Help your teen with pimply skin

By Drum Digital
01 June 2014

Going through puberty is tough – especially if you have to do it with zits all over you face. Most teens will experience varying degrees of acne at some time or another.

Going through puberty is tough – especially if you have to do it with zits all over you face. Most teens will experience varying degrees of acne at some time or another.

“All acne is hormonally produced,” Dr Ian Webster, a dermatologist in Cape Town, explains. “At puberty girls as well as guys start producing the male hormone testosterone. This causes the oiliness of the skin, blackheads, whiteheads and pimples.”

Many people think it’s part of growing up, but acne can cause permanent scarring if left untreated, says Dr Mahendran Moodley, a dermatologist at Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town. “It’s important to seek medical treatment early, even if the acne is mild. Aside from scarring, acne can have severe psychological effects, such as reduced self-esteem and in very extreme cases, depression or suicide.”

Here is some advice on how to help your teen battle acne:

A healthy skincare routine:

“To help keep your skin healthy, you should cleanse at least twice daily with a gentle exfoliating face wash,” Dr Moodley advises. “Over-the-counter washes that contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic and lactic acid may help mild cases of acne.”

Dr Webster says in addition to washing your face with a mild cleanser, teens can apply an antibacterial gel such as Benzac AC 5 onto the individual pimples for spot treatment. “I don’t recommend harsh cleansers and scrubs as this will often just irritate the skin,” he adds. “A lot of teenagers make the mistake of trying to scrub away the acne.

“If the teenager has a more sensitive skin then I recommend a cream-based cleanser such as Cetaphil gentle cleanser. If the teenager has a tougher more oily skin, then I would recommend a slightly foaming cleanser such as Cetaphil cleanser for oily skin.”

Teens who develop the odd pimple should avoid picking it. This can lead to scarring and pigmentation, warns Dr Moodley. “Cosmetics, oily sunscreen and hair products may also exacerbate acne. These should be avoided,” he adds.

Does diet play a role?

Junk food and chocolate are often said to cause pimples, but the verdict on the relationship between food and acne is still out. “However, a high glycaemic load diet is associated with worsening acne,” Dr Moodley says. “There is also a positive association between the consumption of milk and a greater rate and severity of acne. Other associations such as chocolate and salt are not supported by the evidence.”

Acne treatments:

There’s no “cure” for acne, says Dr Moodley, but the available treatments can prevent the formation of new spots and scarring. These include:

  • Topical treatments – These are applied directly to the skin and are usually the first choice for those with mild to moderate acne.
  • Oral antibiotics – It’s used to treat moderate acne in combination with a suitable topical treatment.
  • The pill – Oral contraceptives can help girls suffering from acne.
  • Isotretinoin (medication such as Roaccutane and Oratane) – This is a powerful and highly effective treatment for severe acne. But be warned that it can cause a number of side effects and should be prescribed only under the supervision of a dermatologist, says Dr Moodley. “Dermatologists are trained to recognise which type of acne responds best to this treatment, and how to manage side effects.”

Isotretinoin is usually a six-month course. “If given at the correct dosage, for the correct length of time, there is an approximate 85 per cent chance that the teenager will be cures of his or her acne,” Dr Webster says.

-Petro-Anne Vlok

Picture: Kizzzbeth on Flickr

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