A spot of bother: How to deal with acne

Adults often look back on their teenage years with rose tinted glasses, remembering the good times they spent with friends and forgetting about the pressures of school, romance, and a body overwhelmed with hormones!

One of the biggest problems that many teenagers face is dealing with acne. Pimples, zits and blackheads are all minor cosmetic flaws that can lead to major emotional and psychological issues in the long run.

If you are a parent of a teenager, and have noticed that they are struggling with acne problems, you may want to take the time to read up on this issue so that you can sit down with them and have an educated discussion about what acne is and how to prevent it.

Acne 101: The Basics

Acne – known medically as Acne Vulgaris – is a skin condition that occurs when the hair follicles under our skin become clogged and an oily liquid named sebum builds up. It typically appears as small red bumps and is most common on the face, neck, back, chest and shoulders.

Teenagers often struggle with acne because their bodies are undergoing hormonal changes that lead to their sebaceous glands becoming overactive and generating an excess of sebum. That said, acne can affect people of any age.

Both men and women experience acne, however men often show worse symptoms as their bodies produce more of the androgen hormone, which is one of the key hormones that contributes to acne. Women are more likely to experience acne when menstruating.

Usually acne will resolve itself over time. However, people with severe acne problems can sometimes be left with scarring, not to mention significant emotional distress. In fact, a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2010 showed acne can raise the risk of depression in affected individuals.

Preventing acne

The first step that people struggling with acne should take is to ensure they are maintaining good hygiene and cleaning habits. By washing down your skin with warm water and a clean face cloth every morning and night, you can help remove toxins and prevent pores from becoming clogged.

Recently, research has emerged that strongly suggests diet can also be a contributing factor to acne problems. Lactose, sugar and certain carbohydrates can all cause acne in some individuals, so it's worth experimenting with what you eat as well.

Stress can also contribute towards acne problems. A 2003 study of college students conducted at Stanford University and published in the Archives of Dermatology showed that teenagers often saw their acne worsen during particularly stressful exam periods.

Unfortunately, stress is often a natural part of being a teenager. However there are some things that you can do to mitigate this – ensure that you are getting a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, get plenty of exercise, and take time out to relax with friends.

Treatment options

You should never attempt to pop or pick at acne, as this may lead to permanent scarring or infection. If a zit or pimple does appear, the best course of action is to avoid touching it at all, other than to apply specialised creams or face washes.

Zinc is an excellent mineral that can help treat acne. Because zinc is able to assist in the process of repairing and regenerating damaged tissue and wounds, it is perfect for treating irritations such as acne and other various skin sores. Zinc can be applied topically and also taken orally to help treat acne.

If the acne problem is particularly serious, or doesn’t go away after the above measures, then there are medications and chemical treatment options available. These can be expensive and sometimes have uncomfortable side effects however, so it’s worth trying natural options first.

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Do you or someone you know suffer from acne?

What steps (if any) have you / they taken to manage this skin condition?