Q. My 12-year-old daughter is starting to have occasional acne break-outs. I do not think it is severe enough to require a dermatologist but would like some advice about over-the-counter acne products.
Acne is a skin problem that commonly occurs during adolescence (but can continue into adulthood) and is characterized by pimples and blackheads. There are many misconceptions about acne. For example, people believe it’s caused by certain foods or poor skin hygiene.
In reality, there are three components of acne: increased oil production, bacteria and keratin plugs. Elevated testosterone levels during puberty also contribute to acne – a primary reason acne is more common during the teenage years.
To treat acne, it is important to target all three components. For mild acne, benzoyl peroxide is the recommended first-line topical medication and is available over the counter.
Teens with acne-prone skin should wash their faces with a mild cleanser twice daily. Washing more frequently will not prevent acne and can result in dry skin.
Second, apply a pea-sized amount of benzoyl peroxide cream or gel. As a final step, use an oil-free moisturizer that contains salicylic acid. Purchase only makeup labeled non-comedogenic. If the acne is not responding to over-the-counter medications, then your child should see her health care provider for a consultation.
More severe or “cystic” acne can lead to scarring and should be treated by a medical professional.