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Acne Treatment Advice
Q: I have a daughter who is 11 years of age and African-American. She is going through puberty and experiencing severe acne, which causes her embarrassment. I would like to know what products are available to her. Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.
A: Most children have some difficulty with acne during their pubertal years. Acne develops during this time because the hormones that increase with puberty also cause an increase in the oils and other substances that are produced by the skin. It also promotes the growth of certain bacteria which are the main cause of acne.
In order to lessen the development of acne, it is important to cleanse the skin regularly, to keep it free of these oils and to diminish some of the bacteria. This does not mean washing the face multiple times a day, as that is not good for the skin either. Rather, your daughter should wash her face twice a day with a good soap or cleansing solution. I recommend glycerin type soaps, such as Neutrogena Facial Bar.
Be careful about the products that are used in your daughter's hair. Pomades and gels often seep onto the skin, and can promote the development of more acne, especially on the forehead and temples. Also, pull back your daughter's bangs so they don't touch the skin.
For children who have a lot of bumps, I usually recommend a benzoyl peroxide gel or cream to use a once a day. This helps to break down the acne bumps that are there, and help the skin heal. Benzoyl peroxide can be very drying though, so start out slowly, with a 5 percent concentration, rather than 10 percent. These are available in drug stores without a prescription.
If your daughter's acne does not improve with these measures, have her see her primary physician to discuss other treatments. Depending on the type and severity of acne, other products can be prescribed, such as retinoic acid cream, and antibiotics. It would also be important to make sure there are no associated medical conditions in patients who have very severe acne.
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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.