Being a teenager is awkward enough without also having to deal with embarrassing acne.
Though acne is a common skin condition that affects men and women at any age, teenagers are especially susceptible because of all of the changing hormones they experience during puberty. These hormones stimulate oil production, which can clog pores and cause pimples. In addition to hormonal changes, certain medications, stress and diet can also trigger acne.
The good news is that there are many effective options to treat acne so that today’s teenagers don’t have to suffer as much as their parents did. The best acne treatments for teens largely depend on the type and severity of the acne.
“Different types of acne respond to different treatments, and what works for one person may not necessarily be the best treatment for someone else,” says Dr. Moneé Thomas of U.S. Dermatology Partners of Houston – Bellaire.
Acne is a serious condition that can cause a lot of emotional distress that leads to low self-esteem and social anxiety. Finding the right treatment plan is an important first step to clearing acne and helping your teen get back to living his or her best life. Here’s what your teen needs to know about the best acne treatments:
Gentle Non-Soap Cleansers
The first line of defense against acne is washing your face with a gentle cleanser twice each day. Avoid abrasive scrubs, and stay away from hot water and harsh soaps that will dry out your skin and actually make acne worse. Always wash your face after sweating while exercising or playing sports, and keep your hair clean so that added oil doesn’t come in contact with your face. It’s also important to use an oil-free, non-comedogenic lotion — even if you have oily skin — that includes a built-in SPF of 30 or higher.
Over the Counter Treatments
For mild to moderate acne, over-the-counter topical medications are good options. Make sure to choose products that contain either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Benzoyl peroxide acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and can help stop bacteria from growing, while salicylic acid works to unplug pores. After washing your face, apply a topical salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide product to spot treat any problem areas.
If over-the-counter medications haven’t worked and your acne lasts for several weeks, a dermatologist can prescribe stronger medications such as retinoids (Retin-A, Differin or Tazorac) or topical antibiotics like clindamycin, erythromycin or dapsone. Unlike over-the-counter treatments, these medications are not used to spot treat. Instead, they are generally applied to the whole face at night.
Sometimes, a dermatologist may also recommend oral antibiotics such as doxycycline and minocycline to reduce the number of inflammation-causing bacteria. Antibiotics are not used as an ongoing treatment and are typically only recommended for a few months, but they can be powerful tools, along with topical medications, to combat acne.
The most severe type of acne — cystic acne — is caused when inflammation goes deep into the skin and creates a painful bump filled with pus. If left untreated, these cysts can burst and lead to permanent scarring. A dermatologist will generally recommend a treatment plan that includes oral antibiotics combined with Accutane, a strong prescription medication that reduces the amount of oil released by oil glands. Accutane is available under several brand names and is taken once or twice daily for up to five months. Often, acne is cleared permanently and completely after one round of treatment.
For all teenagers experiencing any type of acne, a clean diet filled with whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables is much better for your skin than one that's full of processed and high-sugar foods. Junk foods like candy, juice and even dairy products can make acne worse. The best plan is to eat more whole foods, drink plenty of water and get lots of sleep. This will not only make skin look better, it will make you feel better, too.
When you do have a breakout, always fight the urge to pick at lesions and pop pimples, blackheads and whiteheads on your own. It will only make the situation worse.
“When you get a pimple, keep your hands off and don’t pick at it,” says Dr. Thomas. “Picking at pimples and cysts can cause acne to spread and can even lead to scarring.”
There is no miracle acne treatment that will entirely clear your face of acne overnight. The goal of most treatments is to steadily improve acne over the course of several months. Be patient and follow the advice of your dermatologist.
To learn more about the best acne treatments for teens, contact a dermatologist at U.S. Dermatology Partners today.