For just about every teen, acne is a
source of stress and concern. The
onset of puberty brings with it
changes in hormones and lifestyle
that can lead to varying degrees of the
Acne is the most common
reason people visit a dermatologist,
according to the Canadian
Dermatology Association. Teens are
especially prone due to the surge in
male hormones caused by puberty.
These androgens cause sebaceous
glands beneath the surface of the skin
to grow and produce more sebum
(an oily substance) than normal.
Combined with dirt and dead skin
cells, the skin’s pores or hair follicles
can become clogged, leading to
redness and swelling.
Sometimes the inflammation can
be worsened by the presence of a
bacteria known as Propionibacterium
acnes. Add to that genetics, the use of
the wrong hair and makeup products,
a poor facial routine, and teenage
eating and sleeping habits, and
you’ve got the recipe for blackheads,
whiteheads and pustules in varying
levels of severity.
How bad can it get?
There are four grades of acne:
- Grade one involves non-inflamed
lesions like blackheads and
- Grade two is the most common
among teens and includes blackheads,
whiteheads and red, inflamed
- Grade three involves more severe
forms of inflammation. More pustules
develop and often, acne can be found
on other body parts, as well as the
- Grade four involves nodular cystic
acne that is severe or debilitating
psychologically. Studies have shown
that this kind of acne can cause
depression in teens. If you or your
partner had grade four acne, your
child has a 50 percent chance of
getting it, too. If both parents had that
type of acne, that likelihood increases
to 100 percent.
Using makeup to cover acne can
cause more acne. So can squeezing or
picking pimples (so-called bathroom
surgery), which can cause scarring or
If left untreated, acne can lead to
skin discolouration and permanent
scarring. In the short-term, it can
affect your child’s self-esteem.
There are several over-the-counter
treatments that include the active
ingredients benzoyl peroxide or
salicylic acid. If those treatments
are not working, or if your teen has
severe acne, ask your doctor for a
referral to a dermatologist.
Your child might require a
medication with isotretinoin,
an antibiotic or a low-dose oral
contraceptive (for girls).
How do you
help your teen
training manager for
to a skin-care routine.
- Cleanse, but don’t overcleanse.
Take note of what
your teen is washing with
and how often. Suggest a
soap-free foaming cleanser
first thing in the morning and
- Exfoliation is important,
but avoid a scrub. Using a
cleanser containing salicylic
acid – an oil-loving hydroxy
acid – will loosen dead skin
cells without scrubbing.
Advise your teen to do this
three times a week.
- Hydrate the skin with an
oil-free moisturizer morning
and night. Boys should get
into this habit, too.
- Consider consulting a
professional skin therapist.
They will conduct an “ace
mapping skin analysis” and
educate your teen on what
products to buy and avoid.
“Often people are desperate
for a solution and they turn
down the wrong avenues,”
says Heather. “Seeing a
specialist is better than
experimenting with products
and hoping for the best.”
- Educate your teen to avoid
foods with high sugar content
or refined carbohydrates,
which release sugar into the
blood, causing the oil glands
to produce that thick, sticky
- Remind your teen not to
touch his or her skin and that
50 percent of acne clears.
Picking causes contamination.
- Change your teen’s
pillowcase regularly to
prevent hair oil from clogging
- Advise your teen to avoid
hair and makeup products
that contain mineral oils and
colorants – both are known to
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, February/March 2013.