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There comes a time in every teenager’s life when we suddenly notice that our skin is not the same as it was. We look in the mirror and see what appear to be tiny white spots on our faces, shoulders, back, and chest. This condition is called acne, an inflammatory skin condition that affects more than 85% of teenagers. Acne can cause physical discomfort as well as considerable embarrassment for its sufferers. There can be many reasons because of which teenagers suffer from acne.
Causes of acne in teenagers
- Increased androgen levels: During adolescence, the sebaceous glands secrete more sebum than necessary. This excess production of sebum causes the pores to be clogged with dead cells. In turn, this leads to the formation of acne spots. In addition, hormonal changes during puberty can cause dead skin cells to block the oil gland openings on your face, back, and chest rather than typically shed as they should.
- Hormonal factors: Many hormone levels may contribute to acne in teenagers. The level of a male sex hormone called testosterone increases during puberty, causing increased oil secretion from hair follicles, leading to blackheads or whiteheads. Another major factor is the Insulin-like growth factor (IGF) which increases during puberty and stimulates the sebaceous glands to secrete more oil.
- Diet: It has been seen that teenagers may develop acne due to certain food items like chocolates, dairy products, and carbohydrates, which increase levels of IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor).
- Cosmetics: Oil-based makeup may block pores, leading to irritation and inflammation, which is a significant cause of acne. In addition, some cosmetics contain ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate, which can irritate your skin by causing excessive dryness or unwanted peeling. Special care should be taken while choosing face wash, sunscreen, and cosmetics for sensitive acne-prone skin.
- Stress: As we discussed earlier, stress is one major trigger of acne in teenagers. Stress can also make existing acne worse and more severe. Acne on the body tends to produce different symptoms than face, back, or chest acne. Usually, on the body, acne appears as a rash rather than individual pimples. Some common locations include the shoulders, upper arms, buttocks, and thighs. Teenagers may also get acne around their groin area and underneath their breasts (in girls).
- Hair products: Sometimes, hair products like gels and sprays used to style hair can cause an acne flare-up if they get transferred onto your skin during regular daily activity such as combing your hair or putting on a hat.
- Harsh and damaging acne products: Many teenagers mistake treating their acne using harsh and drying chemicals like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and resorcinol, which can further irritate the skin and damage the already reddened skin making it even more sensitive. If you are suffering from acne, these products will not help much as your main aim is to reduce inflammation, redness, and swelling, not dry out your skin. Using such products for too long can create new blemishes by irritating them due to over-drying.
- Dirty makeup brushes: Using unclean makeup brushes can cause the transfer of dirt, bacteria, and old makeup into new skin, leading to acne. It is essential to wash your makeup brushes every week.
- Clogged pores due to weather conditions: Weather can also cause clogged pores or make existing acne worse, especially if you live in a humid climate. Acne tends to worsen during the sweltering summer months because of excessive sweating and lack of ventilation, as well as humidity which can exacerbate oily skin by increasing sebum production.
- Allergy: Some people develop an allergy to certain ingredients used in their makeup, such as preservatives and fragrances, which may be causing them breakouts on the face, neck, and back.
What are the types of acne teenagers suffer?
There are four basic types of acne :
- Comedonal acne: This type of acne is characterized by whiteheads and blackheads, the closed comedones or “white bumps” on your skin. These can be found on your face, neck, back, and shoulders.
- Papulopustular acne: In this type of acne, there is a mixture of whiteheads, blackheads, and red, inflamed pimples, which makes it a mixed form of acne. It typically occurs due to hormonal changes during the teenage years, which causes an increase in sebum production, leading to oily skin and blocked hair follicles causing blemishes. It mainly affects teenagers, but some adults may also get mild pimples called papules or pustules.
- Inflammatory acne: This type of acne is characterized by red, painful, pus-filled blemishes on the skin, which are very inflamed and swollen in nature. It usually affects teenagers with oily skin types but can also occur with dry skin types.
- Nodulocystic acne: This type is characterized by large, deep, inflamed blemishes which are hard to the touch and may be accompanied by fever. It tends to occur only in adolescent girls when their hormones change during puberty. However, suppose you still get cysts even when your hormones have balanced out when you become an adult. In that case, it may be caused due to an underlying health condition such as polycystic ovaries or congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which you need to see your dermatologist for.
What are the symptoms of acne in teenagers?
- Blackheads and whiteheads, which are the closed comedones or also known as “white bumps” on your skin.
- Deep, inflamed pimples that may be painful and tender to touch.
- Red, swollen acne containing pus pockets beneath the skin surface.
- Large deep, inflamed blemishes with a hard feel, often accompanied by fever.
- Cysts: Intensely inflamed and significant blemishes filled with pus and very painful, which look more like boils than spots, usually occur mainly on the face but can also affect other parts of your body
How can acne be prevented?
There are many ways to prevent acne from occurring in the first place, here are just a few:
- Use non-comedogenic makeup, which will reduce the chances of your pores getting clogged.
- Avoid touching your face as much as possible as bacteria, dirt, and oil from fingers can transfer onto the face leading to clogged pores which may cause blemishes.
