Oh dear, puberty! That exciting time when a young person leaves the world of childhood and develops into a young adult. Unavoidably, hormones cause many changes during this period, the most emotionally-laden often being pimples or acne.
Over the years, Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatrician Mason Gomberg MD has seen a lot of acne and can offer a lot of advice for teens seeking solutions. In his recent blog, Dr. Gomberg shares tips, advice, treatments, and even dispels some myths.
Up to 95% of teens will have some form of acne during puberty
Acne is a chronic inflammatory process of the skin due to the increased production of androgens (a male hormone produced by both sexes). Any of the following can contribute to acne:
- occlusive (air-blocking) skin preparations
- certain medications
Some teens are not too concerned about mild acne but if it becomes moderate or severe, it can lead to psychological problems, including social withdrawal and depression. This is why it’s important to treat it early and continually.
Your pediatrician can recommend treatments
In most cases, a pediatrician and a patient together can conquer acne and avoid a referral to a dermatologist. Here are some important points to consider:
- Fatty, greasy foods and chocolates do not cause acne.
- Do not squeeze a pimple.
- Some cosmetics can cause acne by occluding (blocking) the skin pores. Your child should use products that are labeled “non-comedogenic.”
- Brief sun exposure can be helpful for acne but extended sunbathing can cause skin irritation that will make it worse.
- If your case is mild, start with OTC products, beginning with an acne cleanser/wash at least twice a day, then use a medicine containing 5% benzoyl peroxide at bedtime. If this does not work, change to a 10% concentration of this OTC medicine. As with all acne creams, dryness, burning and redness are the two most common side effects.
- If OTC medicines do not do the trick, speak to your pediatrician — he/she has stronger creams such as retinoids. These have an anti-inflammatory effect, plus they remove excess skin cells to prevent them from causing pimples. Another type of cream combines benzoyl peroxide with a topical antibiotic. These two creams can be used as alternating therapy.
- If the creams do not work, the next step is an oral antibiotic (erythromycin or tetracycline). This should be used along with the acne skin creams and is usually reserved for the more inflammatory acne conditions where a teen has larger and deeper pimples, cysts or nodules.
- In girls, estrogens (female hormones) in the form of oral contraceptives can be used if other treatments have failed and if there seems to be a relationship between the acne and ovulation or her menstrual period.
- If none of the above medicines work, there is still one very strong medication to be considered, called oral isotretinoin or Accutane. This medicine usually is prescribed by a dermatologist and since there can be many side effects, is reserved for the most severe cases .
Acne and puberty are a tough duo but your pediatrician can help
For many (if not all) teens, puberty is an awkward stage due the many changes taking place in their bodies. Even though acne or pimples are often part of this transition period from a child to an adult, your pediatrician can help in alleviating this issue. Please go and talk with your pediatrician…he or she is there to help.
To read Dr. Gomberg’s blog in full, click here.