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By Michelle Bennett
June 03, 2015
Category: Uncategorized
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Summer check-up season is upon us, which means we'll be seeing lots more teenagers in the office for camp, school, and sports physicals!  We MISS these teenagers, who don't tend to get sick or come into the office very often, so hooray for summer check-ups!  

One topic that many teenagers have concerns about (but often won't bring up) is acne.  Many families think acne is a normal, expected part of the teenage years, which can be true to some extent, but acne can have a significant impact on a teenager's life and really shouldn't be ignored if it's anything more than minor.  Teenagers who suffer from acne also suffer from more depression, lower self-esteem, and sometimes long-term facial scarring.  The good news is that we have lots of treatments available for acne now.  Here are some things you may want to consider for your teen:

General skincare recommendations:

-- Use a gentle cleanser twice daily (Cetaphil and Dove Sensitive Skin are good examples).  Avoid washcloths, and use only fingers for cleansing.  Make sure the water is warm, not hot. 

-- Choose facial products and make-ups that say "non-comedogenic."

-- Avoid abrasive products (exfoliators, scrub sponges, etc.).  

-- Avoid astringents and toners.

-- Apply a moisturizer with sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every morning.  (Keep in mind that many acne treatment products increase sun sensitivity, making this step all the more important.)

If acne is mild, over-the-counter products may be adequate:

-- Benzoyl peroxide washes and creams are effective.  A concentration of 2.5% has been shown to be as adequate as higher concentrations in some studies and less likely to cause dryness.  (Do remember that benzoyl peroxide bleaches towels, so be sure to pick up some white washcloths and towels at the store.)

-- Salicylic acid products can be beneficial.

-- The Proactiv skin care system is more expensive but can also be quite effective.

If acne is moderate, prescription products can help:

-- Topical retinoids, such as tretinoin (Retin-A) and adapalene (Differin), can work wonders.

-- Topical antibiotics can be effective for acne that is very pustular.

-- Oral antibiotics are sometimes used for a few months (not long-term) for more severe pustular acne.

-- Oral contraceptives can be helpful as an add-on therapy for acne in teenage girls.  (We don't prescribe OCPs through our office, but we can refer to dermatologists and gynecologists who do.)

If acne is severe, is starting to scar, or isn't responding to typical treatments, then evaluation by a dermatologist is recommended:

-- Dermatologists are skilled at combining multiple acne therapies to get the best results.

-- Dermatologists can also prescribe isotretinoin (Accutane) for severe acne.  Isotretinoin can be extremely effective and life-changing for teenagers who need it.

-- Above all, please don't wait until your teenager has scarring to seek out a dermatologist!  The sooner, the better if acne is becoming severe!

And I'll conclude with the age-old question:  does chocolate cause acne?  Nope.  There's no strong evidence that any particular foods are associated with acne, except perhaps for large amounts of milk -- and even that's uncertain.  

Looking forward to another wonderful summer here at PAA!  We can't wait to see you guys, so call to schedule that summer check-up now before it gets forgotten in the summer fun -- a new schoolyear will be upon us before we know it!

Michelle Bennett, M.D.