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Acne in Adolescents and Young Adults

Posted on Jan 08, 2018

Jasmine Reese, M.D.

Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States affecting 40 million to 50 million individuals each year and up to 85 percent of adolescents and young adults. It can have both physical and psychological effects so it is important to understand how it can be treated. Jasmine Reese, M.D., director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, shares some truths regarding acne and also what teens and young adults can do to help manage their acne.

Who gets affected by acne?

Acne is extremely common and can affect people of all ages. Adolescents and young adults between ages 12 and 24 tend to be the most affected group. It usually begins during the start of puberty, affecting girls earlier than boys. Typically people will outgrow acne but about 12 percent of women and 3 percent of men may still have acne even in their 40s.

What causes acne?

Simply put, acne is inflammation of one’s skin pores, which consists of the hair follicle and sebaceous glands that are most commonly located on the face, back and chest. What usually causes this inflammation is related to abnormal skin processes, including increased oil production from sebaceous glands, change in hormone levels, and overgrowth of bacteria.

What are some common beliefs regarding acne?

  1. Bad dietary habits cause acne: Although scientific research has not shown us that your diet is the sole cause of acne, we do know that the healthier your diet is, the healthier your body is in general, which leads to healthier skin overall.
  2. Makeup causes acne: Makeup may not cause the acne, but some cosmetics may actually worsen acne. Healthy options include using cosmetics that say they are “noncomedogenic” and also replace makeup and applicators often.
  3. “Popping” pimples helps them go away: “Popping” or squeezing pimples can actually aggravate the area and cause more inflammation. This can also lead to scarring of the skin.
  4. Acne is just a cosmetic problem: It is important to recognize that acne can cause emotional and psychological effects for individuals and can be of greater severity than the actual number of lesions that are visible.  
  5. There is no good treatment for acne: Treatment should be individualized and will be based on severity of acne and response to therapy. You should talk to your pediatrician about which option is best for you. Some over-the-counter topical options include products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Some people will need prescription strength medications including topical products, oral antibiotics or other medications. For some moderate to severe cases, your doctor may recommend evaluation by a dermatologist.
This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.


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