Don’t eat greasy foods. Stay away from chocolate. Don’t scrub your face, but do wash it twice a day. Just use over-the-counter acne medicines. No, try lemon juice.
Teenagers hear it all. During those tender adolescent years when they’re most concerned about appearance, many teens contend with skin issues. Desperate to regain their perfect prepubescent skin, they look for answers.
And answers are abundant. But which ones are accurate? Is there something (anything!) that will make acne disappear and keep it away?
To get a grip on acne, it helps to understand what it is and what contributes to it. Here’s a crash course:
When tiny oil glands around hair follicles on the face, chest and back are stimulated by hormonal changes, they produce an oily sebum. In acne, the opening of the follicle gets blocked and the sebum builds without a way to escape. The result is a plugged pore, commonly called a whitehead. (Blackheads are whiteheads that have been exposed to air.) If bacteria grow in the plugged pores, they cause inflammation, which in turn creates pimples. In more severe cases, painful cysts develop, and often leave scarring.
In spite of what we do know about acne, we don’t know the exact cause. According to the National Institutes of Health, experts believe it may be caused by an increase in androgens, or male sex hormones. These hormones increase in boys and girls during puberty causing the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum.
Heredity or genetics also play a role in the cause of acne, as well as certain drugs, such as lithium. Even some cosmetics cause acne by altering the cells of the follicles, causing them to stick together like a plug.
Here are other factors that contribute to acne:
If you have a mild case of acne, an over-the-counter topical medicine may be the best way to treat it. There are several OTC options, and they come as gels, lotions, creams, soaps or pads. Each works differently so it’s important to choose one that’s right for your skin type. Here are the most common topical medicines:
Be aware that OTC acne medicines can cause skin irritation, burning or redness, which can get better or go away by continuing to use the medicine. However, if you experience severe or prolonged side effects, you should talk to your provider.
If mild acne becomes more severe, a doctor or dermatologist may prescribe a topical or oral medication (or a combination of both) to help. These could include antibiotics to help stop or slow the growth of bacteria and reduce inflammation, or a vitamin A derivative, such as Retin-A.
Like OTC topical medicines, prescription topical medicines come as creams, lotions, solutions, gels or pads. Your doctor or dermatologist will prescribe a product based on your skin type.
An estimated 85 percent of all teens deal with acne during adolescence, and many adults do as well. If you have acne, don’t be embarrassed or think there’s nothing that can be done about it. Talk to your provider for advice.
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, or NIAMS, website is also an excellence resource for science-based information on acne.