Pimples are a staple of the teenage years, but the occasional spot is a mild annoyance compared to the kids who develop acne. True acne is a condition in which multiple pimples (often inflamed and painful) appear on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, or back. For those kids, teenage years can be miserable.
Up to 87% of teenagers deal with acne at some point during adolescence. If you had acne as a teen, your child has a pretty good chance of developing it as well. Though the main cause of acne is due to hormones, genetics play a role as well. While you can’t do anything about genetics or hormones, certain healthy habits can help your teenager reduce the number of breakouts.
A gentle rub-a-dub-dub
Some teenagers are mortified when acne develops because of the mistaken belief that acne is caused by dirty skin. They scrub harder than Lady Macbeth in the hopes that cleaner skin will result in fewer zits. When it doesn’t work, they wash their face more often with hotter water and more vigorous scrubbing.
It’s a vicious cycle that can further inflame their breakouts.
Over washing strips necessary oils from the skin, causing the body to over produce oil to balance out the scrubbing. Washing once or twice a day with lukewarm water is more helpful than scrubbing or using harsh cleansers. The best time for your teen to wash their face is before bed to remove the dirt, oil, and makeup that accumulated during the day.
Avoid the temptation
There’s a very basic thought process behind the decision to pop a pimple: doing so will clear the pore, which will get rid of the major skin eruption.
If only it were that easy.
Squeezing a pimple does clear the pore, but it also leads to further skin irritation, inflammation, and infection. Picking and popping also can lead to scarring. As hard as it can be, your teen needs to leave the pimple alone and let it run its course. It will heal much quicker this way. However, your child doesn’t have to necessarily stick to the pimple’s timetable. Certain over-the-counter acne medications, specifically those containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, work to shrink the pimple and shorten its duration. A pimple that shows up in the morning won’t be gone by the time the dance starts that night, but it will be smaller and more easily concealed.
Stay out of bed
Tanning bed, that is. Although tanning beds were once touted as the miracle cure for acne (probably by those who sold tanning beds), this course of treatment has since been disproven. Tanning beds simply don’t cure acne. In fact, the UV light has been directly linked to premature skin aging and an increased risk of skin cancer. Don’t let your teen buy into the idea that a few “fake bake” sessions will clear up their skin. It won’t, and it may lead to more problems later on.
Mom may have been right
Certain foods, like chocolate, French fries, and chips, have been maligned for decades as direct causes of acne. Eat a cheeseburger, some moms warned, and you’ll have a major breakout the next day.
Foods have a direct impact on the body’s overall operation. Some foods lead to more inflammation in the body, while others tend to clean up inflammation. Some balance out bacteria while others increase production of certain hormones. All of these factors have a direct relationship on the skin.
So yes, fatty foods can lead to acne, but not for reasons you might expect. Fried and heavily processed foods lead to bodily inflammation. High-glycemic index foods, or foods that cause a spike in blood sugar (think white bread or cookies), can lead to an overproduction of soil that results in blocked pores. Milk proteins also are believed to influence hormone production, which can lead to breakouts.
It turns out that foods promoted for overall good health are the foods recommended to avoid acne. Anti-inflammatory foods, particularly foods that have omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, nuts, and avocados, can soothe the skin and lead to fewer breakouts. The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables act as clean-up crews against the free-radicals in the body that lead to acne. Cacao, the ingredient that makes chocolate chocolate, may indeed prevent acne as long as the chocolate is at least 70% cacao (dark chocolate).
Studies are still being conducted regarding the benefits of probiotics and zinc for skin health. Ointments and creams containing zinc are often used as an effective acne treatment, so there may be a connection between foods high in zinc and acne prevention. Avoid zinc supplements, which may have side effects, and encourage your teen to eat foods high in zinc (e.g., oysters, cashews, or spinach) or take a zinc-containing multivitamin. Probiotics, in foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, also may impact the body’s ability to handle digestive inflammation, making them useful acne deterrents.
Acne can be controlled with home remedies or over-the-counter remedies, but sometimes acne is so severe or causes so much stress that a doctor’s appointment is necessary. Your primary care physician can prescribe more heavy-duty treatment, and your dermatologist can decide a course of action for persistent or severe cases of acne.