Adolescent Acne

What It Is and What You Can Do
It’s your 13th birthday. You are finally excited to be a teenager. Eventually, you know that you will be mature enough to drive a car,  vote, and have a credit card. Several days later, you wake up in the morning and observe pimples on your face! You panic and ask your parents what in the world is wrong with you. They say that you have acne, but when you ask them some questions, they say, “I don’t know. Ask (the other parent).” Let’s dive deep into these pimples and explore what is going on!

What is Acne?

Acne is a skin condition where the tiny pores in the face are clogged with dirt, oil, or dead skin cells. Acne is most common among teenagers, although it can affect people of all ages. Usually, acne begins during puberty, and there are variations of acne that occur in all ages. 

Acne in Perspective

Acne Across the Globe

There were more than 600,000 cases of acne in the world in 2013, according to data collected in the Global Burden of Diseases Study (GBD). This was an increase of a whopping 23 percent since 1990 when there were only 537,000 cases globally. What countries are acne the most prevalent, though? In 2017, researchers from universities and hospitals across the US looked at the GBD data from 2013. They found that acne was most common in Western Europe, North America, and Latin America. So, don’t worry, though, you’re not the only one with acne! 

Acne in the US

There are people with acne even here in the United States. In a 2004 article from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, scientists from universities and hospitals across the United States looked at the data for skin diseases. The found astonishing results – there were 50.2 million cases of acne that year in the United States alone. That’s a lot of people!


There are a variety of different types of acne that exist, but here are the six most common forms: 

  • Blackheads are dark spots that appear on the skin, and they are caused by the oxidizing of melanin from our skin. When the pores in our skin become clogged with dead skin cells, the dead skin cells react with oxygen and turn black. One common misconception is that blackheads result from dirt on the face, but blackheads are not related to the cleanliness of the skin. Squeezing or scrubbing blackheads can worsen them, and avoiding oil-based skin products can help treat them. 
  • Whiteheads are pimples that stay under the surface of the skin. This type of acne is caused when dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria become trapped in the pores of your skin. The main difference between whiteheads and blackheads is that whiteheads are closed pores, while blackheads are open pores. Whiteheads can often turn into pimples if they become inflamed or red. 
  • Papules are red or pink bumps that are tender or sore. They are a raised area of skin, which occurs when there is a high break of the follicle wall. An acne papule often turns into pustules. 
  • Pustules are bumps on the skin that contain fluid or pus. They usually are white bumps surrounded by red, inflamed skin, and they look very similar to pimples. Sometimes, they are found in clusters in one specific area on the body. 
  • Nodules are one of the most dangerous types of acne. They are large, painful, solid pimples that are deep in the skin. They build up under the surface of the skin and are extremely painful. 
  • Cysts are the most severe type of acne, and they are large, pus-filled lumps that look similar to boils. Cysts have the highest risk of causing permanent scarring. They are sac-like pockets that contain fluid, air, or other substances. 

Causes of Acne

Oil and Acne

We’re talking about your natural oil, not cooking oil! Anyways, there are many causes of acne, but the primary one is your oil-secreting gland activity. Our body’s skin cells are constantly replenishing themselves, by growing in new cells. Sometimes, these glands produce too much oil or sebum, causing dead skin cells to stay on the face. As a result, our pores become blocked by dead skin and oil. Bacteria take advantage of this,
resulting in facial acne. There are many theories as to why oil glands are overly active. One idea is that sebaceous glands are located near the head and shoulders to assist with childbirth. Your sebaceous glands are active during your early years, but mostly inactive during childhood. Then, during adolescence, your sebaceous glands flare up and cause your face to develop acne. Although it is impossible to prevent acne on our skin completely, some dietary choices directly lead to increased acne, such as consuming chocolate, greasy foods, and dairy. 

