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Acne health centre

Tackling teenage skin problems

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

The teenage years can be stressful enough without the added burden of problem skin.

To some extent it comes with the territory as most teens have trouble with their skin in one way or another.

So if it’s getting you down, remember you’re not alone and there’s always a way to make things better.

1. Spots

Spots are often part and parcel of teenage life. There are very few youngsters who make it to adulthood without having breakouts and blemishes.

"Most teenagers experience skin complaints as they go through puberty due to their hormones changing, this causes glands in the skin to produce excess sebum (oil) which in turn leads to the development of spots," says Matt Gass from the British Association of Dermatologists.

He says they’re not caused by a lack of hygiene and are often a normal part of puberty.

For girls, breakouts often happen before a period.

Keep skin clean and always take off make-up at night. Face washes and topical spot creams may help.

2. Acne

Acne isn’t just an everyday spot or two. It can be a distressing and chronic condition. It comes in the form of whiteheads, blackheads and pus-filled spots.

80% of teenagers get some form of acne at some stage.

"Teenagers are particularly prone to acne because levels of hormones (known as androgens) increase at puberty," says Hermione Lawson from the British Skin Foundation.

She says: "These hormones cause an increase in the size of the sebaceous glands and the amount of oil they produce."

Someone with acne produces too much sebum, which forms a plug with dead skin cells and blocks the follicle.

Bacteria that live on the skin, which are usually completely harmless, can then infect the plugged follicles. This can cause the surrounding skin to form red, pus filled spots.

You can get over-the-counter treatments for acne in creams, lotions and gels. Some experts advise rotating a range of products.

If you are troubled by your acne then seek medical advice.

"The most common types of treatments recommended are topical treatments, oral antibiotics, oral contraceptive pills and isotretinoin capsules, depending on the severity of the acne," says Matt Gass.

Matt warns: "It is important to note that isotretinoin has the potential to cause a number of serious side effects and can be prescribed only under the supervision of a consultant dermatologist."

Treatments for acne take up to 4 months to work.

3. Oily skin

Some teenagers have oily skin without the spots or acne.

To some extent oily skin is genetic, some people have more active sebaceous glands than others, but the hormonal changes in teenage life can have an effect.

"When it comes to looking after your skin, do not overly scrub your skin or use harsh, abrasive cleansers thinking that this will help. It is likely to just inflame your skin and could make your skin worse," says Matt.

He recommends oil-free water-based cosmetics, using a gentle cleanser and a light oil-free moisturiser.

You can also use a blotting product, sheets of specially treated paper that you touch to your face to absorb the oil.

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