Helping Your Teen Cope With Acne
What is acne? Kids need to know ahead of time that acne is a possibility with the changes that come along with puberty, especially if you or your spouse had acne when you were younger. Acne is caused by bacteria that normally sit on the skin working in combination with changing hormone levels. These bacteria can cause eruptions or "breakouts" of pimples on the surface of the skin. Of course, a breakout always seems to happen at the worst possible time, such as before graduation, a bar mitzvah or a party.
What causes acne? Most kids get acne because their parents and/or siblings had bad acne. It's definitely an inherited pre-disposition. It's not true that foods like chocolate or sugar contribute to acne. But it is true that too much washing and drying can exacerbate acne, and certain washing products may be irritating to an adolescent's skin. Creams, suntan lotions and makeup don't usually cause acne, per se, but they may cause other types of rashes due to irritation, which can cause the same self-confidence issues that kids with acne face.
How to prevent acne. The first step in preventing acne is washing the face with a non-irritating, mild soap—one without any fragrance, which rules out the use of body washes on the face. It is recommended that kids wash their faces only once a day, so washing during a morning shower is sufficient.
Acne treatment. If a pimple breaks out, an over-the-counter medication containing benzoyl peroxide dabbed directly on the pimple works well. If the outbreak is more extensive or benzoyl peroxide doesn't work, consult your health-care provider. Sometimes a regimen of creams and/or antibiotics put directly on the pimples may be prescribed. The biggest reason these topical agents don't work is that kids don't use them or use them inconsistently or incorrectly. Using an acne treatment more times than directed can lead to extremely dry, irritated skin and, possibly, even more acne! So encourage your child to use the medication according to the directions, and take a pass on home treatments like toothpaste or Pepto Bismol in favor of those that are actually designed to treat acne. In more rare circumstances, antibiotics by mouth might be prescribed.
Acne and self-esteem. Parents play a big role in building their children's self-confidence. By focusing on your child's strengths—such as talents, kindness, generosity—and not their looks, you will help them feel confident as they make their way through the preteen and teen years—with or without pimples.