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Acne treatment and control
Almost all teenagers get acne at one time or another. Whether your case is mild
What doesn’t cause acne?
or severe, the information here can help you keep your acne under control.
• Acne is not caused by foods you eat. Despite what you may have heard,
there is no proof that soft drinks, chocolate, and greasy foods cause acne.
What causes acne?
• It’s not
caused by dirt. The black plug in a blackhead is caused by a chemi-
You haven’t done anything to cause your acne. It’s not your fault if you have it.
cal reaction. It’s not dirt. No matter how carefully you wash your face, you
Pimples are caused when oil ducts in the skin get plugged up and then burst,
causing redness and swelling. Although there are many myths about acne, the
• It’s not
something you can “catch” or “give” to another person.
following are the three main factors that cause it.
• It’s not
caused by sexual thoughts or masturbation.
When you begin puberty, certain hormones, called androgens,
in both males and females. These hormones trigger oil ducts on the face,
It’s important to know that there is no true cure for acne. If untreated, it can last
back, and upper chest to begin producing oil. This can cause acne in
for many years, though acne usually clears up as you get older. The following
treatments, however, generally can keep acne under control.
1. Use topical benzoyl peroxide lotion or gel.
If other members of your family had acne as teenagers, there may be a
Benzoyl peroxide helps kill skin bacteria, unplug the oil ducts, and heal
chance that you’ve inherited a tendency toward getting acne as well.
acne pimples. It is the most effective acne treatment you can get without a doctor’s prescription. Many brands are available in different levels of
3. Plugged oil ducts
strength (2.5%, 5%, or 10%). Read the labels or ask your pediatrician or
If you are prone to acne, the cells that line the oil ducts in your skin tend to
get larger and produce more oil, and the ducts get plugged. This traps the
• Start slowly with a 2.5% or 5% lotion or gel once a day. After a week,
oil and leads to the formation of blackheads or whiteheads. The plugged
increase use to twice a day (morning and night) if your skin isn’t too red
ducts allow germs in the skin to multiply and produce chemicals that cause
redness and swelling. This is why simple blackheads and whiteheads may
• Apply a thin film to the entire area where pimples may occur. Don’t just dab
turn red and bumpy and turn into the pimples of acne.
it on current blemishes. Avoid the delicate skin around the eyes, mouth,
There is not much you can do about heredity, so your best control efforts
are those that keep the oil ducts unplugged.
• If your acne isn’t better after 4 to 6 weeks, you may increase to a 10%
strength lotion or gel. Start with one application each day and increase
What makes acne worse?
to two daily applications if your skin tolerates it.
• Pinching (or “popping”) pimples, which forces oil from the oil ducts into
2. If you don’t see results, see your pediatrician.
the surrounding normal skin, causing redness and swelling
Your doctor can prescribe stronger treatments, if needed, and will teach
• Harsh scrubbing, which irritates the skin
you how to use them properly. Three kinds of medications may be
• Things that rub on the skin, such as headbands, hats, hair, and chin straps,
• Tretinoin (Retin-A) cream or gel
helps unplug oil ducts but must
• Certain cosmetics (makeup), such as creams and oily hair products,
be used exactly as directed. Be aware that exposure to the sun (or
which can block oil ducts and aggravate acne
tanning parlors) can cause increased redness in some people who are
• For young women, changes in hormone levels brought on by menstrual
• Topical antibiotic solutions
may be used in addition to other medica-
tions for a type of acne called pustular acne.
• Oral antibiotic pills
may be used in addition to creams, lotions, or gels
if your acne doesn’t respond to topical treatments alone.
3. What about the “miracle drug” Accutane?
Don’t overdo it.
Too much scrubbing makes skin worse. Too much benzoyl
Isotretinoin (Accutane) is a very strong chemical taken in pill form. It is
peroxide or Retin-A cream makes your face red and scaly. Too much oral
used only for severe cystic acne that hasn’t responded to any other treat-
ment. Accutane must never be taken just before or during pregnancy. There
Finally, many people don’t understand acne and may say hurtful things about
is a danger of severe or even fatal deformities to unborn babies whose
it. Although acne may bother you, keep in mind it’s only temporary. With
mothers have taken Accutane while pregnant or who become pregnant
present-day treatment, it usually can be controlled.
soon after taking Accutane. You should never
have unprotected sexualintercourse while taking Accutane. Patients who take Accutane must becarefully supervised by a doctor knowledgeable about its usage, such as
A word about…acne and birth control pills
a pediatric dermatologist or other expert on treating acne. Your pediatrician
In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a low-dose
may require a negative pregnancy test and a signed consent form before
birth controI pill to be used as an effective treatment for acne in women
over 15 years of age. Research has shown that certain birth control pillslower the levels of hormones that cause acne.
Important things to remember
However, taking birth control pills along with other medications for the
It takes 3 to 6 weeks to see any improvement. Give each treat-
prevention of acne may reduce the effectiveness of both medications. If
you are taking birth control pills, talk to your pediatrician about their effect
Follow your program every day. Don’t stop and start each time
your skin changes. Remember, sometimes your skin may appear to worsen
early in the program before you begin to see improvement.Follow directions.
Not using the treatment as directed is the most common
reason the treatment fails.
The information contained in this publication should not be used as a substitute for themedical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that
Don’t use medication prescribed for someone else.
This holds true
your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
for all medications, especially Accutane. Doctors prescribe medication specifi-cally for particular patients. What’s good for a friend may be harmful for you.
Never take Accutane that’s prescribed for another person.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 55,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated tothe health, safety, and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.
American Academy of Pediatrics Division of Publications PO Box 747 Elk Grove Village, IL 60009-0747 Web site — http://www.aap.org
Copyright 1990, Updated 7/99American Academy of Pediatrics
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