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Dealing with adolescent acne: A Sunnybrook dermatologist shares insight and advice

Young woman squeezing pimple

Puberty isn’t a fun experience, but maybe one of the least enjoyable aspects of this life stage is acne. According to Dermatology Canada, 9 in 10 adolescents will develop acne. Dr. Jennifer Tran, dermatologist at Sunnybrook, shares some insight into what causes adolescent acne, when to see a dermatologist and some simple tips on caring for adolescent skin.

Why teens get acne

Puberty causes a surge in hormones that can lead to acne in teenagers.

“Adolescents start to have increased androgen production and that stimulates sebum formation, which in turn leads to the development of acne,” says Dr. Tran, adding it is important to know that other factors do play a role in acne and its severity.

And it’s not just something high school students face: Dermatology Canada says 80 per cent of those struggling with acne are between the ages of 12 and 24, and 25 per cent of teenagers will still have acne at 25.

Treating acne

Dr. Tran says adolescents (and their families) shouldn’t feel as though acne needs to be severe before reaching out to their family doctor for a referral to a dermatologist.

“[Dermatologists] are happy to help our patients manage all types of acne, regardless of severity,” she says.

Treating acne is a personal decision, and every patient is different, says Dr. Tran. It is common and normal and doesn’t necessarily require treatment, but everyone will have a different tolerance.

“What might seem mild or inconsequential to others may in fact be having a big impact on a patient’s self-esteem,” she says. “Generally speaking, I think if your acne is bothering you, it’s worth a visit to your doctor to discuss options.”

Keep the skin care simple

For adolescents who are looking for ways to care for their skin, Dr. Tran keeps the recommendations simple.

“I usually recommend a cleanser once daily, a moisturizer and —if necessary— a prescription-grade topical treatment to start,” she says, adding there are many options for these that patients can explore with their family doctor or dermatologist.

And for those who might be concerned that their acne is caused by not washing their face enough, Dr. Tran says that’s a myth.

“Acne is not caused by poor hygiene or not washing your face enough. In fact, acne can sometimes be worsened by excessive cleansing.”

About the author

Lindsay Smith