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"I Can't Go Anywhere -- I Have a Pimple!"

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Eighty-three percent of teens worry at least sometimes about their complexion; approximately one-third or more indicate that they have felt anxious, embarrassed, or frustrated by their acne. Almost one-half of the teens surveyed in a study sponsored by the American Medical Association felt that their complexion affected how other people reacted toward them.

Unless you had perfect skin when you were a teen (in which case, everyone in school hated you—so you had other problems), surely you remember waking up on the morning of a dance and discovering that your face sported the largest zit you'd ever seen. Remember how it felt?

Acne really affects how kids feel about themselves. A recent study by the American Medical Association revealed that adolescents and young adults with acne are likely to have lowered self-confidence, a poor self-image, and are less inclined to participate in social activities.

As adults, most of us begin to realize that physical appearance is less important than other attributes, but teenagers clearly don't feel this way. How they feel about their appearance affects how they feel about themselves—so acne is just one more factor preventing them from fulfilling their potential.

Just the Facts, Please

  • “Acne comes from chocolate.”
  • “It comes from eating too many greasy french fries.”
  • “She has zits because she never washes.”
Tuning In

Like your teenager, you may believe acne myths that sometimes stop you from being sensitive to your child. Here's what you should know about a few of the myths:

Myth: This is a stage teenagers just have to go through. Your dermatologist can recommend excellent products to help your teen. It's worth paying attention to acne now because it can be a problem for years to come and can even lead to permanent scarring if it isn't treated in time.

Myth: Sunlight will dry up the skin. (Remember sitting under sunlamps to cure acne?) With skin cancer on the rise, the sun and sunlamps are no solution.

Myth: The doctor won't recommend anything better than what you can buy at the store. Your dermatologist can give your teen a better understanding of how to use acne-fighting products properly. Teens who start “self-medicating” may soon end up with skin reactions to the products they use in addition to acne.

Despite what you hear, there's no proven link between acne and foods (not even soda, chocolate, or french fries). Nor is it caused by dirt; no matter how carefully your teen washes, he can still have acne.

When your teen is moaning about his skin, give him the facts about the causes of acne:

  • Heredity. If other members of the family have had acne, your teen is more likely to.
  • Hormones. At the onset of puberty, hormones trigger oil ducts on the face, back, and upper chest to begin producing oil. Additional oil leads to the third contributing factor about acne:
  • Plugged oil ducts. If your teen is susceptible, the cells that line the oil ducts in the skin tend to get plugged. When the ducts plug up, whiteheads form and eventually bloom into the pimples of acne.

A few other factors may aggravate acne. Some teens find that stress makes their acne worse. Girls may suffer worse skin during menstruation when hormone levels change. Anything that rubs on the skin (a chin strap, a headband, and so on) may cause a breakout in that area. Some types of makeup cause acne to get worse.

“Pizza Face” No More

There is no true cure for acne, but there are ways to keep it under control. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the best over-the-counter remedy is benzoyl peroxide lotion or gel in 5 to 10 percent strengths. (Benzoyl peroxide is available under many brand names, so check the labels on skin-care products in your pharmacy.)

Benzoyl peroxide is very drying, so your teen should start slowly, using the milder strength once a day. If your teen's skin isn't red or peeling after using it for a week, she can increase to twice a day.

If there's no improvement after she uses it twice a day for four to six weeks, then visit a dermatologist who can prescribe something more effective.

In addition, tell your teen that popping pimples just makes acne worse.

A teen can also improve her skin by keeping her hands away from her face and by keeping her hair clean and pulled back; oily bangs or greasy hair can lead to a forehead dotted with pimples. (If she has bangs, she should clip them away from her forehead at night.)

Acne is worth your attention—there are solutions, and it can cause scarring.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager © 1996 by Kate Kelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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