Acne can be particularly prevalent among teenagers. The main underlying causes of teen acne and how it can differ from adult acne, are often down to hormone changes. However, looking into other differences such as lifestyle, and skincare routines (or lack of) can also tell you a lot more about how to treat individual cases.
What Does Teen Acne Look Like?
Teenagers often encounter specific challenges related to acne, including:
- Increased oil production: Hormonal changes during puberty stimulate the sebaceous glands, leading to excessive oil (sebum) production.
- Formation of comedones: Comedones, including whiteheads and blackheads, are common in teens. They occur when the skin pores become clogged with excess sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria.
- Inflammatory acne lesions: In some cases, acne can progress beyond comedones, leading to the development of inflammatory lesions such as papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.
Causes of Teen Acne
Understanding the causes of teen acne is crucial for effective management. Here are some key factors:
- Hormonal fluctuations: During adolescence, hormonal changes, primarily an increase in androgen levels, affect the oil glands, leading to the overproduction of sebum.
- Bacterial colonisation: The skin bacterium known as Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is a common inhabitant of the skin. In acne-prone individuals, this bacterium can overproduce or produce at a rapid rate, and in doing so, trigger an inflammatory response.
- Follicular hyperkeratinisation: This refers to the abnormal or excessive production of keratin (a protein that forms the protective outer layer of the skin) within the hair follicles. Increased cell turnover during puberty can lead to the abnormal shedding of skin cells, which can accumulate in the hair follicles and contribute to clogging.
- Genetic predisposition: Family history plays a role in the development of acne, with certain genes influencing an individual's susceptibility to the condition.
Lifestyle Factors Which Contribute to Teen Acne
- Diet: Although the direct relationship between diet and acne is still being studied, some evidence suggests that high-glycemic-index foods (refined carbohydrates, sugary snacks, etc.) and dairy products may exacerbate acne in certain individuals. Consuming a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, may help support overall skin health.
- Skincare habits: Good skincare practices can help prevent the buildup of excess oil, bacteria, and dirt on the skin. Washing your face gently twice a day and after exercise, using a mild cleanser and avoiding excessive scrubbing, can help keep the skin clean without irritating. However, over-washing the skin, a common reaction to experiencing acne, can make things much, much worse.
- Exercise and Sweat: Regular physical activity is beneficial for overall health, including skin health. However, excessive sweating and friction from tight-fitting clothing or sports equipment can contribute to clogged pores and acne. It is essential to shower and cleanse the skin after sweating to remove dirt and oil.
- Stress: While stress itself doesn't directly cause acne, it can potentially worsen existing acne or trigger flare-ups. Stress hormones can increase oil production and inflammation in the skin. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, exercise, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can positively impact acne.
How Teen Acne Differs from Adult Acne
While the underlying mechanisms are similar, there are a few notable differences between teen acne and adult acne:
- Age of onset: Teen acne typically emerges during puberty, while adult acne is classified as acne after age 25.
- Distribution and severity: Teen acne is more likely to affect the forehead, nose, and chin (T-zone) and may be more severe due to higher sebum production. Adult acne often appears on the lower face and jawline and is generally milder, though not always.
- Hormonal influence: Hormonal fluctuations are more pronounced during adolescence, contributing significantly to teen acne.
Why Not Worry or Stress about Teen Acne
Teenagers and their parents may understandably feel concerned about the impact of acne on their appearance and self-esteem. However, it is essential to provide reassurance based on scientific understanding:
- Temporary nature: Teen acne is often a transient phase that tends to improve with time as hormone levels stabilize and sebum production normalizes.
- Effective treatments available: Numerous over-the-counter and prescription treatments, such as topical retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, and antibiotics, can effectively manage and control acne.
- Professional guidance: Dermatologists can provide tailored advice, personalised treatment plans, and professional skincare recommendations to address teen acne effectively.
- Psychological support: Encouraging open conversations and offering emotional support can help teenagers cope with the psychological impact of acne.
How to Treat Teen Acne
- Avoid excessive touching or picking at the affected areas, as it can worsen inflammation and lead to scarring.
- Maintain a consistent skincare routine using gentle, non-comedogenic products.
- Cleanse your face twice a day using a mild, oil-free cleanser to remove excess oil, dirt, and impurities.
- Be cautious with makeup products. Choose non-comedogenic, oil-free, and water-based formulations. Remove makeup before bed to allow your skin to breathe.
- Protect your skin from the sun. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, even on cloudy days.
- Avoid excessive exposure to environmental pollutants, as they can exacerbate acne symptoms.
- Practice good hygiene by regularly washing your hair and keeping it away from your face, as oils and hair products can contribute to clogged pores.
Recommended Routine to Combat Teen Acne
- Cleanser: Wash your face with a gentle cleanser specifically formulated for acne-prone skin. If you’re not using ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide elsewhere in your routine, cleansers containing these can help unclog pores and reduce bacteria.
- Toner: An alcohol-free toner may potentially be used to remove any remaining impurities and balance the skin's pH levels. This won’t always be necessary for everybody.
- Exfoliation (1-2 times per week): Use a gentle exfoliating scrub or chemical exfoliant containing ingredients like salicylic acid or glycolic acid to help unclog pores and remove dead skin cells.
- Moisturiser: Use an oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer to hydrate your skin without clogging pores.
- Sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin from harmful UV rays
- Makeup Removal: Gently remove makeup using a mild makeup remover or cleansing oil.
- Cleanser: Wash your face with the same gentle cleanser as in the morning to remove impurities and excess oil.
- Acne Treatment: Apply a topical acne treatment containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or retinoids. This helps target acne-causing bacteria and promote cell turnover.
- Moisturiser: Apply a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturiser to keep your skin hydrated overnight.
- Avoid using multiple acne treatments simultaneously, as this can cause dryness and irritation. Start with one product and gradually introduce others if needed.
- Consult a skincare professional for personalised advice or a dermatologist for prescription medications if over-the-counter treatments are not effective.
- Be patient and consistent with your skincare routine, as it may take several weeks to see noticeable improvements.
Remember, everyone's skin is unique, so it's essential to listen to your skin's needs and adjust your routine accordingly. Stay positive, take care of yourself, and remember that teen acne is a temporary phase that can be effectively managed with the right approach and support.
If you or someone you know needs the ongoing support of a skin care professional to manage and treat their acne, Renude requires parental or caregiver consent to recommend and consult with those who are under the age of 18. To get started on your skincare journey, take our skincare quiz now.