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The Awful, Horrible, Disaster Called Acne: YUCK!

The Awful, Horrible, Disaster Called Acne: YUCK!
By Kara Bachman

One issue many of us dealt with as teens, tweens, or even as adults is one of the most dreaded conditions: acne. Pimples. Blackheads. Whiteheads. Cysts. YUCK! At the time, it felt like a nightmare. In comparison to most adult concerns, it wasn’t of course a nightmare, but many of us became self-conscious about it and felt otherwise.

When tweens and teens are just finding their footing in socializing and are taking those first baby steps into the world of dating, as if on cue, the skin condition shows up that makes them feel like crawling under a rock. That feeling is normal, but it’s important to remember that you and your child are not helpless in this; acne can be kept in check with a regular routine of care and attention.

Dee Anna Glaser, M.D., FAAD is a board certified dermatologist, professor, and chairperson of the dermatology department at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri. Dr. Glaser commented recently on acne in a written press release by the American Academy of Dermatology.

“As a dermatologist who treats patients with acne very day, I’ve seen firsthand the effects that acne can have on a person’s life, both physically and emotionally,” Dr. Glaser said, adding that some will avoid social outings because of a bad acne breakout.

There are both over-the-counter remedies that work, as well as prescription treatments for more serious cases. Dr. Glaser said the effective treatments available at a drug store will include ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or adapalene. She stressed that over-the-counter products are not an instant fix, and take some time to work, but they usually are only effective after four-to-eight weeks. It’s important to continue use even after the pimples have cleared, she said, to prevent new breakouts from showing up.

Dr. Glaser gave a few tips for treating acne, whether the medicine was bought at a drugstore or is a stronger med prescribed by a physician.

Use a gentle face wash.

Stronger isn’t better, and combining a harsh wash with acne meds can quickly dry out the skin, causing an additional problem. She suggested looking for products that are advertised as “mild” or “gentle” and state that they’re “oil-free” or “noncomedogenic,” which means it won’t clog pores.

Only use a pea-sized amount of medication.

Using too much can irritate skin, and using less than this can make the treatment less effective. Just teach your child to dot it on forehead, chin and cheeks and then spread around thinly on the skin.

Ease into treatment.

Start by applying meds every other day instead of every day. This helps skin to adjust. After a few weeks, go ahead and move to an “every day” treatment plan.

Use moisturizer.

If there’s irritation, studies have shown that it actually helps to apply moisturizer BEFORE applying the medicine. As long as it says “oil-free” or “noncomedogenic,” the moisturizer will help with any peeling and redness.

Protect skin from the sun.

Many acne meds, both over-the-counter and prescription from a dermatologist, cause sensitivity to sunlight and increase chances of sunburn. Before going outdoors, Dr. Glaser advises, protect skin with a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

Please, moms and dads — pay attention, and do what you can to help if your tween or teen expresses concerns about acne. Remember when you were at that age, and thought it was the worst thing, EVER? Well, as adults, we now know that isn’t so…but for the child who is just taking baby steps into a social life, acne can sometimes seem “make-it-or-break-it” when it comes to a feeling of healthy confidence.

About The Author

Kara Bachman

Kara Bachman is a Managing Editor for Parents & Kids. She's also a book editor, former newspaper reporter, and is author of the humor essay collection, "Kissing the Crisis," which deals with the zanier aspects of parenting, relationships and turning 40. She's read her work on NPR radio and over 1,500 items have appeared in dozens of literary and commercial publications, including The Writer, The Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, the New Orleans Times-Picayune and, Dogster, Mississippi Magazine, American Fitness and many more. She's a New Orleans native, but lived for over a dozen years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including during 2005 when her house was flooded by Hurricane Katrina. She's a mom to two teenagers.

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