Acne: a common problem in teenagers

Around 80% of teenagers get some form of acne, and there are many myths about what causes it. But acne can affect adults too.

Acne consists of spots and painful bumps on the skin. Its most noticeable on the face, but can also appear on the back, shoulders and buttocks. Severe acne can cause scarring. There are different kinds of spots/pimples: blackheads, whiteheads, pustules and nodules.

What causes acne?

Acne is mostly due to the way skin reacts to hormonal changes. The skin contains sebaceous glands that naturally release sebum, an oily substance that helps protect it. During puberty, raised levels of the hormone testosterone can cause too much sebum to be produced. This happens in both boys and girls.

The sebum can block hair follicles. When dead skin cells mix with the blockage, it can lead to the formation of spots. Bacteria in the skin multiply, which can cause pain and swelling (inflammation) beneath the blockages.

Inflammatory acne is when the skin is also red and swollen. This needs to be treated early to prevent scarring. It is important to avoid picking or squeezing as this can cause inflammation and lead to scarring. They will eventually go away on their own, but they might leave redness in the skin for some weeks or months afterwards.

Acne can become worse during times of stress. In women, it can be affected by the menstrual cycle. Sometimes, acne can occur during pregnancy.

How to keep acne under control?

If you have acne, wash your skin gently with a mild cleanser and use an oil-free moisturiser. Dont scrub your face hard with a washcloth - acne cant be scrubbed away, and scrubbing may actually make it worse by irritating the skin and pores. Try cleansing your face as gently as you can.

If you wear makeup or sunscreen, make sure its labeled oil free, noncomedogenic, or nonacnegenic. This means it wont clog your pores and contribute to acne. And when you are washing your face, be sure you take the time to remove all of your makeup so it doesnt clog your pores.

If you use hair sprays or gels, try to keep them away from your face, as they can also clog pores. If you have long hair that touches your face, be sure to wash it frequently enough to keep oil away....