Food and Acne

Unfortunately, there is much misinformation about the relation between food and acne. In this section, we will tell you about the effects of different foods on acne. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that foods with a high glycemic index may increase the risk of developing acne or make acne worse. Why? Well, a diet based on products with a high glycemic index leads to excess insulin in the body. High insulin levels cause increased production of sebum, which plays a fundamental role in causing acne. Foods with a high glycemic index include french fries, white rice, white
bread, cakes, cookies, and crackers. Dairy products, especially skim milk, may also increase a person’s risk of developing acne. 

Emotional Effects of Acne

All types of acne can have a severe impact on the emotional health of teens. Many teens tend to have low self-esteem and poor body image when their skin breaks out. Our society places great emphasis on appearance, which can lead to pressure to look perfect all the time. As a result, teens may try to hide it by refusing to go out with others and growing long hair to cover their acne. Girls also use heavy, chemical-filled makeup to disguise these pimples.  Some people may refuse to have their picture taken when they are at a family gathering.  A common problem in schools is that teens or tweens
may be bullied for having too much acne and excluded for looking ugly or gross. This can cause low body image, and some teens may refuse to go to school due to fear of being teased or bullied. Low self-confidence can lead to not being able to form relationships and having a difficult time working with others. Many acne patients report that they are self-conscious about being judged by people and have difficulty making new friends. Sometimes, job interviews can be challenging to acne patients because they cannot look people in the eye and are constantly thinking about others.  Acne patients have a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety issues. However, there are many tips that can help you treat and reduce acne, and some guidelines on behaviors to avoid, as they can lead to an increase in acne. 

What to Do

  1. Wash your face. One of the best ways to prevent acne is to wash your face, and washing your face will remove excess dirt, oil, and dead skin from the face. When washing your face, it is important to use warm water and refrain from using harsh, chemical cleansers. Try using natural cleansers that are equally as effective at treating acne but not as harmful. 
  2. Stay hydrated. Drinking water is important to keep yourself hydrated, and water can promote proper skin hydration. Dry skin is proven to trigger excess oil production, which is a major cause of acne. 
  3. Limit makeup. Certain ingredients in makeup can clog the pores of your face, and this can lead to acne-causing bacteria to grow. Try to avoid oil-based makeup, and remove all makeup at the end of the day. The harsh chemicals and added dyes in makeup can irritate the skin and potentially lead to breakouts. 

What Not to do

  1. Don’t wash your face more than twice a day. Washing your face more than twice a day is unnecessary, and in many cases harmful. In fact, doing so may dry out your skin. When this happens, the skin does whatever it needs to do to regain moisture, and this includes making its sebum production work in overdrive, causing more oil and more acne than there was original. 
  2. Avoid eating chocolate, milk, and oily, greasy, or starchy foods. 
  3. Avoid touching your face. Every time we touch our face, our body 
  4. Don’t pop your pimples! This is one of the most common behaviors that aggravate acne. 

Common Questions
Q: The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin
Diseases (NIAMS)) say that chocolate has nothing to do with acne. Why do
you claim the opposite? 

Unfortunately, the two studies that deliberately showed no link between chocolate consumption and acne have been criticized by other researchers for their poor design. Below is the link to one of the two articles that this claim was based upon. Read the articles, and then we will explain why it is flawed.

The above article was published in December 1969 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, an extremely prestigious medical journal published by the American Medical Association. First, note that this study was funded by the Chocolate Manufacturer’s Association and was manipulated to portray chocolate as innocent. In a letter to the editor of Clinics in Dermatology, researchers, and doctors from the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Honolulu, Hawaii points out that the study has many
weaknesses that should be acknowledged. First, the age, gender, and other data for the 35 prisoners in the study were not mentioned, and the addition of 30 other people from an acne clinic may have introduced confounding variables that were not adjusted for Terms were undefined and the control chocolate bars had hydrogenated vegetable oil whose effects were unaccounted for, just to name a few. If you want to read the full list of problems with the JAMA article, visit the link here: