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Sanford North Mandan Clinic

Why is teenage acne so common?

Acne occurs in people of all ages but itís most common among teenagers because hormones contribute to acne development. Acne is typically found on the face, neck, chest, back and shoulders because these areas have the largest number of oil glands.

Acne occurs when hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. Hormones, bacteria, certain medications and heredity can be contributing factors. Teenage girls are more likely to have acne outbreaks two to seven days before their menstrual cycles. Cosmetics or other substances applied to the skin can contribute to acne. Pressure on the skin, such as cell phones, helmets and backpacks, may also be contributors. Contrary to popular opinion, acne is not caused by dirt or eating greasy foods and chocolate.


Mild acne can be avoided or controlled with good skin care. Wash the problem areas with a gentle cleanser and avoid using facial scrubs, astringents and masks, which tend to irritate skin. If acne sets in around the hairline, shampoo frequently. Choose cosmetics, sunscreens and hair products labeled "water-based" to avoid clogging pores. Avoid touching the face and putting hands, cell phones and other objects on the face. Tight caps and clothing, especially if they cause sweating, can make acne worse. Don't pick or squeeze blemishes because that can cause infection or scarring. Various over-the-counter topical treatments intended to dry up the oil, kill bacteria and promote sloughing of dead skin cells can be effective for mild acne. If these treatments donít help within a month or if the acne is severe, make an appointment with your family doctor.

How can a doctor help?

Your doctor can assess the extent of the problem and prescribe stronger oral and topical acne treatments that work by reducing oil production, speeding up skin cell turnover, fighting bacterial infection, reducing the inflammation or doing all four. In some case, an antibiotic prescription might be necessary to kill excess skin bacteria. Prepare your teen by talking to him or her about the importance of following through on recommendations made by your family physician and keeping realistic expectations as treatment proceeds. With most acne treatments, it takes four to eight weeks for improvement and the skin may get worse before it gets better.

Dr. Kinsey Shultz Piatz is a family medicine doctor at Sanford North Mandan Clinic. She is a graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and completed her residency at Siouxland Medical Education Foundation in Sioux City, Iowa.

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