Six essential things to know about teenage acne

Dr. Marc-André Doré

Friday, February 18, 2022

Although it affects nearly one in 10 people , regardless of age, acne is often associated with puberty and adolescence. This period of great upheaval causes the appearance of lesions which, even if they are generally harmless, greatly affect the self-confidence of young adults, which can even go so far as to cause anxiety and depression.

As a parent of a teenager who suffers from acne, you have to be on the lookout for your child's quality of life. Learning more about this very common skin condition will allow you to approach the problem and possible treatments more easily. Here is an overview of the main causes of acne and the cases generally encountered in the clinic.

What is Acne?

The skin contains many small holes called pores. Each of these pores contains a follicle which consists of a hair and, at its base, a sebaceous gland which produces an oily substance called sebum. Acne occurs when too much sebum and dead skin cells block the pore. This blockage is the ideal environment for the growth of bacteria, which results in various types of skin lesions.

Woman with acne Adult acne
Adult acne Adult acne

Does acne only affect the face?

Although most commonly seen on the face, acne can also affect the neck, shoulders and upper back as these areas contain more sebaceous glands. 

What causes acne?

The number one risk factor for acne is the hormonal changes that occur during puberty. The body produces more testosterone, which activates the sebaceous glands and causes excess sebum. Mixed with bacteria and dead skin cells that are on the surface of the skin, this surplus gives pimples, literally.

Heredity can also play a role in the development of acne as can other hormonal triggers (menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, for example). Chronic stress, taking certain medications, birth control pills and even applying certain cosmetics can also affect the skin.

What are the main types of acne?

  1. Whiteheads

    Whiteheads are actually skin pores clogged with dead skin cells and sebum, and covered with a thin layer of skin that takes on a whitish color. They are also called closed comedones.

  2. Blackheads

    Blackheads are clogged skin pores, but unlike whiteheads, these are not covered with skin. Their black color comes from oxidation through contact with ambient air.

  3. Papules

    When excess sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria become embedded in the skin, they can lead to inflammation. Small reddish bumps and pimples then appear. 

  4. Nodules and cysts

    These lesions are large, firm and painful. Since they come from the deep layers of the skin, they can leave permanent traces when they disappear. Prompt treatment can help prevent scarring .

  5. Pustules

    The typical acne pimple. The pustules look a lot like papules, but are filled with pus (a yellowish fluid). This fluid appears when white blood cells travel to the clogged area of ​​skin to clear a bacterial infection there. As they die, the white blood cells collect in the papule and turn it into a pustule.

Who can suffer from acne?

The short answer: everyone! This is what makes acne one of the most common skin diseases. It should be mentioned, however, that during adolescence, acne particularly affects the skin of boys, whereas in adulthood, it is rather women who suffer from it most often.

When to consult?

Better to consult a dermatologist as soon as acne begins to affect the quality of life. Likewise if a more severe form of acne is suspected. Prompt treatment could avoid long-term scarring.

Text taken from a post written in 2021 by Dr. Marc-André Doré for the page Maman pour la vie.

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