Everyone hates having zits! Unfortunately, the majority of people DO have acne at some point in their life, often as young teenagers. Here, you will learn more about the causes, myths, and treatment of this annoying and very common skin condition.
What is acne?
Acne lesions start under the surface of the skin. Skin pores can become blocked and sebum (oil) that normally drains to the skin surface becomes trapped. Bacteria grow in the sebum and can stay trapped below the skin surface, forming a closed whitehead, also called a closed comedo. If the skin pore opens to the surface, the sebum, which contains the skin pigment called melanin, oxidizes and turns brown or black. This is called a blackhead, or an open comedo. Acne lesions can become inflamed when the sebum and bacteria in the skin pore erupt into the nearby tissue, causing a red, swollen, tender bump ranging in size from a small pustule to a large cystic lesion.
Common acne myths:
- Acne is a sign of a dirty face: false! Although many believe skin pores become clogged by dirt and oil, acne lesions actually start below the surface of the skin. Excessive washing can actually make acne worse by irritating pores and causing them to become clogged.
- Dietary changes can help acne: false! Or at least, we aren’t sure yet. Researchers are researching how diet affects acne, but so far have not found that foods high in fat, chocolate, or any other particular diet makes it worse or better.
- Stress causes acne: false! Scientific studies have shown that acne is not triggered by stress. It just seems like every finals week brings on zits, but actually acne is just as common in relaxed times for teens.
- Sun tanning helps acne: false! Sunburn simply turns your teen’s face red, camouflaging her acne. Recovery from sunburn usually makes acne outbreaks worse.
Come see us at Eugene Pediatric Associates for help with your child’s acne. Early intervention with acne can help avoid scarring that can last a lifetime.
Acne therapy is based on the severity and type of acne lesions present. A variety of topical prescription creams and gels can be useful. These may include benzoyl peroxide, topical retinoids (related to vitamin A), and topical acid treatments. Inflammatory acne may require oral antibiotics in combination with topical skin treatments.
We may discuss the possibility of hormonal therapy for your teen’s acne – in other words, starting “the pill.” This is a big, complex decision, and we want both the parent(s) and their teen involved in this discussion. In rare cases of severe nodular acne, your pediatrician may refer your child to a dermatologist.
Any course of therapy for acne will take patience. Most people do not begin to see improvement in their acne for several weeks after starting therapy.