How Not to Let Acne Ruin Your Teenage Years and Beyond
If there is one thing that can totally ruin your teenage life, it has got to be those dreaded pimples, breakouts and, worse, acne!
More than the embarrassing moments where you have to face your school crush with those unsightly red bumps, it is the effect on your self-esteem that can be the most concerning about acne and pimples. It can be the cause of ridicule and insults, which can leave a dent in your confidence throughout your life.
Pimples, Whiteheads, Blackheads and Acne:
What’s the Difference?
Pimples, papules or pustules are small skin lesions or inflammations of the skin, which occur when the sebaceous glands or oil glands located at the base of the hair follicles become infected by bacteria, swell up and fill up with pus. A pimple is a type of comedo or clogged pore in the skin. It is one of the effects of oil becoming trapped in the pores.
Sebaceous glands produce oil called sebum, which lubricates and waterproofs the skin. When the skin sheds, the dead skin cells left may be stuck together by the sebum thereby blocking the pores and trapping bacteria, resulting in infection. Pimples usually appear on the face, back, neck and shoulders.
A pimple breakout, or a significant number of pimples on one area, is a sign of acne. Acne happens when the sebaceous glands produce more sebum, which may contain bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes, which cause infection and inflammation. Acne is a chronic condition where there is more frequent breakouts or multiple pimples at the same time which are often sore and filled with pus. However, acne is not simply pimples or pustules. A person with acne can also have the blackheads, whiteheads, papules, cysts and nodules.
Blackheads, or open comedones, appear on the skin surface mostly as black though some are yellowish. The common misconception is that blackheads are caused by dirt, when in fact blackheads are widened hair follicles filled with dead skin debris (keratin squamae), bacteria and sebum. Blackheads are believed to be the initial stage of acne as they form before bacteria invade the pores of the skin. A blackhead can develop into a pimple. In general, blackheads and acne develop during puberty as hormone levels surge at this period. Blackheads affect people of any skin type but are more common in those with oily skin.
Whiteheads are closed comedones, which form when dead skin cells, sebum and bacteria become trapped within the pores. Unlike a blackhead, a whitehead forms underneath the surface of a closed pore.
Papules and pustules are the common examples of pimples. Papules are the small, solid round bumps on the skin, which are often pink while pustules are pimples that are full of pus and are usually red.
Nodules look similar to papules but are larger and can be painful as they are embedded deep in the skin. Cysts are also filled with pus and are painful but they are clearly visible on the skin surface and commonly cause scars.
Beyond the teenager years
But while acne may be more common in teens due to changes in hormones, with 8 out of 10 teenagers experiencing some degree of acne, some adults are also prone to pimples and acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, around 40 to 50 million Americans have acne at any one time.
Some adults, mostly women, get acne even as they reach their 40s and 50s. Still some, who did not experience acne in their teens can experience acne as adults, in what dermatologists call “adult onset acne.” Adults usually get acne due to:
Fluctuating hormone levels
Hormonal imbalance due to monthly periods, pregnancy, peri-menopause and menopause, as well as starting or discontinuing birth control pills can lead to acne.
When one is under stress, the body produces more androgens, which stimulate the oil glands and hair follicles, leading to acne.
Having a blood relative with acne may mean that one has a genetic predisposition for acne, including adult acne.
Hair and skin care products
Adults with acne should be careful when trying skin and hair care products. Reading the labels and ingredients are vital as certain ingredients can trigger acne or worsen existing acne in adults. Hair and skin care products – from facial wash, cleanser, moisturizer to sunscreen – must be non-comedogenic, non-acnegenic, oil-free and must not clog pores to lessen the possibility of an acne breakout.
Side effects of medication
Certain medications can trigger acne. If one suspects that the medicine one is taking is causing acne, it is recommended to speak with the doctor who prescribed the medication to know if acne is a common side effect. If so, ask for a non-comedogenic alternative. If there is no alternative, one can consult a dermatologist to help control the acne outbreak.
Undiagnosed medical condition
Sometimes, the appearance of acne is a signal that there is a previously undiagnosed medical condition. In such cases, it is recommended to seek medical treatment for the condition, not only for the acne to clear but for the other condition to be addressed.
Acne causes both physical and emotional damage on patients. The physical effects include scarring of the skin, discomfort, and pain.
