Approximately 80 percent of adolescents and young adults suffer from acne vulgaris, better known as acne. For some, this even persists into late adulthood. While the majority of us experience it, we shouldn’t just dismiss it as something that everyone goes through—especially teen acne. Teens are already experiencing a myriad of hormonal fluctuations that result in both physical and emotional changes. When acne breakouts come into play, their teen years become much more overwhelming.
Acne can affect self-confidence, mood, peer relationships, and even performance in school or at work. Understandably, we all want to know how to manage acne and keep breakouts at bay. While there’s a plethora of information out there, it can be a challenge to discern what is true and what is not.
Here, we help you sift through the myths and facts about the factors that affect the severity of acne. We also enumerate possible solutions that can help you manage your own struggle with acne.
Common Misconceptions About Teen Acne
There are countless misconceptions about teen acne. Some are downright ludicrous old wives’ tales, but others appear factual and can be quite misleading. Here are ten of the most common ones that you may have already heard of.
1. Popping your pimples can make them disappear faster.
Want a zit to disappear the next day? Pop it and squeeze out all the icky stuff inside. Nah! This isn’t just a fallacy—it can even make your breakouts worse. Popping or squeezing your pimples push bacteria, dead skin cells, and excess sebum further into the skin. This exacerbates inflammation. You’d end up with more swelling and redness. Worse, you may end up with deep scars that last forever.
2. My friend’s acne cleared in a few days and so will mine if I copy the regimen.
An acne treatment kit worked wonders on your friend, so it’ll definitely be perfect for you as well, right? Wrong. There is no single treatment that is perfect for everyone. Acne varies in severity and manifests differently in each individual. Some would only have whiteheads and blackheads, while others would also have pus bumps and inflamed cysts. So, what works for your friend won’t necessarily work for you.
3. You have acne because you don’t wash your face well.
How many times has your mother told you to wash your face lest you wake up with zits on your face? Well, she isn’t entirely right, and neither is she completely wrong. Washing your face does ease breakouts, but dirty skin alone does not cause acne. There are other factors involved, which we’ll discuss later.
4. Acne will clear faster if you scrub your skin clean.
Let’s get this straight: you can’t scrub acne away. On the contrary, scrubbing can make it worse and cause more irritation. This is why exfoliation should only be done once a week.
5. You’ll have acne breakouts when you eat greasy foods.
There is no proven correlation between fatty foods and acne. So, excessive amounts of fatty foods may not directly affect acne breakouts or oily skin. Still, it’s always best to eat a healthy diet, so do avoid greasy foods.
6. You can clear up your skin if you get a tan.
The sun won’t zap your acne away. Getting a tan may temporarily mask your acne, but brace yourself for more intense breakouts. The sun can dry and irritate your skin. Even tanning machines can have the same effect.
7. Apply more medication or treatment to make pimples disappear faster.
More isn’t always better. If you keep getting breakouts or want them to disappear faster, you might be tempted to use more acne medication than what is required. Be cautious about doing this as too much medication can make your skin dry and prone to irritations. If your acne treatment isn’t working, just see a dermatologist.
8. Wearing makeup causes acne breakouts.
This is a generalization as not all makeup causes acne. Using the right makeup that suits your skin type won’t clog pores and trigger breakouts. You can still put on some makeup as long as you choose products that are non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic. Also, keep your makeup brushes clean as these can harbor bacteria.
9. Acne will clear on its own once the teen years are over.
Oh, we all wish this were true. Unfortunately, acne doesn’t always go away after we go through puberty. While acne is typically most common during the teen years, it can persist well into adulthood. The good thing is it can be managed with proper hygiene, an effective skin regimen, and a healthy lifestyle.
10. Everyone has acne so it’s really no big deal.
It is true that a wide majority has teen acne, but that doesn’t mean it’s of no importance. Acne not only causes physical problems such as permanent scarring but also leads to psychological issues such as poor self-image and depression. So, it is a big deal that should be addressed properly.
Factors That Affect the Severity of Teen Acne
Now that we have debunked the myths about teen acne, let’s go over the factors that affect it before finding the bestacne treatment for teens.
Acne occurs when skin pores get clogged with dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil. Dead skin cells and excess sebum cause blackheads and whiteheads. If a bacterial component is added to the mix, nodules and cysts appear.
