The scientific name is Acne Vulgaris. It is a common condition in people age 7 through the teenage years. There are different types of acne which you may be familiar with: white heads and black heads. Your skin has lots of tiny holes called pores and small, fine hairs. (Yes, you have hairs on your face). Hairs grow from a base called a follicle which is located in a pore or hole. In the holes with follicles, your skin makes oils to keep your hair nourished and protected called sebum. When your skin cells become old and come off, sometimes they can clog your pores. Bacteria that naturally live on our skin become trapped and mix with sebum, which leads to inflammation and causes pimples.
Why does it happen?
As your body is changing and you are going through puberty, your hormone levels go up and down irregularly. One type of hormones involved in puberty are called Androgens. These hormones tell the body to make sebum. So, when the hormone levels increase, you make more sebum, which can clog your pores as we talked about above, causing acne.
How do I prevent it?
Pimples and acne are frustrating and you are not alone in your frustration. One of the best ways to help prevent acne is to be mindful of putting your hands on your face. Your hands have bacteria on them which can mix with sebum and cause more or worse acne. Another important step of preventing acne is washing your face regularly, both morning and night. There are some key ingredients to look for in your face washes: Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide. These both work to fight acne by getting rid of the “plug” over your pores. But be careful-they also bleach fabrics. Your mom may appreciate if you use white towels and not her brightly colored ones.
What if that doesn’t work?
If washing your hands and face regularly is not changing your acne after 2 weeks, talk to your doctor. There are some medications and creams that we can prescribe that help. Sometimes a small dose of antibiotics you take by mouth can help. Other times you may be given a cream which is a combination of an antibiotic and Benzoyl Peroxide to put on your face. Also Retinoic Acid (Retin-A) cream is a commonly prescribed medication that helps with severe acne. All of these creams make your facial skin very sensitive to light so PLEASE wear sunscreen if you are outside!!
When will it go away?
It usually improves as puberty comes to an end. Some people still have some flairs into their 20’s also. Stay hopeful and stick with your skin care regimen.
Dr. Brittani M.