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Acne 101: How to prevent and treat troubled skin

Last Modified: August 17, 2016

Family Medicine


The anxiety and embarrassment of imperfect skin impacts men and women of every age, but it is particularly common among middle and high school-age children. Dara Spearman, MD, and David Baker, PA, with PPG - Premier Dermatology and Skin Care are here with their tips for minimizing the effects of this common issue.

These late summer school days are a stressful time for parents and students alike. As adults scramble to make sure their children have everything they need for success, students spend hours agonizing over practices and new classes and finding the perfect outfit to make the best impression. And then it happens, right before the first big social event of the school year; a pimple shows up and ruins everything! So, what can you do now to help prevent these annoying little surprises?

Acne is a common condition amongst adolescents, and treatment and prevention are centered on controlling the factors that contribute to the problem. These factors include the accumulation of dead skin cells, increased oil production, inflammation of the skin and bacteria that resides on the skin.   

The first step in prevention is cleansing involved areas. For most people, this means washing at least twice a day. It is important to avoid using harsh soaps, which can irritate the skin. Scrubbing the face with washcloths or excessive exfoliation can also increase inflammation, worsening the acne. Gently pat the face dry using a clean towel. Additional washing is important after exercise or excessive sweat production.

For those with drier skin, it is important to use moisturizers that have special oil-free preparations. Additionally, women should choose lightweight, oil free makeup. There are even makeup products that actually assist in treating acne. Avoid touching the face or other acne-prone areas (chest, back or shoulders) as this can transfer unwanted oils and bacteria to problem spots. Avoid the temptation to pick at any pimples that may arise.  Picking, popping or squeezing lesions can leave scars or dark spots, which can take weeks to months to fade. 

There are several over-the-counter products that can help prevent acne outbreaks. Products containing salicylic acid can be used to help unblock the skin pores. Benzoyl peroxide products can also help keep the pores open while reducing the acne causing bacteria. Be careful though, Benzoyl peroxide products can bleach clothing or towels.

If you continue to have acne breakouts despite following the prevention measures listed above, it might be necessary to consider visiting a physician for prescription medication. These types of acne treatments are still focused on controlling the causes of acne, but are significantly stronger and more effective than the over-the-counter products. Oral antibiotics may be used to control the bacteria and inflammation contributing to the acne while other prescriptions can be very effective in decreasing the excess oil production and clearing the accumulated dead skin cells. Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist or your family physician to learn more about these options.

Remember that with all acne treatment plans, it can take several weeks or months for adequate control and clearance of acne lesions. It will take a commitment to the treatment plan as well as patience for the desired results to occur.  

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