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ACNE   At least four out of five adolescents have had acne. It is usually not a serious problem. However, your child may develop a severe case. The emotional scar it can leave may be worse then any physical one. It may last for a year or two or may last as long as ten to twelve years. There is no cure for acne. With proper treatment you can minimize acne. You will be able to control this problem if you understand its cause. hair follicle

Sebaceous (or oil) glands surround each hair follicle. These glands produce a fatty substance called sebum. Sebum goes to the skin surface through the pilosebaceous canal along the hair follicle. This results in the production of skin oils. These passageways can get plugged up and this results in irritation and inflammation. There are three factors that cause acne. These factors include hormones, heredity and plugged oil ducts. When your child begins puberty, certain hormones, called androgens, increase in both boys and girls. These hormones stimulate the oil glands to produce oil. The face, upper parts of the chest and back, and the shoulders have many of these glands. This is just where acne is most likely to develop. If other family members had acne as teenagers, there's a greater chance that your child will inherit a tendency toward this disorder. Lastly, the mechanism for the development of acne involves blocked canals.

Sebum mixed with cells from the follicle walls and bacteria blocks the canal. The blocked canals evolve into clogged skin pores and forms whiteheads. Blackheads form when the sebum becomes oxidize and mixed with skin pigments in the plugged pores. Blackheads are not caused by either dirt or bacteria. Your child should avoid unnecessary scrubbing that can cause skin irritation. Pressure may build in the sealed-off follicle. This causes some of the material to leak into the surrounding skin layers. This results in a more severe form of acne with painful boils and cysts.

What makes acne worse? Pinching (or popping) blemishes forces oil from the oil ducts into the surrounding normal skin. This can cause inflammation and redness. Harsh scrubbing can irritate the skin. Chin straps, headbands, hair, and other things that rub on the skin can make acne worse. Makeup, cosmetic creams, and oily hair products can block oil ducts and aggravate acne. Medications, such as iodides, bromides, and hormones can make it worse. Menstruation, because hormone levels change before periods, can make acne worse. Emotional stress and nervous tension, as well as hot humid weather, can be aggravating factors.

What does not make acne worse? It's not caused by foods. Despite what you may have heard, there is no evidence that soft drinks, chocolate, and greasy foods cause acne. It is not caused by dirt. The black plug in a blackhead is pigment and oxidized sebum, not dirt. It's not caused by sexual thoughts, masturbation, or being an evil person. It is not caused by doing something you should not have done. It's not something you can catch or give to another person.

How do we treat acne? While there is no cure for acne, with proper treatment you can keep it under control. The main treatment for acne is good skin hygiene. Cleansing to remove skin oils and unplug the oil ducts is important. You should thoroughly clean the face with soap two or three times a day and shampoo the hair twice a week. Remember, rough scrubbing can make acne worse. Use a fresh washcloth each day because bacteria grow in damp wet cloths. Try to keep your hair off the face. Between washing, use alcohol swabs or acne wipettes to remove excess oil from the face. Benzyl peroxide helps kill skin bacteria, unplug the oil ducts, and heal acne blemishes. Start slowly with 5% lotion or gel once a day. After a week, increase use to twice a day if your skin isn't too red or isn't peeling. Apply a thin film to the entire area where acne may occur. Don't just dab it on current blemishes. Avoid the delicate skin around the eyes, mouth, or corners of the nose.

If your acne isn't better after 4 to 6 weeks, you may increase to a 10% strength lotion or gel. Start with one application each day and increase to two daily applications if your skin tolerates it. For worse cases, I can prescribe stronger medications. Retin-A cream, as well as topical and oral antibiotics, is some of the medications. Finally, the following are important things to remember. Be patient. It takes 6 to 8 weeks to see any improvement. Be faithful. Don't stop and start each time your skin changes. Your skin may appear to worsen early in the program before you begin to see improvement. Don't overdo. More is not better. Too much scrubbing makes skin worse. Too much benzyl peroxide makes your face red and scaly. Remember that acne is a temporary problem that will get better and usually looks worse to the person that has it.

MORE INFORMATION Visit some great websites that have a wealth of information on acne at AcneNet or acnesolutions.com.

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