Acne is a skin problem that affects people irrespective of age, color or nationality. However, there is one group that gets affected more than other groups and these are teenagers. Almost 9 out of 10 teens have to deal with acne vulgaris at some time in their lives. In some, it can continue beyond teenage to adulthood too. Teen acne although it affects such a large percentage is also easier to heal and rarely leaves behind permanent scars.
Acne in teens is concentrated on the T-zone – forehead, nose and chin, although it can occur in other parts of the body too. Teen acne is mostly characterized by comedones – whiteheads and blackheads. Sometimes, teenagers get inflammatory lesions – papules, nodules, pustules or cysts – that are red, filled with pus, inflamed and lumpy. At times they can be sore and painful.
Why is Teen Acne Caused?
Acne in teens is caused mainly when teens reach puberty and hormones start to act up. Androgen the male hormone is higher in boys, who tend to have more severe outbreaks as teenagers than girls do. Progesterone and estrogen are female hormones and although they are responsible for acne, they do not influence it as much as androgen.
When children reach puberty, androgen levels in both girls and boys increases. This stimulates the oil glands that increase production of sebum. Those who develop acne are more sensitive to increased androgen production.
Another cause of acne in teens is the hereditary factor. Those with siblings or parents who have had similar outbreaks are more susceptible to acne themselves.
Treatment for Acne in Teens
OTC topical drugs: This is the first line of treatment for all forms of acne in teens. It includes medications that contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulfur. There are gels, creams, soaps, lotions or pads available with these medications. Used regularly for 4-8 weeks will produce an improvement in skin condition.
Prescription topical medications: Topical antibiotics, tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide, tazarotene, azeleic acid and adapalene are some topical prescription medications that help treat inflammatory acne conditions. Topical lotions that contain benzoyl peroxide combined with erythromycin or clindamycin are very effective.
Prescription Oral Medications: Teens with moderate or severe acne can be prescribed oral antibiotics like tetracycline, erythromycin, minocycline and doxycycline. These control the growth of P.acnes bacteria and reduce inflammation. Oral antibiotics are generally prescribed for 4-6 months. If a teen develops resistance to one antibiotic, an alternative line of treatment will be prescribed.
If a teen suffers from very severe forms of cystic acne, then isotretinoin may be prescribed. This is a potent drug but it attacks all the factors that cause acne and hence is a very effective treatment regimen.
All acne medications other than OTC products must be taken only under medical supervision. Oral antibiotics and isotretinoin cause severe side effects.
Supplements for Acne
Taking the right dosage of a good supplement can promote healthy skin and reduce outbreak of acne in teens. Vitamin A supplements and topical retinol creams are used widely to treat various skin problems. It reduces inflammation and clears clogged pores. Apart from these, eating a diet rich in vitamin A like yellow or orange fruits and vegetables, fortified cereals and dairy products can also help.
Zinc can help in reducing severity and frequency of acne outbreak in teens. It also helps in good absorption of vitamin A. Teens can also eat a diet rich in zinc like oysters, beef, crabs, pork and milk.
Herbal supplements such as guggul has anti-inflammatory properties and can provide the same benefits of tetracycline without the side effects. Brewer’s yeast is another excellent supplement that fights acne in teens. It contains rich and natural sources of B vitamins, minerals like selenium and chromium. Just sprinkle a little on foods or drinks to get a daily dosage of 1-2 tablespoons.
Teen Acne : Precautions
It is important to follow a proper cleansing routine every day since acne in teens is caused due to excess dirt and oil. Too much cleansing can make the skin dry and aggravate acne outbreaks. If pimples break during cleansing, the infection can spread. Do not pinch or prick pimples. Pinching pimples cause bacteria to burrow further into the skin and causes deeper acne to form.
Keep the skin adequately hydrated and moisturized using a light and oil-free moisturizer. Choose a gentle exfoliating agent that will not scratch the skin but can remove dead skin cells, freshen and beautify skin. Using light, circular motion does not damage the skin’s surface. Cleansing products that contain alcohol must be avoided. Alcohol dries the skin and causes greater oil production to compensate for this loss. Makeup should be chosen wisely. Choose non-comedogenic and oil-free products. If a particular makeup caused an outbreak in the past, replace it with other products. Wash your face thoroughly, following the proper cleansing routine to remove all makeup before going to bed at night.
Apart from following various preventive measures, it is important to realize that acne in teens affects their self-esteem greatly. When their self-confidence is dented, they will be reluctant to appear in public, take part in social activities or sports, mingle with friends etc. Teens with severe acne are often withdrawn. At this time, they require the emotional support of their parents and other family members – especially those who have gone through similar outbreaks as teenagers themselves.