- Wash your makeup brushes regularly to remove any traces of dirt and grime.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and fish for essential fatty acids, which help build clear skin. It is recommended that you cut out junk food from your daily diet, especially if you are eating greasy foods such as chips, chocolates, and other fried foods, which can cause breakouts in adolescents.
- Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated, stay away from caffeinated drinks like coffee or cola as these can worsen your acne.
- Cleanse face thoroughly before going to bed at night; use lukewarm water and a mild non-comedogenic cleanser. Avoid soaps or bar soaps as they have been known to dry out the top layer of the epidermis, which may lead to whiteheads forming. Also, if you have been wearing heavy makeup, you should take it off with a gentle oil-free facial cleanser rather than rubbing it vigorously with a towel which can lead to blackheads forming.
- Take a break from wearing makeup for a few days to see how your skin fares without it. Also, some girls may experience acne due to their hair products such as hairspray or gel, so minimizing these will help prevent further outbreaks.
- Exfoliate skin once or twice a week with a gentle scrub containing salicylic acid and glycolic acid. Do not exfoliate too much; otherwise, you’ll risk irritating the skin and reducing its natural regeneration process.
- Use sunscreen when going outside, especially if you are out in the sun during peak hours between 10 am and 3 pm when ultraviolet rays are the strongest. Wear protective clothing like hats, sunglasses and apply sunscreen over your moisturizer.
- Avoid touching your face in general.
What are the different types of treatment for teenagers suffering from acne?
- Gels, creams, and lotions which contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide unclog pores and kill bacteria that cause further breakouts. It can be bought over the counter without a prescription. These treatments work well on blackheads, whiteheads, and light pustule eruptions but may not work well if you suffer from deeper cystic blemishes or nodules.
- Oral antibiotics like doxycycline, minocycline, or tetracycline are taken orally for three months to stop bacterial growth, worsening acne. The side effects include tenderness in joints, nausea, stomach upset, and loss of appetite.
- Isotretinoin is a form of vitamin A that is very effective in clearing acne but can have long-term side effects such as increased sensitivity to sunlight, cataracts, night blindness, dry skin, and thinning hair, muscle aches, etc. Your dermatologist only prescribes this drug, so do not self-medicate.
- Oral contraceptives or birth control pills help with hormonal acne due to an imbalance of androgens or male hormones found in males and females.
- Retinoids such as adapalene and tazarotene are applied topically to unblock pores, minimize sebum production and shed dead skin cells that pile up within pores, causing breakouts. Consult your dermatologist before using retinoid treatments.
- Overnight spot treatment – soak cotton with apple cider vinegar, raw honey, and tea tree oil, then apply it on the blemish overnight. Repeat this treatment thrice daily for results.
- Facials, microdermabrasion, and photodynamic therapy – uses a light source that can penetrate deep into the skin. A sensitizing substance or drug is activated by exposure to this light leading to the elimination of acne.
- Laser treatment – use red and blue lights on affected areas but may cause scarring. There can be side effects such as swelling and blistering after laser therapy, so you should avoid going out in the sun for a week after each session. Ensure you minimize your intake of alcoholic beverages before undergoing this type of treatment.
- Peels help exfoliate dead skin cells from the top layer of the epidermis, which contains cl pores, whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. Daily use of sunscreen is required to protect the skin from future damage after undergoing peels.
- Dermabrasion – this procedure removes the top layer of damaged skin through microdermabrasion or laser resurfacing. It has cosmetic and therapeutic benefits in treating acne scars acne, fine lines, wrinkles, etc.
- Natural acne remedies – use honey, apple cider vinegar, yogurt, aloe vera, lemon juice, baking soda, steam treatment, etc. These are used as spot treatments over affected areas but take note that these home remedies can worsen acne, so consult your dermatologist first to find the best cure for you.
Homeopathic treatment for acne in teenagers:
Homeopathic treatment is best for treating acne in teenagers as it is practical, natural, and has very little or no side effects. Several homeopathic medicines have been prescribed to treat acne in teenagers by different doctors over the years. However, these treatments may vary from person to person, depending on your overall health condition. You should see a homeopathic doctor who will prescribe you some remedies after going through your medical and case histories. Common treatments for this skin disorder include sulphur, crocus sativus, Hepar sulphuris calcareum, Kali iodatum, etc.
Is there a way to prevent future breakouts?
Other than taking good care of your skin, there are several things that you can do to prevent future acne breakouts, such as:
- Maintain good hygiene – wash your face with a mild soap, gently scrub your skin using an exfoliating sponge or cloth twice daily to eliminate dead skin cells clogging pores.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water every day to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day as lack of water may cause dryness on your skin which can trigger acne breakouts.
- Avoid touching or scratching your facial skin as it may spread infection or bacteria leading to more severe acne problems.
- Keep your hands off your face – wash them regularly, especially after contact with oil-based products, dirt, cosmetics, etc.
If you are suffering from teenage acne and the above methods or home remedies do not work for you, or your acne is getting worse, consult a dermatologist or skin doctor before it gets out of control. You can book an appointment online, or you can consult a doctor through OHO Homeopathy. Good luck!