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Teen Acne: Do's and Don't's for the Plague on the Face!

I have taken Accutane for acne three times in my life, so I am no stranger to skin issues. I had the worst kind, cystic acne…as a teen and as a young adult. The worst was right when I got married…so awesome right? The girl who did my make-up on my wedding day was like, “Well I’ll see what I can do….”

And now, my 15-year-old daughter is struggling with acne. She takes prescription meds and has a topical regime. She recently received the Skin Ceuticals Micropeel for acne prone skin, so hopefully that will help. It seems cruel that when we are at our most self-conscious, as teenagers, we have to deal with bumps all over our faces! So many factors go into clearing up a breakout. Here’s some info on teen acne and some do’s and don’t’s.

Some facts: Almost all teens get acne. It happens when oils (also called sebum) clog pores.

Pimples can appear on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders, and severe acne can cause permanent scars.

Acne comes in several forms:

Whiteheads: White dots that are pores impacted with oil and skin covered by skin layers.

Blackheads: Black bumps that are impacted pores in which material pushes out through the follicles. The black color is not from dirt. It may be from bacteria, dead skin cells, and matter that react with oxygen.

Papules, pustules or nodules: More serious lesions appearing red and swollen due to inflammation or infection of the tissue around the clogged follicles, which are often painful and feel hard.

Cysts: Deep, pus-filled pimples (sounds so gross right?) And it hurts! This is what I had in my early 20s. It literally hurt to touch my face.

Why Do Some People Get Acne and Others Don't?

There's no straight answer to why some people are more prone to acne than others, and the exact cause of acne is unknown, but hormones called androgens can play a role. Androgens increase in both boys and girls during puberty. Androgens make the skin's oil glands get larger and make more sebum. Androgens also can increase because of hormonal changes related to pregnancy or starting or stopping birth control pills.

Genetics may also matter. If your parents had acne, you may have inherited that tendency (true in our family)!

Cosmetics that have a greasy consistency may also clog pores. Water-based products are less likely to cause acne than oil-based makeup.

Other things that can make acne worse include:

Friction caused by leaning on or rubbing the skin; harsh scrubbing

Picking or squeezing blemishes

Changing hormone levels in adolescent girls and adult women two to seven days before the start of the menstrual period


What are some non-prescription based treatments?

You could start with benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide works against the bacterial component of acne and against clogging of the pores. It’s availabe in cleansers and lotions and comes in various strengths. It’s always best to start with the mildest first.

Salicylic acid also comes in many forms and helps to unblock pores and break down both whiteheads and blackheads.

It may take 4 to 8 weeks to notice improvement.

The Skin Ceuticals Micropeel that my daughter recently received included a mask, a light chemical peel, and cyrogenic therapy: all of these steps are intended to exfoliate the dead skin cells to unclog pores and get rid of bacteria and inflammation.

Do’s and Don’t’s To Help Clear Up Your Breakouts:

DO wash your face once or twice a day to help prevent the oil buildup that can contribute to acne.

DON’T scrub your face hard with a washcloth — acne can't be scrubbed away, and scrubbing may actually make it worse by irritating the skin and pores. Try cleansing your face as gently as you can.

DO make sure your make-up is labeled "noncomedogenic" or "nonacnegenic." This means it won't clog your pores and contribute to acne.

DO be sure you take the time to remove all of your makeup so it doesn't clog your pores.

DON’T get a suntan to help your acne. Acne isn't really helped by the sun. The sun exposure may increase skin cell turnover temporarily but the risk of skin cancer isn’t worth it!

DO try to keep hair products away from your face, as they also can clog pores. If you have long hair that touches your face, be sure to wash it often enough to keep oil away.

DO be sure to wash your face well after you’ve been exercising.

And when using your topical medication, DO be sure to follow the instructions exactly — don't use more than you're supposed to at one time (your skin may get too dried out and you’ll end up looking wrose).

DON’T touch, squeeze, or pick at your pimples. This might be hard to do — it can be pretty tempting to try to get rid of a pimple. But when you play around with pimples, you can cause even more inflammation by popping them or opening them up. Plus, the oil from your hands can't help! More important, though, picking at pimples can leave tiny, permanent scars on your face.

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