Avail Dermatology

Acne 101: Taking Down Teen Acne

Acne: We’ve all been there. It’s embarrassing and a major annoyance, but almost everyone goes through it at some point.

Acne often starts when adolescents enter puberty. Hormonal spikes activate the sebaceous glands, causing them to produce excessive amounts of an oily secretion called sebum. At the same time, the skin cells lining the pores become abnormally “sticky.” Thus when they shed, they combine with the sebum to form hard “plugs” that occlude the pore—which we see as “blackheads and whiteheads.” In many cases, there is subsequently a buildup of bacteria in the pores, which leads to localized inflammation, turning the blackheads and whiteheads into typical big, red “pimples.”  If the inflammation is severe enough, this can leave the face with permanent depressed “ice pick scars.”

From what you’ve just read, it might seem like these acne breakouts are an inevitable part of being a teen. While that’s true for some people, it doesn’t mean that you have to take this fight sitting down.

There are over the counter products that are effective for milder cases. One way to clear up blemishes is with benzoyl peroxide. This treatment helps reduce clogging of the pores and fights against the bacteria component of acne. The best part about benzoyl peroxide is that it’s widely available in a variety of forms that can be directly administered to the skin. However, when you’re shopping around be sure to check the strength of the product you buy. Some cleansers are stronger than others and will have different effects on certain types of skin.

Another common type of acne treatment solution is salicylic acid. This chemical works against acne by causing the outer layer of skin cells to shed more easily. This helps to unclog pores and prevent further clogging by making pores constrict. Salicylic acid, much like benzoyl peroxide also helps to attack bacteria. Glycolilc acid is also used for a similar purpose.

When you find a treatment that works for you and your skin type, the best way to get results is consistency. With regular use of a product it can take several weeks to show any real improvement so don’t get frustrated looking for overnight results.  Also, remember not to scrub your skin too hard or pick at pimples when trying any skin care products. This behavior can make acne significantly worse and cause scarring.

If these treatments don’t work for you, don’t worry—there’s still hope. The best way to find out what’s going on with your acne is to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. If needed, your dermatologist can provide you with treatments specifically catered for your skin sensitivity and type of acne. Prescription medications, which can be topical or oral medications, are able to control much more severe cases of acne, with the goal of improving appearance and preventing permanent scarring.

The teenage years are already full of stressors, but with help from your local doctor and various skin products, acne doesn’t have to be one of them.