Parenting an Adolescent

Parents: Help Take the Trauma Out of Teen Acne

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

As if the teen years aren’t troubling enough, up to 90 percent of individuals in this age group also have to deal with skin eruptions and acne. While your own teenager’s skin issues may seem relatively minor to you, understand that even a small breakout can be a big blow to fragile self-esteem, according to dermatologist Kate Viola, M.D.

“Teenage acne is so common that parents may not realize how much shame and embarrassment it can cause at a vulnerable age that focuses on outward appearance,” Dr. Viola says. “Worry over skin problems can be all-consuming, and stress only makes matters worse.”

The good news you can share with your teen is that very effective acne medications are available, and even the most severe cases of acne can be successfully treated. “Of course, good hygiene and consistent skin care are essential, even with the best medications,” Dr. Viola points out. And that’s where you, as a parent, can be a big help.

Starting with Good Skin Care and Hygiene

The fact that many teens need to be reminded about hygiene can be a challenge for parents, because this age group does not tend to respond well to advice if it’s perceived as criticism or nagging. So gentle and neutral are the keywords. With that in mind, share Dr. Viola’s following skin care tips with your teens.

  • Cleanse your face and other affected areas in the morning, at bedtime and anytime you sweat.
  • Wash with your fingertips or a soft washcloth, lukewarm water and a mild, unscented face wash, such as Cetaphil, Cerevé or Neutrogena. Do not scrub your skin.
  • Avoid using a rough cloth, net puff, astringents, exfoliants and anything else that can irritate broken-out skin.
  • Shampoo regularly — even daily — if your hair and scalp are oily.
  • Try not to touch your face throughout the day, as that spreads bacteria that cause flair-ups.
  • Don’t pick or squeeze pimples; this only makes your skin take longer to clear and increases the risk of scarring.
  • Stay out of the sun and tanning beds. Tanning damages your skin, and some of the medications used to treat acne make your skin extra sensitive to UV rays. Tanning beds also increase your risk for the deadliest form of skin cancer (melanoma) by about 76 percent.
  • Use an oil-free sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. For optimal protection, choose a sunblock containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Related Topic: Acne & Diet – What’s the Connection?

Another important way you as a parent can help is to take your teen to a dermatologist, especially if the acne is causing shame or embarrassment. A dermatologist will diagnose and treat the particular type of acne affecting your child, as well as help prevent further breakouts and lessen the chance of permanent scarring.  Teenagers are sometimes more receptive to advice from a professional, as opposed to a parent.

To schedule an appointment with a dermatologist, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936). If you’re in the Jackson area or south central Michigan, visit henryfordallegiance.com or call 1-888-862-DOCS.

Kate V. Viola, MD, MHS, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in general dermatology, as well as cosmetic and surgical procedures. Areas of clinical focus include acne, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, skin cancer and alopecia. She is the medical director for Henry Ford Allegiance Health Dermatology in Jackson, Mich.