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Why do teenage girls get acne?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Hormonal changes that girls undergo during their teen years can often result in an abundance of sebum in the skin. This sebum can clog pores, which can result in bumps, blisters, and cysts known as acne.

Of all the changes in store for a girl going through puberty, acne may be the only one that does not seem to have a bigger purpose. Pimples or acne blemishes appear because the pores in the skin that an oil create an oil known as sebum are blocked and inflamed. Sebum aids to moisturize the skin and it prevents bacteria from entering the body. When sebum is produced by a girl's body during puberty, it travels up the follicle to the surface of the skin. It then combines with salts, dead skin cells and other substances to form a type of protective coating, helping to keep the skin moist.

Unfortunately, if the sebum merges with dead skin cells while still inside the follicle, it can clog the follicle, be contaminated with bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes for short) and react with inflammation. The end result is the dreaded zit.

It's a challenging enough time in a girl's life: Her whole body is changing both inside and out, a girl feels like she's under constant scrutiny, and now her skin is rebelling against her.

Girls are apt to have fewer problems with acne than boys during puberty. Nonetheless, following puberty and throughout adulthood, girls are more commonly troubled with acne (perhaps causing pubescent acne to be all the more discouraging).

The best ways to avoid acne during puberty (and beyond) include washing your face gently (do not scrub your skin raw), making sure you remove any makeup you are wearing every night, and showering if you work up a serious sweat. Remember, do not pick at your face or touch it more than necessary, as this will aggravate the skin and cause further breakouts.

If any specific food appears to cause acne outbreaks, it is better to trust your own intuition and avoid this food for a while to see if that improves your skin. Keep in mind: There is no single cause of acne, and you often will require a mix of preventive measures to stop it.

To treat acne, you should experiment with products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicyclic acid. Products containing these substances will dry the skin out, destroy bacteria and help the skin cast off its dead skin cells. Begin with small amounts of these substances to give your skin the opportunity to adjust to the medications.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.