While acne can occur at any age, teens and young adults are more likely to get acne breakouts. Read on to find out 3 commonly asked questions about dermatologist recommended acne treatment for teens from Acne Care Bible: Dermatologist’s Tips For Acne Treatment & Prevention by Dr. Teo Wan Lin, dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre.
1. What kind of acne treatment for teens do dermatologists recommend?
Dermatologists usually start with acne treatment for teens that has less toxicity, require less monitoring, and are more convenient and sustainable. If your acne is deemed to be a little bit more severe, we move on to the more potent medications which are nevertheless still very safe when prescribed by an accredited dermatologist and monitored. There is no type of acne in the world that cannot be fully treated
Mild acne treatment for teens
If your teen’s acne is mild, you can use over-the-counter formulations which are readily available in your pharmacy. Some of these will contain ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulphur and tea tree oil. These have been safely and widely used in the community for decades. I personally no longer recommend any of these because I find that while it may work in very mild cases by drying out the oil and the pimple itself, for a lot of cases it causes irritation- a condition known as irritant contact dermatitis. This is because of the astringent nature of these formulations. Furthermore, acne is not just an oily skin condition, inflammation also plays a huge part.
Singapore Dermatologist Dr. Teo Wan Lin has formulated an over-the-counter blemish spot cream suitable as acne treatment for teens. It contains an algae extract chlorella vulgaris which actively targets sebum activity, contains natural moisturising factors as well as plant antioxidants to fight inflammation.
For acne face washes, antibacterial effects can be achieved with natural or chemical based ingredients. Chemical-based acne face washes are more common, but they are not the preferred choice. These are often based on triclosan which can be controversial because of its long-term hormonal effects, but nevertheless effective. Instead, you can use natural agents which have antibacterial properties such as our medical-grade honey cleanser. As acne treatment for teens, these will give excellent effects in controlling mild acne.
However, if you find that your child has persistent acne or has any of the indicators for having to see a dermatologist, do not delay because the emotional impact of acne is cumulative. This is because the period of one’s teenage years is considered a milestone and a formative period whereby their attitudes, beliefs, and emotions are just being solidified. Both in a good and bad way, it can be liable to influences.
Acne itself does cause a certain adjustment disorder in terms of how it impacts one’s self-esteem and psychosocial function so prolonging any period of adjustment disorder or any perceived suffering by the teenager will not have beneficial results. These are the same individuals that do not get proper medical acne treatment for teens, who are left with this sense of helplessness, frustration and acne scarring and distress when it persists all the way till adulthood when it is untreated.
2. When should my teenager see a dermatologist?
Firstly, whatever the severity of acne, if your child is feeling emotionally disturbed by his or her acne, please see a dermatologist. Different individuals have different thresholds for the tolerance of acne bumps and it is not our place to decide if his or her condition can be left alone.
Red flags to watch out for:
- Increased moodiness, sensitivity to comments or irritability, change in one’s appetite and sleep patterns.
- Persistent acne problems for more than six weeks
Doctors usually use acute or chronic to categorize disease conditions. An acute condition would resolve in maximum a month but most of the time within two to three weeks. Something that persists beyond 6 weeks falls into the chronic categories. In the case of acne, it indicates a persistent problem.
- The presence of scars
Having one or two pimples every month is no cause for alarm and it’s perfectly fine to self-medicate with over the counter medications. However, if you notice your acne starts to scar then it could be an indication that the acne is much more inflammatory. It’s important to keep it under control before more dramatic skin damage occurs.
- Having acne cysts
If your child has mainly a few whiteheads or blackheads or acne bumps known as papules, it is generally going to be milder than cystic acne. Cystic acne is a big, red, painful hard bump which is buried under your skin. They do not have an opening to the surface of your skin and it can result in significant swelling. Rarely it can turn into a collection of pus which is known as an abscess. This is due to the body building a wall around the area of inflammation to isolate the acne cyst from its surroundings.
- If you have a strong family history of acne
If anyone in your immediate family has been on accutane or isotretinoin before, this is an indicator that a strong genetic trait for acne exists. If this is so, your child should be treated by a dermatologist as early as possible.
3. How does a dermatologist decide if my child needs prescription medication as acne treatment for teens?
- Lesion count
An individual with less than 5 lesions will be in the category of mild acne. Anything more than 5 to 20 would be moderate, and anything more than 20 would be moderate to severe acne. Cases of moderate to moderate to severe acne all require oral medications as an effective acne treatment for teens. Earlier cases of moderate acne may do well with just physical therapy such as blue light or chemical peels alone.
- Type of acne that is present
If the individual has primarily comedonal acne, it would fall under the category of mild to moderate acne. If an individual has pustules, which is indicative of secondary bacterial infection, it will be considered to be in moderate category. If there a big red painful cysts for secondary infection it would be under the category of cystic acne and that itself would be under the severe category.
- Presence of scars
In an individual with just a few papules but with significant scarring due to acne excoriee especially in young girls, the disease process is immediately moderate to severe. This is because of the secondary skin damage that is occurring. If there is presence of deep dermal scars then it also would be in the severe category because it means that the individual is very prone to developing deeper inflammation that causes the dermal scarring to occur.
- History of failed treatments
If the individual had been on medication before either by another dermatologist or general practitioner and after stopping the medicine the acne came back very quickly, it would also be in the moderate category. These individuals in the moderate and moderate to severe categories all require pharmacotherapy. However, in some individuals who choose not to take oral medications, blue light treatment which is a half an hour treatment that is performed ideally 2 times a week up to a month, is considered a curative procedure for acne because it helps to kill the causative organism Propionibacterium acne.