When body tissue is damaged, white blood cells and inflammatory molecules fight off the infection to heal the damaged tissue. However, the tissue cannot always be restored to its former state, resulting in a scar. Acne scarring differs for every person – some are more prone to scarring than others, some are more susceptible to scarring due to genetics.
The life span of scars also vary – some last a lifetime with little change, while others diminish over time. Scarring is more common among individuals with severe acne, such as those with nodular lesions.
Acne that has healed can leave two types of scars: those caused by increased tissue formation, and those caused by tissue loss. Those caused by increased tissue, also known as keloid or hypertropic scars, are usually hereditary and are more common among Asians, African-Americans and Latinos. This type occurs when skin cells respond by producing excess collagen, forming shiny, lumpy, fibrous masses along the jawline.
Scars caused by tissue loss, on the other hand, are more common and take many forms: soft acne scars, ice-pick acne scars, depressed fibrotic acne scars, atrophic macules and follicular macular atrophy.
Aside from physical scars, acne causes a more damaging effect on a person in terms of self-esteem. Most of those who have acne, especially students, say that having acne makes them feel bad about themselves as they become the subject of ridicule, name-calling and bullying in school. This can lead to bouts of depression, which can be dangerous for anyone of any age.
Acne Treatment for Teens
Some people with acne resort to home remedies to treat the condition. But the recommended way to fight acne is to consult a dermatologist who can prescribe certain treatments and medication.
Aside from acne scars, it also treats wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots and age spots. Mosaic employs the laser Controlled Chaos Technology (CCT), wherein ultrafine laser beams create a mosaic of microscopic wounds that stimulate rejuvenation without damaging the skin surface. The beams target the abnormal cells within the deeper layers of the skin, which causes the skin underneath to begin its natural healing process and heal itself by stimulating the regeneration and growth of collagen and elastin in the skin to make it tighter and smoother, to reveal supple, new and rejuvenated skin (Ibrahimi et.al. 2014). It is also one of the few treatments with minimal downtime.
After the succeeding treatments, the skin will become noticeably lighter and the scars will be reduced or disappear.
There are other types of treatments on the market but before getting them, it is recommended that you research on whether they are appropriate for those suffering from acne, as there are treatments, such as chemical peels, which may only worsen the acne condition.
Do not let your acne ruin your teenage years, and even beyond. Approach the right doctor in Singapore. You can trust that Dr. Tyng Tan of Aesthetics and Hair Clinic will provide you with the appropriate treatment that will address your acne woes, such as Mosaic Skin Laser Rejuvenation Treatment.
To learn more about the treatment, simply fill out our inquiry form or call us now to schedule your consultation with Dr. Tyng Tan!
Omar A Ibrahimi MD PhD, Nazanin Saedi MD and Suzanne L. Kilmer MD. Laser-based Treatment of the Aging Face for Skin Resurfacing : Ablative and Non-ablative Lasers. Surgery of the Skin, 2014; 34, 549-560
SB Cho, SH Oh et al. Efficacy of the fractional photothermolysis system with dynamic operating mode on acne scars and enlarged facial pores. Dermatologic Surgery, 2009;35:108-114.
JH Choe, WS Kim et al. Prevention of thyroidectomy scar using a new 1,550-nm fractional erbium–glass Laser. Dermatologic Surgery, 2009;35:1199-1205.
HJ Kim, JH Lee et al. Comparison of a 1,550nm erbium:glass fractional laser and a chemical reconstruction of skin scars (CROSS) method in the treatment of acne scars: A simultaneous split-face trial. Lasers in Surgery
and Medicine, 2009;41:545–549.
WH Kang, JH Kim et al. Atrophic acne scar treatment using triple combination therapy: Dot peeling, subcision and fractional laser. Journal of
Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, 2009;11:212-215.
HS Kim, JH Lee et al. Comparison of the effectiveness of nonablative fractional laser versus ablative fractional laser in thyroidectomy scar prevention: A pilot study. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, 2012;14:89-93.
HJ Lee, SJ Lee et al. Facial scars after a road accident: Combined treatment with fractional photothermolysis and alexandrite laser. Medical Lasers,
JU Shin, JH Lee, et al. Comparison of non-ablative and ablative fractional laser treatments in a postoperative scar study. Lasers Surg Med. 2014
About Dr Tyng Tan
Dr. Tan Tyng Yuan, MBBS completed her graduate and medical education in the United Kingdom over a span of 10 years.