Further Reading

How Can I Help My Teenager with Acne?

by Maria Diaz, MD, FAAP

Acne is the medical term for pimples. These happen when pores get clogged with dead skin and oil, and bacteria build up. Hormonal changes during adolescence contribute to acne.

Teaching your teenager about skin care is the first step:

·         Wash face no more than twice daily using a gentle non­soap facial skin cleanser (Cetaphil, Oil of Olay bar or foaming face wash, or Dove bar) and warm (not hot) water. Avoid the use of a washcloth or loofah, instead use the hands. Vigorous washing or scrubbing can worsen acne and damage the skin’s surface.

·         Picking or squeezing pimples may worsen acne and cause skin swelling and scarring. It can also cause lesions to become infected.

·         The use of a moisturizer minimizes dryness and skin peeling, which are common side effects of some acne treatments. Moisturizers that are labeled as “non­comedogenic” are less likely to block skin pores.

·         Avoid excessive sun exposure and use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher that is broad spectrum (blocks both UVA and UVB light) before sun exposure.

There is no single best treatment for acne, and combinations of treatments are sometimes recommended. Since acne lesions take at least eight weeks to mature, a treatment for a minimum of two to three months is needed before deciding if the treatment is effective.

For mild acne, a non­prescription acne product like salicylic acid can help remove dead layers of skin and reduce acne by helping unclog pores. Benzoyl peroxide also kills bacteria. You can try using more than one product at once.

Doctors can treat acne using different types of medicines: 1. Topical antibiotics – reduces acne by killing the bacteria inside pimples. They also help bring down inflammation. These medicines include erythromycin, clindamycin, dapsone (brand name: Aczone), and others. 2. Topical retinoids – help keep pores unclogged. Examples include tretinoin (brand name: Retin­A), adapalene (brand name: Differin), and tazarotene (brand name: Tazorac). One form of adapalene gel can also be bought without a prescription. These medicines can also help improve dark spots on the skin caused by acne. 3. Oral antibiotics – Antibiotic pills work for the same reasons antibiotic gels or lotions work, but they tend to be stronger. 4. Birth control pills – Some of the skin reactions that lead to acne are controlled by hormones; birth control pills can sometimes help with acne.

Sometimes acne cannot be controlled with the previous treatments, and a referral to a dermatologist is needed. There are other stronger medications that can be used like isotretinoin pills and sometimes even having a minor surgery. As always, contact your child’s doctor if you have any concerns.