Teen Talk – What is acne?

Acne is considered a disease of our pilosebaceous units. What, you ask, are those? Well it’s a fancy name for our hair follicles. Our skin is covered with hair follicles, which we often refer to as “pores”. Attached to each hair follicle is a sebaceous gland, which produces sebum, or oil, that in normal amounts our skin needs in order to stay healthy. Sebaceous glands are everywhere on our bodies, except our palms, soles of our feet, tops of our feet and our lower lip. They are most numerous on our face, chest, back and upper outer arms.

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For various reasons, which we will get to in a minute, these glands sometimes go nuts and produce too much sebum. In people who are prone to acne, the cells at the bottom of these glands also tend to be thick and to stick together in abnormal ways. This produces a “plug” that, together with the increased amount of sebum, quickly fills up the pore.

As a pore fills up with sebum and cells that are stuck together, either a blackhead or a whitehead forms. If the pore is open to the air, the sebum gets oxidized and turns black, forming a blackhead. Otherwise, if the pore stays closed, the sebum looks white.

This clump of sebum and skin cells is a delicious food source for bacteria (usually one that is named Propionibacterium acnes) and so, often, these pores get infected. Our bodies then launch an inflammatory reaction, causing the redness, swelling and pain associated with a full blown pimple.

What makes some teenagers have bad acne and others not have any?

First, it’s important to understand that acne is multifactorial – it can be caused by lots of things and by different things in different people. That is why at Genesis MedSpa, we feel it is important to not treat every acne client the same, but instead to customize treatment programs after figuring out what is most responsible for a teenager’s breakouts.

Having said that, hormones are a definite consistent cause of acne, which is why teens have such problems with their skin. Testosterone is the offending hormone. Don’t forget that both males and females have testosterone, although males have higher levels than females do, which is why males typically have more severe acne although females tend to have more persistent acne. Birth control pills can improve acne because they decrease testosterone levels.

Genetics are a factor in acne. It is considered an inherited disease, although it is impossible to predict which family members will inherit it. However, if you have a parent who suffered from severe acne as a teen, you have a higher risk of the same.

Stress makes acne worse, probably because it can increase testosterone levels. Smoking cigarettes decreases the ability of our skin to produce healthy amounts of sebum and to respond to acne lesions in a healthy way, so smoking can make acne worse. Some research indicates that a diet high in refined sugars sets off hormonal changes that can worsen acne. Lastly, if you are prone to acne, using make-up that is greasy, think and non-mineral based should be avoided.

How can teens treat their acne?

Using a cleanser and moisturizer with salicylic acid as a main ingredient is important if you have acne. Salicylic acid is antibacterial, so it helps kill any of the bacteria involved. It also helps to “unstick” the plug that forms inside the clogged pore.1 Be careful, though, because many over the counter acne cleansers and lotions have benzyl peroxide in addition to salicylic acid and benzyl peroxide is very drying and irritating. Genesis MedSpa offers medical-grade products that will improve your acne but not irritate your skin.

If you are a teen athlete, make sure that you cleanse your face after working out. Facial wipes can be carried in your sports bag. Stay away from pads with benzyl peroxide. Multi HA Daily Pads by LAS are an excellent choice. If you wear a helmet during your sport activity, be sure to wipe the part of the helmet that comes into contact with your skin after each use. It’s amazing how many football, lacrosse and hockey players have severe acne on their foreheads and how quickly it improves once they begin cleaning their helmets.

Females with acne need to wear high quality mineral make-up. Mineral make-up allows our skin to breathe and won’t contribute to bacterial growth. Glo Mineral make-up has ingredients such as Vitamin C, zinc and green tea extract, all of which are anti-inflammatory and can actually help acne heal.2

Treatment options such as salicylic acid peels, blu-U therapy, laser treatments, topical antibiotics and/or kenalog injections are all available at Genesis MedSpa. During a complimentary consultation, a customized program will be designed that best suits your skin and your budget.

What are some other tips for teenagers with acne?

Never pick your zits!! Picking your pimples or forcing your blackheads or whiteheads out can spread bacteria and can cause permanent scarring.

Don’t aggressively scrub your face while cleansing it. This can also spread bacteria. As long as you are using an effective cleanser (see above), gentle rubbing will get the job done.

Genesis MedSpa has some awesome options for camouflaging pimples and zits that are great for males and females. Set up an appointment with one of our aestheticians to learn some more great tips. We may be able to help your skin look healthier and more clear!