10 Ways to Get Rid of Your Child’s Acne

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head shot image of a sad young teenager with acne.

Up to 95% of teens will have some form of acne at one time or another. However, knowing that pimples are a very normal part of puberty doesn’t make it any easier when your child looks in the mirror and doesn’t like what he/she sees.

Acne can be mild and short-lived or severe and disfiguring, but either way, we at Westchester Health Pediatrics pay a good deal of attention to how acne is affecting our patients on the inside.

Psychological effects of acne

Glenn Kaplan 4R WEB72

Glenn E. Kaplan, MD, FAAP

A recent study has shown that even having mild acne can bring on feelings of low self-esteem, depression and suicidal thoughts in adolescents and teenagers. The fact that acne often coincides with the start of puberty only adds to the feelings of uncertainty about body image, self-esteem and other emotional issues that young people typically experience.

As well as visible skin problems, acne can have the following psychological effects:

  • social withdrawal
  • decreased self-esteem
  • reduced self-confidence
  • poor body image
  • embarrassment
  • feelings of depression
  • anger

If you notice that your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, please bring him/her in to talk to us. We have years of experience treating young people with acne and we’re here to help yours. If we feel it might help, we may refer your child to a counselor or therapist.

What causes acne

Acne is caused by increased sebum (a type of oil beneath the skin), bacterial skin infection and inflammation. Any of the following can contribute to acne:

  • genetics
  • stress
  • pre-menstruation
  • occlusive (air-blocking) skin preparations
  • certain medications

The most common form of acne is pimples, but more serious cases can lead to red lesions which can occur on the face, arms, chest or back, as well as scarring.

10 tips for dealing with acne

To help adolescents and teens get rid of acne, and to dispel some myths, we offer these 10 important tips:

  1. The old wives’ tale of certain foods causing acne is NOT TRUE. Chocolate and fatty, greasy foods do not cause acne.
  2. Pimples SHOULD NOT be squeezed.
  3. Some cosmetics can cause acne by blocking the skin’s pores. Your child should use products that are labeled “non-comedogenic.”
  4. Brief sun exposure can be helpful for acne but extended sunbathing can cause skin irritation that will worsen the condition.
  5. If your child’s acne is mild, start with OTC products, beginning with an acne cleanser/wash at least twice a day, then use a medicine containing 5% benzoyl peroxide at bedtime. If this does not work, change to a 10% concentration of the OTC medicine. As with all acne creams, the three most common side effects are dryness, burning and redness.
  6. If OTC medicines do not do the trick, speak to your pediatrician — he/she has stronger creams such as retinoids which have an anti-inflammatory effect, plus they remove excess skin cells to prevent them from causing pimples. Another type of cream you can get from your pediatrician combines benzoyl peroxide with a topical antibiotic. These two creams can be used as alternating therapy.
  7. If creams do not work, the next step is an oral antibiotic (erythromycin or tetracycline). This should be used along with the acne skin creams and is usually reserved for the more inflammatory acne conditions (large, deep pimples, cysts or nodules).
  8. In girls, estrogens (female hormones) in the form of oral contraceptives can be used if other treatments have failed and if there seems to be a relationship between the acne and ovulation or her menstrual period.
  9. An additional option is Accutane (oral isotretinoin). This medicine is prescribed by a dermatologist. There are some associated side effects that need to be monitored and so this medication is reserved for severe cases.
  10. The cause of your child’s acne may be allergy-related. If nothing seems to be helping, try removing dairy (lactose intolerance) and wheat-based foods (gluten allergy) from your child’s diet and see if this makes a difference in his/her skin.

Acne and puberty together can be tough but your pediatrician can help

For most adolescents and teens, puberty is an awkward stage, made even worse by acne. Please know that at Westchester Health Pediatrics, we’re here for you and your child, whenever and wherever you need us, with advice, guidance and even just a listening ear. This is a very emotional time for all involved and we want to help your child get through it in a healthy way, mentally and well as physically.

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By Glenn E. Kaplan, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.

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About the Author: ML Ball