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How to fight teen acne

By Rochelle Nikita, contributing writer
Published On: May 16 2011 02:38:22 PM CDT
acne, makeup

iStockPhoto /pkline

Dealing with acne can be one of the worst parts of a teen's life. But when a teenager has acne, they're not the only ones who suffer. Their parents also struggle to find a way to help them overcome the pain and embarrassment of an acne condition they can neither control nor cure.

One of the most important assurances to instill in a teenager suffering from acne is that they are not alone. According to Acne-Resource.org, at least 85 percent of young adults age 12 to 24 suffer from acne. This fact can give teens peace of mind that their condition is not unique and is therefore nothing to be ashamed of.

High acne statistics are not enough to comfort the teen's actual acne problems, unfortunately. Teenagers will still feel ostracized by their appearance and may take hasty action in combating their condition. For example, if a teen is suffering from acne, they might be washing their face several times a day with harsh soap and an abrasive washcloth in an attempt to rid their skin of breakouts. Little do they know they're doing much more damage by spreading the puss and irritating their tender skin. Thus, it is imperative that parents get their teen to open up about their feelings regarding their acne and encourage conversation about care methods.

Sometimes the only way to bring up the topic of acne care is to confront it head on. One way to begin the conversation is to mention certain behaviors the teen has been exhibiting such as picking, scrubbing or scratching the pimples. Begin hinting that you've been looking for products or treatments that can help control acne and prevent future breakouts and severe scarring. Make sure they are aware that you are concerned about their skin just as much as they are, and would like to see them continue through their teen years with the least amount of acne and scarring involved.

The next step is to seek out help for your teen. Depending on how severe their acne is will determine what steps you need to take to control it. Sometimes all that is needed is a daily acne care system. If the acne is persistent and worsens over a period of weeks, it is likely that medical help should come into the equation.

Even more difficult than getting your teen to open up about their acne is convincing them to undergo acne treatment. The best way to get them used to the idea is to include them in your research. Encourage them to make phone calls to one or two local dermatology clinics and have them list their concerns on a sheet of paper. Usually someone at the clinic, such as a microderm technician or knowledgeable receptionist, will be able to give you and your teen answers to treatment questions over the phone before making an appointment. This can put both your minds at rest.

You will find there are many treatment options facing you and your teen. Among them are topical medications and dermatology procedures, all of which have proven effective in some way or another. One of the most popular topical treatments is benzoyl peroxide, an over-the-counter cream that can be purchased at just about any grocery, drug or department store. If this is not enough to curb the acne, it might be prudent to look into a daily system such as Proactiv, which combines a gently abrasive cleanser with repairing benzoyl peroxide lotion and a toner.

If the acne is moderate or severe, a dermatologist might recommend prescription medications such as Tretinoin cream or Differin. Both of these must be used carefully, as they are harsh chemicals. If they are used in too high of a quantity on the skin, they will compound the acne problem by drying the skin out too much and causing pores to secrete even more unnecessary oil onto the skin's surface.

Dermatologists might also offer to put the teen on Tetracycline or a birth control pill. Both of these can have adverse side effects on the body. Tetracycline has been known to cause acid reflux disease, especially when the dermatologists recommend it to be taken at night. Birth control can bring on a slew of problems later on in the teen's life, including a great hormone imbalance if they decide to quit taking it.

Finally, there are certain procedures that can be performed on the skin. These are often very effective in clearing away problem skin areas and helping the skin create fresh cells. Some of the best options here are chemical peels and microdermabrasion. With a chemical peel, a clear liquid chemical is applied to the affected area, soaks into the skin, and over the next few days peels away the skin, much like a sunburn, and reveals new, unaffected skin underneath.

There are varying degrees of chemical peels that can be chosen. According to WebMD.com, a mild, superficial chemical peel takes care of minimal skin damage, while a medium peel can even out pigment differences such as the red marks caused by acne. Oftentimes, it only takes one or two treatments to start seeing a difference in the skin, while four treatments over the course of a few months are usually recommended by dermatologists.

Another very effective treatment is microdermabrasion. This is a good option for teens because it is much gentler than regular dermabrasion and, according to MayoClinic.com, it does not cause skin damage. Just as with chemical peels, the teen will oftentimes need four treatments to see complete results.

Ask your dermatologist what cleansers and products should be coupled with skin treatments. Not all products lead to positive reactions when chemicals or abrasive treatments are taken. Do some online research or get a second opinion when it comes to committing to expensive daily systems for your teen.

As many people know, acne issues facing the parent and their teen are more than skin deep. Acne can affect the mental health of teens, causing them to feel undue humiliation and suffer alienation from their peers. A good way to address this is to get your teen involved with an online support group. Acne.org offers a huge forum for teens to connect with people their age to discuss their frustrations, find out about good acne products, and to share acne success stories. This can be a great way to get your teen to open up about their acne and experience mental relief at the same time.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a replacement for consultation with a trained, licensed medical professional.