1. Play it cool but take action
Acne can profoundly impact self-esteem at any age, especially during the vulnerable teenage years. If your teen tells you that his acne doesn't bother him, be aware that he may be simply putting on a brave face. I've seen this countless times with young acne sufferers in my office. For instance, during a recent consultation, 16-year-old Jeff's* mother informed me that he seemed unconcerned about his acne even though it was severe, and that it had taken a lot of persuasion to get him to come and see me.
However, during a later visit when Jeff was alone without his mother, he confessed to sleepless nights over his skin and told me that he avoided going out whenever possible because he was embarrassed about his acne. If you suspect that your teen's acne is affecting his quality of life by impairing social or academic activities, try opening the conversation in a low-key, non-judgmental way, and ask whether he'd be interested in consulting a dermatologist.
2. Lose the blame
Explain to your teen - and ask your dermatologist to explain too - that the acne is not her fault. Acne is not due to dirty skin, poor skin care habits or even, in most cases, what you eat. It's not an infection, but a skin inflammation caused by an overgrowth of bacteria that live normally on everyone's skin. Some sufferers may have inherited a predisposition to acne, which is worsened by hormonal changes during adolescence and by stress. Acne is a treatable skin disease. I believe it's vital to start effective treatment for acne while it's still in an early stage, to prevent the development of permanent scarring, which can lead to a lifetime of low self-esteem.
3. Keep it Simple
Early morning school bus pick-ups, evenings of homework, sleep-away camps and burgeoning social activities make simple, easily portable skincare regimes a must for teenage acne sufferers. Perhaps that's why many of them fall into the trap of purchasing Proactiv, a mail order acne system that contains the same ingredients as the over-the-counter acne remedies in your local drugstore, but is far more expensive and often irritating to the skin.
For a step-by-step acne treatment system that really works, ask your dermatologist about the Tretin-X kit, which combines prescription strength tretinoin cream with an antioxidant cleanser and moisturizer. The Tretin-X kit is not only much more effective than Proactiv and other over-the-counter treatments, it's better value too: The cleanser and moisturizer are free when you fill your prescription. For more severe acne, your dermatologist may add the Minocin PAC, which contains prescription antibiotic minocycline capsules along with complimentary cleansing wipes, facial serum and a skin calming masque that contains antioxidants and natural algae extracts.
If you wish to try over-the-counter acne products first, Neutrogena has a line that, while not endorsed by the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Simpson, is reasonably priced although it may be too drying for some skins. A major advantage of prescription acne treatment is that it can be individualized for oily, dry or sensitive skins.