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What causes teenage acne?

May 28, 2020 • read

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What causes teenage acne?

Acne is like a party crasher for teenagers: it didn’t get an invitation, but it’s here anyways. An estimated 85% of teenagers will deal with acne at some point. Even though acne is an extremely normal occurrence, that doesn’t mean it’s not annoying. 

What exactly is acne? When your pores or hair follicles get blocked, bacteria builds up and you get either a pimple, a whitehead, a blackhead, or a cyst. This usually happens when your skin’s oil glands are overactive, resulting in excess sebum. Sebum is a waxy substance made by your skin’s glands. 

Most teenagers don’t like their acne. You’ll find lots of websites and forums listing teenage acne solutions, teenage acne natural remedies, and diet tips to help with breakouts. Lots of natural remedies can actually damage your skin and aggravate your acne, so it’s best to avoid them. Instead, speak to a dermatologist to get a doctor’s eye on your unique skin, so they can propose a solution that will actually work. 

There are a few main reasons teenagers get acne, and we’ve outlined them here.

1. Puberty

Good old puberty, here to make everything more complicated. During puberty your body produces more sex hormones called androgens. Androgens cause increased oil production in your skin. The result? Teenage acne

Acne doesn’t just appear on people’s’ faces. Some teenagers get acne on their back, neck, lower body — anywhere you have pores. Hormonal acne in your teenage years can’t be prevented, but it can be managed with an effective, gentle skincare routine.

2. Genetics

This one’s frustrating because it’s out of your control. If your parents had acne, there’s a good chance you’ll develop it too. Luckily, a skincare routine does wonders to make your skin look happy and healthy, even if a few pimples are also present. 

3. Scrubbing and picking

Having acne is a super frustrating experience for many teenagers. It’s tempting to want to attack your acne with your fingers, or scrub it away for good. Hold up! Picking at your skin can seriously aggravate your acne. When you pick at a zit, you force the oil even further down the pore. And, you can easily leave yourself with dark coloured acne scars. 

Scrubbing can also make your skin inflamed and sensitive. Facial scrubs can also cause micro tears in your skin, leaving it more susceptible to acne down the road. They also break down your skin’s natural barrier, which is important for maintaining hydrated skin. 

4. Premenstrual syndrome

Once again, hormones are the culprit of an annoying breakout. Girls often have more acne right around their time of the month. This is due to higher levels of the hormone progesterone. PMS pimples tend to be red, inflamed, and never develop a whitehead. The good news is that once your hormone levels go back to normal, these pimples should clear up. 

5. Makeup and hair products

We all want to look our best, but sometimes the very products we use backfire on us! Makeup products and brushes can put acne-causing bacteria, dead skin cells, and oil right onto your face. There’s also a tendency to be harsh on our skin when we’re applying and removing makeup frequently. 

Hair products can also cause acne if they spread oil or residue on your skin. This type of acne tends to show up as small bumps. They’re not very noticeable, but they can also be a head scratcher as to where they came from. 

6. Stress

 Being a teenager is plain stressful sometimes. What’s more, stress can make acne worse by raising cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol is a hormone that contributes to your “fight or flight” response. Oil glands in your skin actually have cortisol receptors, and will produce more oil when there’s increased presence of cortisol. 

What’s the treatment for teenage acne?

It’s not much help to know the causes of acne without also having a solution. The great news is that acne is largely treatable. A teenage acne skincare routine should be simple, non-irritating, and avoid heavy moisturizers. Here are some ways you can combat your acne and get clearer skin.

  • Wash your face twice daily with warm water and gentle soap. 
  • Use non comedogenic hair and makeup products. These are less likely to clog your pores.  
  • Exfoliate with acids such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, or azelaic acid. 
  • Use a gentle facial moisturizer. 
  • Don’t pick at your face!
  • See a dermatologist who can prescribe acne medication. 

Teenage acne prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right? Don’t beat yourself up if you’re washing your face perfectly and you still get clusters of pimples. During puberty, your hormones and genetics are beyond your control. 

To prevent acne before it arrives, one of the best things you can do is have a pre-established skincare routine. Many young people don’t think they need to wash and moisturize their skin, but it always helps to start early. 

Eating a healthy, well-rounded diet can help with teenage acne. Your diet influences your hormone levels and overall health. Eat low-glycemic index foods like leafy vegetables and whole grains to keep your blood sugar from spiking. Consuming more omega-3 fatty acids will also help lower inflammation levels in your body. Good sources of omega-3 include walnuts, chia seeds, salmon, and sardines. 

There’s debate around whether supplements help with teenage acne. A general multi-vitamin is good for you if you’re low on nutrients. But, taking an excess of certain vitamins or minerals won’t translate into clear skin. Save your money, and just speak to a dermatologist for proven teenage acne tips.

At what age does teenage acne go away?

If you’re dealing with acne as a young person, you might be marking your calendar for the day your teenage pimples are scheduled to disappear. Sorry to disappoint — there’s no set age that teenagers lose their acne and gain clear skin. 

The good news is that teenage tends to dissipate significantly around age 20. Some people enter their adult years with much less oily skin, and their skincare routine can simplify. Other people actually get adult acne, whether or not they’ve experienced teenage acne. Your skin is completely individual, so there’s no sure way of knowing what will happen. 

Do teenage acne scars go away?

One big reason why you shouldn’t pick at your skin is you can easily get acne scars. Teenage cystic acne can also leave scars, as these types of pimples are usually quite deep and inflamed. 

Acne scars usually don’t go away on their own. If you have severe acne, or if your acne is negatively impacting your self-esteem, it can be helpful to see a dermatologist. A dermatologist may prescribe a topical medication like a retinoid, or an oral medication such as Accutane. They can also give you expert advice on what types of daily products to use, and how to care for your skin.

Having acne when you’re a teenager is extremely normal, so don’t feel alone if you have a couple pimples that are giving you grief. If you want to see a dermatologist, you can have an appointment via your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. 

Speak to a dermatologist online.

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