Acne occurs when skin pores become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. Whereas acne can affect anyone, teenagers are at the greatest risk of infection due to increase in oil production during puberty as a result of hormone effects. Blockage occurs when more oil is produced than it can be removed through the skin. It usually occurs on the face, neck, back, chest and shoulders, as they are areas with highest number of functional oil glands. Acne wounds heal slowly, and when one begins to resolve others appear. Acne can be emotionally distressing in teenagers as it leads to skin scarring. It makes the teenager to have low self esteem and can avoid interacting with others in school or at home. Fortunately, there are available treatments for the condition. The earlier the treatment is started, the lower the risk of longer lasting physical and emotional harms.
Acne can be exhibited by non-inflammatory or inflammatory lesions depending on the intensity or form of blockage, either deep or on the surface. There are three factors that cause acne i.e irregular shedding of dead skin cells which leads to agitation of the hair follicles of the skin, overproduction of oil in the skin and bacterial build up.
There are various factors that are known to worsen the acne condition.
- The effects of androgen hormones in boys and girls which increase at puberty cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum (skin oil).
- Birth control pills and fluctuating hormonal levels resulting from menstrual cycle can also contribute to development of acne in teenage girls.
- Use of topical steroids, lotion, cream or cosmetics during an acne attack can irritate the skin.
- Wearing tight clothes as they facilitate oil trapping in the skin, worsening the condition.
- Some drugs containing androgens, corticosteroids are known to cause acne.
- Some foods may also aggravate existing acne including dairy products and carbohydrate rich foods such as chips, bread.
- Stress can worsen acne, but does not cause acne.
The following factors have been commonly associated with acne. However, the fact is they have little or no effect on acne.
Dirty skin: acne does not result from dirt. The truth is, scrubbing the skin too hard or washing the skin with harsh chemicals or soaps agitates the skin and can worsen acne. Simple cleaning of the skin to get rid of dead skin and excess oil is what is needed.
Greasy foods and chocolate: these have nothing to do with acne.
Acne treatment works by minimizing the production of oil, enhancing skin cell turnover, fighting bacterial infection or reducing inflammation or doing all the four functions. Most treatments for acne do not bring instant results and one might wait for four to eight weeks and your skin may deteriorate before improvement is realized. Your dermatologist or doctor may recommend a prescription medication to be applied on your skin or oral medication. Types of acne treatment include:
Over the counter topical treatments; acne lotions help dry up the skin oil, kill bacteria and enhance shedding of dead skin cells. These lotions are usually mild and are used for mild acne. They may have side effects including irritation, dryness and flaking of the skin which mostly improve after a month of treatment.
When acne refuses to resolve with OTC medication, it is good to see a dermatologist for further treatment. The dermatologist may prescribe stronger lotion oand topical antibiotics to deal with the acne.
It is of importance for a teenager or a woman to disclose if they are pregnant as oral prescription must not be used during pregnancy especially during the first trimester.
Antibiotics may be prescribed for both mild and severe acne to reduce infection of bacteria and reduce inflammation. Due to acne developing resistance to antibiotics, one should stop taking them once improvements are realized or if no change occurs.
Isotretinoin; this is treatment used for deep cysts. Isotretinoin is a powerful medication for scarring cysts acne or acne that has not responded to other treatments.
Oral contraceptives may be suggested for women with acne although it has various side effects.
Laser and light therapy; these therapies reach the inside of the skin without harming the skin. Laser damages oil glands causing them to produce minimum oil while light therapy destroys bacteria that cause acne inflammation.
In addition, scars left by acne can be treated through various procedures including chemical peels, soft tissue fillers, dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, laser light source and radiofrequency treatments, or skin surgery.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
Teenagers can avoid or manage acne by practicing basic skin care such as washing the affected skin with a gentle cleanser, avoid irritants including cosmetics, using over the counter acne lotion which helps dry excess oil and enhance peeling, avoid picking or squeezing blemishes and general care of the skin such as avoiding contact with telephone receivers, tight clothes among other things that may enhance acne problem.
Acne can be prevented through various ways including washing acne prone areas only twice a day, use of over the counter lotions that helps dry excess oil, avoiding heavy foundation makeup, removing makeup before going to bed, having a hot bath or a shower after exercising or hard work and wearing loose fitting clothes.