Teen acne is referred to as acne vulgaris by dermatologists. Vulgaris is the Latin word for ‘common’. Thus; teen acne is a ‘common condition’ affecting nearly 70 to 87% of teenagers around the world. Acne is one of the ways of the body letting the individual know of the “upheaval” it is going through during adolescence or puberty. Let us study in detail why teen acne occurs.
Acne is basically an inflammation of the skin. The inflammation results from blockage of the skin’s pores that get clogged due to oil, dead skin cells and other accumulated debris in the skin’s pores. This accumulated ‘debris’ encourages the naturally present bacteria in the skin (Propionibacteria) to multiply rapidly giving rise to skin inflammation. When the body is going through puberty, additional hormones (Androgens) are secreted for stimulating growth of facial hair. As a result of these secretions, the oil or sebaceous glands in the skin produce more oil than normal leading to clogged pores. Contrary to popular belief that washing and scrubbing the skin hard can help one get rid of acne; over washing can actually worsen the condition.
Teenage acne can occur on any type of teenage skin irrespective of the race, color or gender. It is mainly seen on the forehead, chin, cheeks and the ‘T-zone’ but many teenagers can also suffer from acne on the back, shoulders, chest and upper arms. Teen acne often begins in the form of whiteheads and blackheads but may turn into swollen or red papules that may be pus-filled. In some severe cases, large and cystic acne may also develop that can be quite painful.
Teen Acne: Probable Causes
- Hormones– As sated above, hormones are one of the main causes of teenage acne. Central to the ‘acne story’ are androgens which are a group of closely related hormones. The male hormone ‘testosterone’ is the number one culprit of puberty-related or teen acne. The levels of this androgen rise rapidly in both boys and girls during puberty. This stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce more oil or sebum than normal. Some kids are more sensitive to these androgens than others, leading to teen acne.
- Heredity– Teen acne can also be brought on by hereditary factors. Teen acne can result from either parent having had acne in their lives. Factors like the size of one’s oil glands, the ease with which pores get clogged, how much oil the glands produce etc are all hereditary and run in the family.
- Dietary intake and acne– A recent study conducted at the Harvard School of Public health is studying the possible link between dairy consumption and teen acne. These studies have determined that the nonfat part of dairy products may contain hormones androgens, insulin growth factors and progesterone that can stimulate teen acne. However, more studies are needed to establish this for a fact along with proper controlled trials and standardized physician assessments. The good news is that recent studies have also cleared chocolate consumption, soda beverages, fried foods and pizzas etc as being causative agents of teen acne.
- Skin care and teen acne– Patients suffering from teen acne often believe ‘dirty’ skin to be a cause of their condition. However, as stated before, over washing can actually worsen the condition. Dermatologists recommend washing no more than twice a day with approved (non acnegenic and non comedogenic) products for washing the face when suffering from acne.
- Stress and acne– Recently conducted studies have established a probable link between stress and teen acne. Increased stress levels do not lead to greater sebum production but they do lead to higher androgen production as well as inflammation inducing neuropeptide production that can result in teen acne.
Thus, teen acne cannot be avoided in most cases but can be managed by following simple remedies as recommended by an expert dermatologist. These typically include a combination of oral and topical treatments as well as other solutions like eating a healthy diet, washing the face with a non-irritating product and avoiding touching the acne to prevent worsening of the condition.