AcneNet Article
Adolescent Acne

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 comedones, 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.

Emotional Toll
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 making friends

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

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

A general overview of how acne is treated. Provides links to pages that give detailed information about treating mild, moderate to moderately severe acne and severe acne as well as the various types of acne therapies.

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