BY JAMIE LOBER
Taylor is a fourteen year-old girl from Warner Robins. As she marks her calendar for the upcoming holiday dance, she worries that acne may ruin an otherwise wonderful night. Taylor is not alone. “Almost every teenager gets some form of acne. Eighty to ninety percent of teenagers have something related to acne on their face or body whether it is blackheads, cysts, or pimples,” reveals Dr. David Cohen of Dermatologic Surgical Specialists in Macon.
Your adolescent may break out on his face, back or chest. He may wash his face and do all of the right things but acne may still be out of his control. “A person needs to be born of two parents that did not have a problem with acne because genetics does play a role,” informs Dr. Mark Bonner of Georgia Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center in Macon.
It may be difficult, but it is necessary to look at acne as a sign of puberty and to be empathetic with your adolescent. “It has a big psychological impact on the patient and disfigurement if untreated in some cases. At a time when teens are under a lot of peer pressure and everything has to be perfect, it is hard to have something less than perfect on their skin,” explains Cohen. Teenage acne comes in several forms:
Blackheads (open comedones)
Whiteheads (closed comedones)
Once you begin to understand acne, you will find that it can be managed.
It is normal to wonder what is happening to your body. “In the hair follicle there is something called an oil gland, or sebaceous gland, and there is an obstruction that occurs in the area,” explains Bonner. This propiono bacterium, or acnes species, causes the blackheads or inflammatory lesions that may arise on the skin. You may even want to talk to your child about the changes he is going through. “It is the hormonal changes that occur around puberty in combination with a genetic predisposition that all those hormones activate the oil glands in your face. In addition, you may have clogged pores that stimulate the bacteria to grow and the inflammation we see in bad cases,” says Cohen.
Hormonal acne worsens close to an adolescent girl’s menstrual cycle. “These women may be helped by going on a birth control pill, and there are a few that are approved for acne,” informs Bonner. Do not think that just insisting that your teen washes her face twice a day means that she will not suffer from acne. “Most studies show that simply cleansing your face does not have much of an effect on acne because it is not dirt on your skin; it is actually a hormonal influence to your glands,” reinforces Cohen.
When shopping for makeup look for:
Be careful of foundations. “All creams and lotions need to be tried on a small test spot,” advises Cohen. This will ensure that your adolescent will not experience skin irritation as a result of trying a new product.
There are many helpful products that do not require a prescription. “They generally have two percent salicylic acid in them which is used to keep the pore open and clean,” says Bonner. Dermatologists make some recommendations regarding medications and other helpful products to treat acne:
Alpha hydroxy acids
Salicylic acid, unless you have sensitive skin
Pore strips to remove blackheads
Warm water and mild soap
Cleansing after sweating
The Clarisonic brush. “It is a little device where you put some sort of cleanser and it vibrates on your skin and goes over the areas to do a deep cleansing treatment,” explains Bonner.
ORAL TREATMENTS AND MORE . . .
Sometimes antibiotics or therapies that require a prescription may be necessary such as:
Birth control pills
Skin resurfacing with laser or dermabrasion for scarring
Diet can make a difference. “There is something in the food supply and growth hormones we are giving to chickens and cows to market earlier are causing a hormone-like effect in these kids. In bad cases of acne, I tell patients to drink organic milk and eat organic chicken instead of the ones that are commercially available,” says Cohen.
Avoiding acne comes down to following these helpful tips from the experts. “If you can keep the hair follicle open, nothing clogs it and the bacteria do not grow, then you should not get any acne,” summarizes Bonner. Other times, it may be necessary to see a dermatologist. “When you have tried some simple things and acne is getting out of control, you are tired of looking at it and embarrassed by it and you have tried dietary and over-the-counter topicals, you should come in for an evaluation and see if you might benefit from other products,” recommends Cohen. The dermatologist can provide more aggressive treatments. You will even get the added benefit of a mole check.
The good news is acne is usually not permanent. “In a lot of guys, acne gets better after the teenage years and goes away for the majority of cases,” says Cohen. When you are informed and make good skin care a priority, you will be ready for any special occasion with beauty and grace.