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Why Teens Get Acne and How to Properly Treat It

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Let’s talk about the unfortunate truth of our teenage years…acne! Your first breakout can feel like the most embarrassing experience ever, but you’re not alone. Teen acne is an extremely common condition, and although it may damage self-esteem, we can help fix it– so don’t panic.

Acne can occur for a variety of reasons, including hormones, sports, stress, and medications. But the good news is there’s also a variety of treatment options, including over the counter creams and gels, oral medication, and prescribed antibiotics. We’re going to take a deeper dive into some of the causes and solutions, but before you change up your routine too much, we always recommend consulting with a professional. The best first step to getting clear skin is scheduling an appointment with our dermatologist, Dr. Jaclyn Wetli.

What is Teen Acne and Why Does it Happen?

Acne most commonly appears on the face, neck, chest, back and shoulders. Although there could be many factors contributing to the severity of acne, it normally starts in adolescent years when the body has an increase in hormones.

During our teenage years, our oil glands produce more sebum due to an increase in hormones. Our bodies naturally produce that oil to protect our skin, but during adolescent years, it can be excessive, causing blocked pores that turn into acne.

As many of us know from experience, acne can be painful due to inflammation and irritation of the skin – and it can show up in many forms. An acne breakout may include various types of pimples including papules, whiteheads, blackheads, and cysts. Papules are small, inflamed bumps on the skin filled with pus; whiteheads are clogged skin pores known as closed comedones; and blackheads are clogged pores, also known as closed comedones. Cysts, on the other hand, are usually the most evident since they’re filled with pus, are often more painful, and can even cause scarring.

Acne affects everyone differently. Some people may only have a few issues throughout their lives, while others may consistently struggle with breakouts and inflammation. A mild case of teen acne is categorized by blackheads and whiteheads with a few papules. A severe case of can consist of many large papules, cysts, and scarring.

Why does acne affect some more than others? The simple answer: because everyone’s body is different! But in reality, it’s complicated, which is why it’s a good idea to see a dermatologist who can help determine the root cause of acne. Here are some of the culprits that could be contributing to teen acne.

  • Stress levels: Our teenage years often come with many stressful situations. Those who are under high levels of stress are more likely to experience severe acne. This is because stress can trigger inflammation in the body, and acne is an inflammatory disease. Finding healthy ways to manage stress, like exercise, mindfulness, and yoga can help prevent flare ups.

  • Sports: Many teens are involved in sports, and sweating is a major cause of breakouts for a few reasons. Uniforms, helmets, sports bras, and other tight-fitting athletic clothing can cause problems with acne. Be sure to wash sports gear often, and whenever possible, try to wear loose-fitting clothing. Finally, take off makeup before your workout!

  • Medications: While medications are extremely helpful for many reasons, a rare side effect of some can be acne. Most acne breakouts aren’t medication-related, but when they are, they tend to appear different from regular teen acne as they can have a more uniform pattern with identical shaped and sized papules.

  • Makeup/Skincare: A major focus during our teen years is figuring out our image- and for many of us that includes regularly wearing makeup! But sometimes the products we use to help our skin look and feel great, can do harm if not used properly. It’s frustrating, we know. Teenagers should avoid makeup that contains isopropyl myristate and sodium lauryl sulfate, because these are known as common irritants that clog pores. Use powder-based products instead of liquid, use noncomedogenic makeup, clean applicators often, and never sleep in makeup.

  • Genetics: While there’s not a specific gene that causes acne itself, genetics can play a role in whether a teenager Is prone to experiencing acne breakouts. If both parents suffered from severe acne, the risk may be higher – and you can’t control genetics, but it does help to know your family history so you’re better prepared if it happens.

How to Prevent Teen Acne Breakouts

Despite acne being fairly common in teens, the good news is there are tactics that can help prevent, manage, and eliminate breakouts.

  • Gently wash the face, neck, and chest twice per day using a gentle cleanser and water, and softly pat dry with a clean towel afterward. This will help clear your face of all the dirt and irritants that build up on skin throughout the day. Tip: avoid using extra hot or extra cold water on acne-prone areas.

  • After cleansing, you will apply a topical product that Dr. Wetli has suggested for you to help unclog pores and prevent future breakouts. Tip: always be sure to properly wash hands before touching your face!

  • For those who wear makeup, it is recommended to use mineral based makeup since it will reduce the risk of clogging pores or causing acne flares. We love colorescience brand products, which you can find in our shop.

  • Finally, as difficult as it can be, avoid touching or picking the affected areas. This can cause further inflammation, irritation and scarring, ultimately making the acne worse.

Best Treatments for Teen Acne

Teen acne can turn into adult acne if not treated properly- and with so many triggers and different treatment options, it can feel overwhelming to control it. Some teens may need to change their diet or make minor adjustments to daily routines, while others may need topical medications like retinoids or potentially oral antibiotics. To ensure you’re treating acne correctly, it’s best to meet with a professional who can find the root cause and create a personal treatment plan that will be most effective for you and your unique skin.

Treatment plans are not a one size fits all, or a one and done solution. They’re a process that takes time, patience, and commitment. It’s important to note that a patient’s dedication to their treatment plan is vital to its success. If you’re consistent with treatments, it will be easier to track progress and see results.

Schedule an Appointment for Teen Acne Treatment

If you’re ready to start your path to confidence with a solution for teen acne, schedule an appointment with Dr. Wetli today! We accept all major insurance plans and service Columbus, Ohio and its surrounding areas. We look forward to helping you improve the health of your skin so you can look and feel your best.