While it is normal for our skin to shed dead skin cells and produce oil, some factors cause these to clog the skin pores. Among those factors are:
1. Follicular Hyperkeratinization
This tongue-twisting term simply refers to the abnormal rapid shedding of skin cells. Keratinization is the tendency to get clogged pores. Some people are more prone to this and tend to get more severe acne. Follicular hyperkeratinization occurs in the uppermost part of the hair follicles. When the dead skin cells don’t shed normally on the skin surface, they clog the pores and can exacerbate the development of acne lesions.
2. Bacterial Colonization
We all have these microorganisms that are normally present on the skin—the Propionibacterium acnes. This bacteria can multiply quickly inside skin pores. When there are too many of them, the pore becomes red and swollen. If the inflammation goes much deeper into the skin, an acne cyst appears. Unfortunately, some people have larger than usual amounts of this microorganism and thus have more severe acne.
3. Sebum production
Sebum in itself isn’t bad. It keeps our skin from drying out. The problem lies in excessive oil production. When your body makes too much sebum, the dead skin cells tend to stick together inside the skin pores. So, instead of rising to the surface and being shed naturally, the dead skin cells are trapped inside the pore.
4. Hormonal-driven conditions
Some hormonal fluctuations affect the occurrence of teen acne. Some conditions that possibly affect acne are premature puberty, hyperandrogenism, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and hypercortisolism.
5. Genetic predisposition
Some people have a genetic predisposition to severe acne. So, you now have an excuse to blame your parents for your acne woes. The severity of your acne is influenced by your genetic background, particularly on the maternal side. You may want to ask your mom about her acne history so you’d have an idea on what you’re bound to face in your teens and adulthood.
While there is no conclusive evidence yet of the correlation between diet and acne, some studies suggest that sugary foods or high-glycemic carbohydrates increase risks of acne. A rise in blood sugar causes your body to release more insulin, which in turn causes oil glands to produce more oil. Consequently, excess sebum can exacerbate acne. Thus, you may want to avoid too much pasta, white rice, white bread, sugar, dairy, and saturated fats if you are already prone to acne breakouts.
Another factor that triggers breakouts and makes acne worse is stress. When you are under a lot of stress, your body produces corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which drives up the production of sebum in the oil glands. As we’ve mentioned previously, excess sebum can lead to acne. Moreover, stress can cause some people to scratch or pick at their skin, resulting in even more irritation and worsening breakouts.
Steps to Minimize Breakouts
Teen acne is inevitable for most of us. But it can be managed and breakouts can be minimized. Here are some ways you can deal with it:
Start a Regular Skin Regimen
Wash your face twice daily with a gentle cleanser and warm water. Also wash as soon as you can after sweating as perspiration makes acne worse. You can use an acne prone face wash that’s gentle enough for sensitive skin. Once a week, you can exfoliate or use a mask to get rid of dead skin cells.
Before you head out, apply sunscreen. If you wear makeup, make sure it’s non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic.
Maintain General Hygiene
Even if you keep your skin clean, you’d still be exposed to dirt and bacteria if your surroundings are dirty. Change towels frequently and clean your sheets and pillowcases at least once a week. You’d be surprised at the amount of dead skin cells and bacteria swarming on them in just a week’s use. These could clog pores and lead to breakouts.
Use Acne Treatments with Care
There are several types of OTC acne treatment for teens. Most of them contain salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide and can effectively treat mild acne with proper use. Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in products for acne as it gently gets rid of dead skin cells. Benzoyl peroxide is a bit stronger and is used for more severe breakouts. It dries up dead skin cells, fights excess sebum, and kills acne-causing bacteria. However, it can irritate skin and should be used with caution.
To be on the safe side, look for less harsh ingredients such as salicylic acid, mandelic acid, and nitric oxide, which can control breakouts without the irritation. You may want to check out Neutralyze’s skin care line if you have moderate to severe acne.
Consult a Dermatologist
For more severe acne, it is best to consult a dermatologist who can properly assess your skin condition. A dermatologist can identify what types of acne you’re dealing with, grade your acne from 1 (mild) to 4 (severe), and recommend the most appropriate solution. They’d also be able to advise you on proper skin regimen and better skin care.
Have a Clear Plan for Skincare
If you’re dealing with teen acne, know that you are not alone in your struggle and that there are ways to manage it. While there are no overnight cures or instant solutions, there are effective treatments that can help improve your skin condition eventually. It may take several weeks or even months, but don’t be discouraged and stick to your skin regimen.