● A whitehead occurs when a pore gets clogged, closes and bulges out from the skin.
● A blackhead occurs if a pore gets clogs but stays open and the top surface gets dark.
● A pimple occurs when the walls of the pore are broken, allowing sebum (part of the oil that is found on the surface of the skin), bacteria and dead skin cells to get under the skin.
● Cysts are clogged pores that open up deep in the skin and can lead to bigger infections.
Healthy Skin Habits
Acne can start at 12 years of age (sometimes younger). If kids get into the habit of taking care of their skin before acne comes along, they’ll have an easier time when they’re teens.
Encourage your child to:
● Wash hands before touching face.
● Avoid touching face.
● Wash face gently with mild soap twice a day, especially after exercise.
● Use only makeup or products that are labelled ‘oil free’ or noncomedogenic’ (will not clog pores).
● Avoid squeezing or picking at pimples. Instead, apply a drying product. (Squeezing a pimple can cause bleeding into the skin and the bump can last for several weeks.)
● Keep long hair away from face and wash daily if it’s oily.
● Avoid using baseball hats, or other items that rub against the skin (such as headbands), if they seem to be worsening the acne.
Acne might be worsened by:
● Wearing tight-fitting items that rub against the skin (such as a football player wearing shoulder pads), as well as using equipment that rubs against the body (such as a violin held between the cheek and shoulder). Helmets, bra straps, headbands and turtleneck sweaters also may cause acne to get worse.
● Fluctuating hormones. Girls will often have breakouts before they menstruate; boys will suffer prior to growth spurts.
● Washing the face too often or scrubbing the face too hard.
● Using harsh soaps or very hot water can also cause acne to get worse.
● Experiencing a lot of stress.
● Taking certain medications.
Note: Although doctors say what one eats does not affect acne, many anecdotal reports point to sugar and saturated fats causing breakouts.
What stuff to try?
● Alpha-hydroxy acid, which dries up blemishes and causes the top skin layer to peel. You’ll find alpha-hydroxy acid in moisturizers, cleansers, eye creams and sunscreens.
● Salicylic acid (Clearasil, Propa pH, Noxzema pads), which dries up blemishes and causes the top skin layer to peel.
● Tea tree oil, which kills bacteria. You’ll find tea tree oil in gels, creams, and oils.
● Benzoyl peroxide (Benoxyl, Benzac, Clearasil), which unplugs pores.
Note: The Hospital for Sick Kids recommends that due to their fair skin, redheads and blondes should only apply benzoyl peroxide every other day for the first two weeks. As well, benzoyl peroxide can bleach clothing and bedding, so apply it sparingly.
While milder acne often responds well to non-prescription medication, it can take time to get acne under control. Keep using the same treatment for six to eight weeks. You may even notice that it gets worse before it gets better. If your skin is not better after eight weeks, try another product.
When to see the doctor?
If a child is becoming emotionally affected due to their acne, or is starting to show permanent scarring, it’s time to see your doctor and perhaps a dermatologist. If your child has acne cysts, your doctor might speak to you about stronger medicine. Isotretinoin (such as Accutane) works very well, but it can cause birth defects and girls of any age will be put on birth control pills while taking this medication. Also, it’s important to be aware that using Accutane may be associated with depression.