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Dealing with Acne

Urgh, Acne. Acne is probably one of the most frustrating parts of growing up, in fact almost 85% of Australians will experience bouts of acne during their teenage years. But never fear there are plenty of things you can do to help soothe your skin and get on with more enjoyable things like having foot-bath while eating toasted marshmallows.

What is Acne?

The most common type of acne teens get is acne vulgaris (don’t panic vulgaris just means most common!). Cases of acne can be very minor or they can be more extensive and usually show up on the face, neck, shoulders, chest and/or back. Girls will usually develop acne before boys as they tend to go through puberty earlier. Acne and breakouts often increase around the time of your period, when hormones are peaking.

Why do we get acne?

Acne occurs when our oil glands get blocked and bacteria is trapped inside. During puberty, while your hormones are doing magic tricks, your glands (sebaceous glands) increase in size and you start to produce a lot more oil (sebum). This increases the chance of your oil glands being filled up, if the glands become blocked you get a build-up of oil and eventually a pimple. Acne occurs when bacteria gets trapped in the glands and starts multiplying causing the pimple to become red and swell.

Image via Kidshealth.org

Image via Kidshealth.org

Different types of acne bumps and lumps include;

  •  Whitehead-a closed, clogged gland that bulges out from the skin
  • Blackhead- a clogged gland that stays open, the top section darkens
  • Pimple-the gland opens up and sebum, bacteria and dead skin cells move under the skin and cause swelling, redness and sometimes a bit of pus on the surface of the skin.
  • Nodules or cysts- clogged pores that become infected, these are usually deep in the skin and feel like hard lumps.
How to manage acne
  • Cleanse: It is recommended that you wash your face twice a day with a cleanser that is specifically designed for acne-prone skin. Just ensure you are gentle, don’t scrub too hard as this can actually cause the acne to get worse.
  • Change your make-up: Try using make-up that is labeled ‘noncomedogenic’ or ‘nonacnegenic’ as it is less likely to clog your pores than other makeup. It can also be a good idea to minimize the amount you wear or try and have make-up free days to give your skin a chance to breath. Always remember to cleanse your skin really well after wearing make-up.
  • Don’t squeeze: Squeezing and picking pimples can cause the bacteria to spread and more pimples to develop, so resist the temptation. If you must, try doing it right after you have had a hot shower when you skin is soft and less likely to scar.
  • Stress less: Stress causes hormones to race around the body, this affects your oil levels and for some of us that means we get a pimple. While this is annoying the plus side is that you can do lots of things to reduce your stress levels, like meditation and exercise, and in turn reduce the chance of getting a stress induced pimple.
  • Look at your diet: There is not a lot of scientific evidence showing that diet has an influence over whether or not you will get acne. However if you notice that a particular type of food causes you to break out, it might be a good idea to avoid eating it if it concerns you.
I’ve tried this, it hasn’t worked for me 🙁 

If you have tried all you can at home and you are still concerned about your pimples or acne head to your local pharmacists or GP and have a chat with them. Check out our post on going to the doctor on your own if you don’t feel comfortable going with a parent. They will be able to recommend some treatments. You may have to try a few different treatments before you find one that works for you. If your acne is very severe and these treatments don’t work your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist (a skin specialist) who can prescribe medication like retinoids, antibiotics or hormonal agents that can dramatically reduce the severity and number of pimples.