How to prevent preteen acne: Beyond the basics
Preteen acne can wreak havoc on a child's physical appearance and also lower his self-esteem. So here's how you must deal with it.
At just 12, Hannah is a constant fixture in front of her mirror. Picking on her zits and trying to scrub her face has become a routine for her. Unfortunately, this is exactly how most growing kids behave when they suffer from preteen acne.
We all know that pimples have long been the bane of teenage life. Sadly, it has fast become a bane for preteens as well.
In fact, a study by by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that was published in Pediatrics journal reiterates that acne is fast becoming more and more common among preteens.
Therefore, there is increased need for parents to understand the physiological changes in their preteens, the causes and prevention of acne.
Acne is a disorder of the skin that is characterized by inflammation of its glands as well as the hair follicles. We often refer to acne lesions as pimples, zits or spots and also notice them mostly when we hit puberty.
It is primarily caused in preteens because of the following reasons:
- Hormonal changes that stimulate the glands leading to overproduction of natural oils in the skin
- Overproduction of sebum (the skin’s natural oil)
- Clogged pores on the skin due to dirt and debris of dead skin cells
- Bacterial infection in the sebaceous glands
More often than not you will notice two types of zits- whiteheads and blackheads. While the former occur when sebum blocks the skin’s pores, the latter acquires its colour after air comes in contact with it and causes a chemical reaction.
It’s not because the whitehead is dirty and turns black.
As far as pimples are concerned, they appear when the yeast and bacteria in the skin inflame the whiteheads and turn them red and fill them with pus.
Most preteens go through some form of acne during puberty. You can say that it is part of the process of growing up for most kids.
However for some, preteen acne can be quite severe and can tarnish their self-esteem and confidence. This leads to them trying various ways to further curb the infection.
Unfortunately, picking on zits and scrubbing your face can only aggravate it. But these are not the only ways you may be causing more damage and spreading acne all over the face.
When we notice a zit or a pimple on our face or anywhere on our body for that matter, the first stimulus is to pop it. Sadly, most of us fall for it and end up making that area more prone to infection.
Sometimes we even over wash our face or the pimple-prone area. But all of this only aggravates acne further.
So here’s what you need to watch out for in order to contain the infection.
- Popping pimples and using scrubs to clean the face
- Re-wearing dirty hats or headbands that touch the acne-prone skin
- Sleeping on the same dirty pillow for more than two weeks
- Washing your scalp/hair (that produces natural oil) after long periods of time
- Over using oily products on your hair or face
- Girls may experience an increase of hormones right before their menstrual cycles
- Boys may experience an increase of testosterone during and before puberty
- Stress and anxiety
Although there are certain myths that oily food such as pizza and even chocolates cause acne. That’s why most of us parents ask our preteens to avoid junk food, if at all. But there is no actual proof of a connection between food and acne.
But even if your preteen avoids dairy, there is no guarantee that acne would vanish overnight. There are a few other ways in which you can contain or treat preteen acne.
It can be a hard task to get rid of preteen acne completely, but cleansing can get your kid started.
Here are some tips:
- Mild cleansing: Cleaning the face twice with a mild soap and warm water helps reduce the formation and accumulation of excess sebum. Scrubbing on the other hand aggravates acne because it irritates the soft zit-prone skin. So begin by cleansing his preteens face gently. You can try mild cleansers such as Cetaphil,Neutrogena Acne Wash, Aveeno Acne Bar, or even Benzoyl Peroxide five percent Bar.
- Gentle exfoliation: Since acne can be painful for most preteens, they often do not scrub the inflamed areas properly. However, exfoliation and removal of dead skin cells is crucial in getting rid of acne. So encourage your preteen to gently exfoliate the acne-prone areas and remove dead skin cells. This can be done once or twice per week.
- Use water-based and oil-free products: Unless told otherwise, ask your preteen to stay clear of oil-based moisturizers or creams and use only water-based ‘nonacnegenic,’ or ‘non-comedogenic’ products. Even oil-based sunscreens should be off the list. Also, make sure to avoid using oils and gels on the scalp because they also seep into the face and can aggravate acne. Ask your preteen to also maintain hair hygiene and wash his/her hair every alternate day to prevent accumulation of oil.
- Spot treat for sudden inflammation: Sometimes all of these remedies do not work and spot correction is needed for those odd acne inflammations. In this case, you can use warm compress on the zit for 10 minutes. This will ensure easy cleaning of the zit.
- Benzyl peroxide medications: Another way to prevent preteen acne is to use over-the-counter benzyl peroxide medications. These are usually not recommended by doctors but you can still get them at pharmacies. It kills bacteria that causes acne infection, unplugs skin pores and heals pimples. You can begin with a gel or cream that contains 2.5 percent benzyl peroxide once per day. After the first week, your preteen can try using it twice a day. If pimples persist you can try gels containing five or 10 percent benzyl peroxide.
While most of these remedies work, if they do not, it’s best to consult a dermatologist. They may recommend specific medications and gels suitable for your preteen and even suggest targeted spot treatment.
Remember that most preteens outgrow this phase as they become adults. However, it’s a good idea to treat the problem from the root at its very onset.