heredity also plays an important role in the severity of a teen's acne. If your parents were sufferers, you are at greater risk for being a sufferer, too. Some people are more prone to having overactive oil glands, which creates a friendly environment for the development of acne lesions.
Myths About Acne
Acne is not caused by not washing enough or being dirty, sexual activity or lack thereof, or eating specific foods. Although food choices may not be directly responsible for acne, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports that, in some cases, certain foods can make acne worse. Greasy food does not in itself cause acne either, though acne can be made worse if grease gets on the face, particularly on the chin and around the mouth. A low-carb diet might also offer some improvement of acne, as well. A survey reported by the AAD noted that 80 percent of followers of a low-glycemic diet saw significant improvements in their complexions within 3 months. Consult a doctor, however, before making any dramatic dietary changes.
There are many things teens can do to improve acne symptoms. For less severe acne, a mild change in habit may be all that's needed. Heavy makeup can clog skin pores, so avoiding makeup or sticking to makeup designed for acne-prone skin is helpful. These products will be labeled "non-comedogenic." Washing the face with a mild cleanser in the morning, before bed, and after exercise keeps oils from having time to build up on the face. For the same reason, it's also a good idea to shampoo hair daily and avoid greasy hair products, as these can rub on the face and clog pores, especially when sweating. Another alternative is to tie hair back to keep it off the face.
If acne persists or worsens, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist. Treating severe acne early lessens the chances of permanent acne scarring. Familydoctor.org reports that some dermatologists will prescribe retinoid creams or gels to apply topically to acne. In some cases, antibiotics, taken either orally or applied topically, may also be prescribed. Another option dermatologists recommend is medication containing hormones, such as certain birth control pills, that may help those with more severe acne. There is also a wide variety of over-the-counter acne medications available, such as soaps, creams or pads specifically for use with acne. These medications contain benzoyl peroxide and other ingredients that reduce acne-causing bacteria. They should be tried first at the lowest strength available to see how skin responds and avoid irritation.
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