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This article is from the WebMD Feature Archive

Top teenage skin problems and how to solve them

The teen years can be filled with angst – the last thing you need is trouble skin. We asked the experts for solutions to the most common teen skin problems.

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

From breakouts that come out of the blue, to finger warts that makes you feel like everyone's staring, to an oily complexion that shines out of control, the teenage years can be filled with skin problems.

If you're like many teenagers, you probably feel you're the only one who's affected. The truth is that you're not - skin problems are common in teenagers.

"As a dermatologist [a skin specialist], I understand how frustrating and embarrassing certain teen skin problems are," says Dr Joel Schlessinger. "But it's important to remember that you're not alone and that there is always a way to make it better - you just have to find the right treatment path."

To help you do just that, we turned to several experts for advice on some of the most common teenage skin problems.

Teen skin problem 1: Acne

As hormone levels rise and bodies change, skin reacts. For some teens it's an occasional spot or blemish. For girls it can occur right before each menstrual cycle.

For other teens though, breakouts go far beyond a spot or two to create a chronic condition known as acne. It's characterised by whiteheads, blackheads and, more frequently, pus-filled spots.

"It usually develops in the central area of the cheeks and on the forehead, and it's almost universally caused by a hormone imbalance or a hypersensitivity to the robust hormonal activity going on in the body during this time," says Dr Doris Day, author of 100 Questions and Answers About Acne.

Day says that stresses associated with teen life can also be a contributing factor.

What can help? For many teenagers, over-the-counter acne treatments containing benzoyl peroxide and/or various acids in a cream, lotion or gel will work. The key, however, may be to purchase several different products and rotate them.

"Very often your skin responds favourably, then all of a sudden the product stops working," says Schlessinger. "The way to deal with this is to have two or three products you like and switch off, using one for two to three months and then changing once breakouts are no longer controlled."

If acne doesn't clear - or gets worse - see your doctor, who may refer you to a dermatologist, as soon as you can. Treatment can include professional-strength acne products, along with antibiotics.

What about those occasional ‘just before the Christmas holiday/school play/birthday party’ breakouts?

Dr Barry Resnik, a paediatric dermatologist, offers this quick solution:

Run a flannel under hot water and soak the spot until the cloth is cool, then apply a topical acne medicine, he recommends. If you repeat this process two to three times a day, Resnik says, you may stop or hasten an outbreak.

Teen skin problem 2: Oily skin

Although oily skin and acne often go hand-in-hand, this isn't always the case. Some teenagers suffer from oily skin alone.

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