Early Acne Often
Predicts Severe Acne
When acne begins
early, between 8 and 11 years of age, it often means severe acne as
a teenager. Treating the acne before it becomes severe can:
Link Between Early Acne and Severe Acne
Two large-scale U.S. studies looked at how acne develops
during adolescence. One of these studies evaluated the severity of
acne in 468 boys who ranged in age from 9 to 15 years. About half of
the boys were African-American and half were Caucasian. The
researchers found that acne becomes more common and more severe in
adolescent boys as they mature. The researchers concluded that
keeping an eye on acne in preadolescents and young adolescents can
help determine when treatment, which can prevent severe acne from
developing, should begin.
To expand upon
these findings, the researchers evaluated acne in girls. This study
followed 871 girls for 5 years. Again, about half of the
participants were African-American and about half were Caucasian. At
the beginning of this 5-year study, the girls were in 4th
or 5th grade. Following the girls over a five-year period
showed results similar to the previous study. The researchers found
that the number of acne lesions and the severity increased as the
girls matured. The girls who had significantly more acne lesions at
age 10, when the study began, had the most severe acne at age 15.
The researchers concluded that the best way to predict how severe
acne will be at age 15 is to determine the severity at age 10.
Helps Prevent Physical and Emotional Scars
acne is severe, large, red bumps called “cysts” form. Cysts can be
painful and may cause permanent scarring. While not life
threatening, these physical effects often cause extreme emotional
distress that can last a lifetime.
Anxiety, loss of
self-esteem, and depression are common in people who have acne. Even
mild and moderate cases cause emotional distress. When asked to talk
about how acne affects them, patients often mention feelings of
inferiority, embarrassment, and depression. One teenager said, “I
was more self-conscious about my skin, and at times very shy because
I felt my acne made me very ugly.” A college student confessed that
he avoided asking girls out because he thought, “She won’t be
interested because of how I look.” Another patient confided, “I got
severely depressed, and sometimes I wouldn’t go to school because I
had a particularly large pimple, and I just didn’t want to be seen
long-lasting acne can cause feelings of insecurity that last a
lifetime. One study found that people who had acne for a significant
amount of time tend to feel “scarred for life.” Long after the acne
clears, they may have low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority.
To avoid these physical and emotional scars, dermatologists
recommend that early acne be properly treated and that treatment
continue for as long as necessary to prevent the acne from
Treat Early Acne
there are a number of effective acne treatments and virtually every
case of acne can be controlled. However, what clears one person’s
acne may not work for another person. This is why appropriate
treatment begins with an evaluation by a dermatologist.
evaluation, the dermatologist will determine the severity and types
of acne lesions present. The doctor may ask questions to learn how
the acne affects the patient. Sometimes the acne worries the
parents; however, a young adolescent may not be concerned about
appearance. The dermatologist also will want to learn if the patient
is willing to follow an at-home treatment plan.
evaluation, the dermatologist will decide what, if any, treatment is
appropriate. For a young adolescent who has mild acne, the
dermatologist may prescribe a low-dose topical retinoid or benzoyl
peroxide. It is important to realize that appropriate treatment may
require more than one medication. Sometimes a topical antibiotic is
part of the treatment plan. Severe acne may require an antibiotic in
pill form as well as topical medication.
Proper skin care
plays an important role in acne treatment. The dermatologist can
provide tips for taking care of acne-prone skin as well as provide
product recommendations for everything from cleansers to sunscreen.
as Directed Gets Results
clearing, acne medication should be used as directed. Some
medications must be taken daily; others may be used intermittently.
Before leaving the dermatologist’s office, be sure that you
understand how to use the medication and when to use it.
If using the
medication as directed becomes a problem or the treatment plan does
not seem to work, be sure to tell your dermatologist. There are many
effective treatments available today.
It is important to
realize that acne cannot be cured, but it can be effectively
controlled. Keeping acne under control may require long-term
treatment. Acne often returns when treatment is stopped, so continue
to use your medication until your dermatologist tells you to stop.
This helps prevent new acne lesions from forming.
sometimes appears earlier than parents expect. If early acne
develops, teaming up with a dermatologist can help keep acne from
becoming severe as well as prevent physical and emotional scars.
Preventing severe acne can make a difference that lasts a lifetime.
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content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology