This is a common topic with teenage patients and is important to them. The conversation in my office often starts with “we would like a referral to a dermatologist”. There are a lot of great options for the treatment of acne. There are some options that can be tried at home prior to even seeing your doctor!
Acne is a common condition and as such many pediatricians and family physicians are comfortable treating most acne. About 85 percent of people from their early teens to mid-20’s will get acne. Also, about 12 percent of women and 3 percent of men will continue to have acne into their mid-40’s!
Acne is classified as mild, moderate or severe. If your teen has whiteheads or blackheads, you can try some things at home prior to taking your child to the doctor. However, if he or she has acne that sits on a red base or looks like it has pus in it or includes larger nodules or cysts, take them to see your doctor first. They will probably need prescription strength treatment to start with so that scarring of the face can be prevented.
Acne is usually found on the face, back and chest.
There are a number of options for moderate and severe acne. For many patients, particularly those with moderate acne, there are topical combination therapies that are very effective. There are effective therapies for moderate and severe acne, some will require seeing a dermatologist. Talk to your doctor and see what are good options for your teen!
4 things to try at home
1. Have your teen wash his or her face two times a day with a mild, gentle cleanser. Use warm water. There is no need for scrubbing, which will irritate the skin.
Examples of mild cleansers include unscented Dove soap, Basis, etc. If your teen is using a medicated face wash – no need for first using another cleanser.
2. There are 2 medication options that are over the counter:
- Benzoyl peroxide – this is often a mainstay of most acne treatment, even for people with moderate or severe acne. So, this is a good starting point. Over the counter preparations usually range from 2.5% – 5% and come in different formulations, including a face wash and creams. You can use this either one time a day or morning and night.
- Salicylic acid – this is a mild acne treatment that comes in many forms including creams and face washes.
3. Lotion for dry skin: If you or your teen has dry skin on areas with acne, look for a moisturizer that says it is “noncomedogenic”. This should be safe to use without making your acne worse.
4. Avoid greasy makeup or lotions (such as cocoa butter). Use makeup products that are labelled as “non-comedogenic”. Again, this will keep these products from worsening your acne.
Please note that you need to try this regularly for 2 months to know if it works or not.
Why? When acne treatment is started, the areas treated generally get worse in about 2 weeks and then there is slow improvement. (This is important to know, I was never told this when I was a teen and never followed through with any of the medications because I thought my face was sensitive to all of them!)
Side effects of these topical (on the skin) treatments
- Dryness of the skin
- Irritation of the skin
- Redness of the skin
What about avoiding certain foods?
The current research does NOT support that there are certain foods that should be avoided because they make acne worse (like chocolate, dairy, etc.). However, having said that, if you notice that eating a certain food makes your acne worse, try avoiding it for 2 months and see if that makes a difference.
This is a big no-no. Why? This will increase the risk of scarring of the skin. Secondly it may worsen inflammation associated which may actually make the pimple stay longer instead of resolving more quickly!