Studies show that during
adolescence close to 100% of the population has at least an
occasional whitehead, blackhead or pimple—regardless of race or
ethnicity. These studies also confirm that acne most frequently
occurs between the ages of 12 and 20. The likelihood of developing
acne is greatest during adolescence because hormone levels become
elevated. Elevated hormones stimulate the sebaceous glands, glands
that are attached to hair follicles, to produce greater amounts of
sebum—an oily substance. An acne lesion (whitehead, blackhead or
pimple) occurs when a hair follicle becomes plugged with the sebum
and dead cells.
In most cases, acne begins between the
ages of 10 and 13 and usually lasts for 5 to 10 years. In some
adolescents, more severe acne follows the development of
reaching a peak 3 to 5 years after the first comedones appear.
Adolescent acne commonly disappears between the ages 20 and 25.
However, severe acne, also known as nodular acne or cystic
acne, may not resolve until 30-plus years of age.
Living five or more years with acne can be emotionally devastating,
especially during adolescence. Between the ages of 12 and 20, the
appearance of acne can seem like a social misfortune for which that
person alone has been selected. To a teenager, acne can be one of
the worse things that ever happened. Acne frequently makes teens
feel embarrassed and lowers their self-esteem. A recent survey of
British teenagers found that the emotional toll can be significant:
39% of teenagers with acne claimed
they avoided going to school because of embarrassment
55% of 11- to 18-year-olds said acne
prevented them from having a boyfriend or girlfriend
32% indicated acne stopped them from
Treating acne typically alleviates the
emotional effects and leads to greater self-confidence. Treatment
can also prevent acne from getting worse and deter scarring.
Most mild cases of acne can be
controlled at home by gently washing the affected areas and using a
topical preparation, such as benzoyl peroxide. If the condition does
not improve in 6 to 8 weeks, a dermatologist’s help may be required.
Acne that ranges from moderate to severe typically requires the help
of a dermatologist. The good news is that today virtually every case
of acne can be controlled.
Jancin, B. “Teens with Acne Cite Shame, Embarrassment About Skin.”
Skin and Allergy News, January 2004. p. 28
content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology