Pre-teen/early-teen acne solutions?
May 18, 2010 11:06 PM   Subscribe

Pre-teen/early-teen acne solutions?

My kids are 13 and almost 12. We all shower regularly. Currently, our AC is broken, so we're all pretty sweaty at home, but wash daily before bed. Anyway, they have both recently started breaking out with acne. My daughter is even more afflicted on her forehead. She's currently growing out her bangs, so maybe conditioner is having an effect?

I encourage washing with the variety of soaps we have on hand (Dial for the antibacterial qualities and Neutrogena for the more gentle face care.). We also encourage fresh washcloths and towels and have a bunch available at all times. We've also been changing bedding more often. Witch hazel solution is always available.

If it helps, there seems to be a hereditary tendency for "bad skin." My folks had it, and I had it. Heck, I'm over 40 and still have the occasional breakout.

We tend to eat more meals at home from scratch, so I'm thinking it's not diet-related, if that's really a thing. But, I'm happy to hear about dietary suggestions as well as hygiene.

Is it just a stage as they hit puberty? Is it mostly hereditary?
Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
posted by lilywing13 to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh geez. There's such a myriad of triggers for acne that it's hard to tease out exactly what's exacerbating your kids' acne, and bear in mind that the trigger for one is not the trigger for all. Some people it's food--and not even if it's 'good' or 'bad' food, but a certain type of food, such as dairy. Or wheat. Or...I don't even know what else. There're other factors too. For example, mine is (was) hormonal, and while it was hereditary to an extent (my mother was the same and still got occasional breakouts into her 30s and early 40s), I was the worst by far. Think accosted-by-strangers-on-the-bus worst.

To an extent, hormone spikes at puberty means that pretty much everyone will have the occasional pimple or two. I don't know a single person who was completely acne free during their teenager years. I don't think the fact that your kids are having acne is particularly alarming. It does depend on the severity.

If the acne is mild enough to be treated with OTC products, I'd recommend a gentle cleanser--Cetaphil is a good one, or SpectroJel--and gentle motions, ie. no hard scrubbing. Treat with benzyol peroxide and/or salicylic acid (and the pH range of the latter is important). You can try both at once if you want, but I wouldn't recommend it. Irritation is an invitation for unhappiness. I don't particularly buy into the idea that 'drying it out will make your face produce more oil, ergo more acne!', but I do subscribe to that 'irritating your face with unnecessarily harsh detergents impedes skin's natural healing'. In my completely unexpert opinion, your Dial, more specifically, its detergent (sodium laureth sulfate would be my guess?) is probably too harsh for the face. I've known some that could tolerate it, but I wouldn't recommend it to the masses as a face cleanser.

If it's bad enough that OTC products won't cut it, I'd recommend either going to a GP, or--even better--a dermatologist. Moderate acne will probably respond to things such as Differin, which can be made available through your GP. For your daughter, hormones might be an option (birth control, for what it's worth, was the only thing that worked for me personally after years of swapping OTC options since my folks hadn't been big on the prescriptions).

If it's more than moderate acne, please see a derm for an expert opinion. There are better and better treatments out there for both acne and scarring, but they should only be administered under a professional's guidance.
posted by Hakaisha at 11:24 PM on May 18, 2010

If Neutrogena isn't working, the next step would probably be something with salycilic acid (if the Neutrogena product you're using doesn't have it; some of them do). Try Stridex pads or something equivalent if you haven't already. They're available in varying strengths and can really dry out your skin if you try too much too soon; start with the gentlest available and follow the instructions on the box.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:26 PM on May 18, 2010

I've found that Noxzema cleans the face wellbut doesn't leave it overly dry. I've had a dermatologist tell me that stripping oil from your skin just causes the body to produce more. But as with all medicine this may be more opinion than fact.
posted by dfriedman at 11:32 PM on May 18, 2010

Just want to add: benzoyl peroxide (which works well for me) bleaches clothes and towels. Be careful not to turn all your towels and shirts orange like I did.
posted by ALongDecember at 11:33 PM on May 18, 2010

Sleeping on a clean towel is supposed to help, supposedly if pillow cases get dirty, they can cause problems. People seem to think it works
posted by delmoi at 11:35 PM on May 18, 2010

When I was younger I had pretty bad acne, and the only thing I responded to was Accutane. It was unpleasant for a few months, but it worked (as a pretty much permanent solution). I think Accutane works for pretty much everyone, but it's a last resort.

If over the counter remedies aren't working, see a dermatologist for some stronger prescription treatments (antibiotics, topical treatments, etc) that may do well.

In terms of diet, the only thing I was ever able to correlate with additional acne (for me personally) was excessive amounts of milk.
posted by Diplodocus at 11:37 PM on May 18, 2010

Try different shampoo/conditioner.
posted by k8t at 11:40 PM on May 18, 2010

Washing twice a day, every day, with Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash (the orange stuff) and applying a benzoyl peroxide cream (like this one) as needed to any actual pimples has worked very well for me. The cream does bleach sheets- I would buy some cheap white pillowcases, because I get the best results when I use it as soon as I notice a possible breakout.
posted by MadamM at 11:58 PM on May 18, 2010

What a coincidence that this topic came up! While reading this week I randomly learned that there are groups of people on an island somewhere that have absolutely no acne whatsoever. Researchers think it is from diet and while reading about it I came across an interesting reference to a study which found that people who were put on a low glycemic load and high protein diet (recreating something like the islanders' diet) had significantly reduced levels of acne after a couple of months. Maybe something like that would help your kids. Good luck!
posted by slopepheasant at 12:18 AM on May 19, 2010

I had terrible acne as a teenager, and still (36) have bad acne on my back, but thankfully not my face (no low cut dresses or tops for me, ever, though). The one thing that helped when I was a teenager was a long-term low-dose antibiotic tablets. I tried all the products under the sun, but nothing managed to curb the zit like antibiotics did.
posted by handee at 1:36 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

As Haikasha says, there are so many causes! All I can tell is is what worked for me, and that was:

- the gentlest facewash you can find
- upping water intake
- taking a silicea supplement - apparently helps promote skin healing
- reducing caffeine, and sugar
- not touching my face (I noticed the biggest single effect from this)
- exercising more
- stressing less
- cutting out petroleum by-products from skin-care products - this was the second-largest effect for me

And in addition - be careful if people tell you that acne is hormonal - for some people it is, for me, I spent years on different versions of the Pill that had no effect, and it turned out to be more associated with a reaction to petroleum-based cosmetics and dirt/oil on my face.

The other thing you can do for kids with acne as a parent is build their confidence, and this will be true whatever the cause is.
posted by girlgenius at 1:54 AM on May 19, 2010

Parent of 2 teens and a pre-teen here.

Not to sound like an advertisement, but years ago my kids started using Pro-Activ (that skin care line that's pushed on TV by Jessica Simpson, Avril Levigne and other non-celebrities) and their skin has been blemish-fre.

We've recommended it to loads of people; I don't know anyone who isn't knocked about by how clear and smooth it makes your skin.
posted by dzaz at 2:46 AM on May 19, 2010

Ivory soap and tetracycline is what worked for me as a teen. Once a day outside of taking a shower I would used plain water to wash my face. I think the tetracycline was the biggest help I was on it for about 4 years. I tried all kinds of OTC creams soaps etc.. nothing worked until the above combination.
posted by jmsta at 3:11 AM on May 19, 2010

Acne sufferer all my life here. I have it under near-complete control. I'll tell you what I do, emphasizing some points that rarely get mentioned elsewhere. As always, YMMV.

First, you need to treat this aggressively right away. I read a study some years ago that said if acne is treated aggressively within three years of onset, you reduce its chances of establishing itself as a severe and lifelong infection. Caveat: one study, ages ago, didn't know how to read papers then, but still.

Second, don't trivialize the disease as something she will outgrow simply because a common age of onset is the teen years. It's a skin infection, a disease, and a source of misery in the lives of many people who suffer from it even if that misery is "only" cosmetic (I question the idea that not enjoying having yukky infected lesions all over one's skin is solely a cosmetic problem, but whatever). Eventually we will all be dead, and in that sense we are all certain to outgrow all of the problems we experience in life. I'd still like to solve as many of life's problems as possible before then.

Conditioner: yes it could be a problem. Acne sufferers should condition only the ends of the hair, and make sure that no conditioner touches the face.

Check shampoo ingredients for proteins and silicones. I started getting acne in my scalp and hairline when these became common shampoo ingredients. One shampoo that does not have proteins or silicones in it is Neutrogena T-Gel Treatment Shampoo. I have also been trying Alphosyl 2-in-1 conditioning shampoo and my hair is really nice and smooth and I have gone from few scalp breakouts to no scalp breakouts since I started using it, so that's another nice product to try. I also recommend shampooing once a day.

It's important for your daughter to keep her hair right off her face at all times. While her bangs grow out, she can hold it back with a hairband.

Putting a clean towel over the pillow each night sounds good, but I think having all that terrycloth against the face all night could be irritating. Maybe you could buy loads of pillowcases and change them daily? (However, I don't do this, it's just an idea.)

And now as for actual treatments, rather than avoidance of trigger products: try one product at a time, so you know what's making the difference, and give each product a two-month trial. Any longer than that, it's not working so ditch it. However, a partial improvement means the product is worth staying with. No one product is likely to solve everything, it's about looking for a combination of things that work until you hit 100%.

First thing in the morning I wash with a 2% salicylic acid wash. 2% is the therapeutic amount. Products that I know contain this amount are the Neutrogena wash (can't remember the name) and Garnier Pure (check ingredient lists). However, IME the Neutrogena one doesn't help me, I don't know why, so I stick to the Garnier. You need to leave the wash on for a couple of minutes, so what I do is brush my teeth while it works. Then I get in the shower and rinse it off there.

Always wash with lukewarm water, never hot or cold which will irritate.

In the evening I wash off dirt and makeup with Cetaphil, which contains no soap (irritating, plus the Ph of soap is favourable to acne bacteria). I fill the basin and rinse off with 20 splashes of lukewarm water. I also found that, if I washed my face only once, I broke out, but if I washed it twice, and then did a final rinse, I didn't. Obviously washing your face is not an acne treatment per se, but leaving dirt on your face at night will clog your pores and make you break out, so this is how I make sure that doesn't happen.

Then I do the salicylic acid wash again, leaving for 2 minutes and rinsing with 20 splashes.

Then, to prevent my acne treatment from irritating or drying my skin, I put on Cetaphil's hyper-super-mega-most moisurizing moisturizer (I forget the exact product name but you'll know it when you see it) for 15 minutes.

Then I use a benzoyl peroxide cream. Start with the lowest percentage you can and work your way up. I use 2.5% and I don't go higher than that because it would burn my skin. You may have to look around to find it but PanOxyl makes a 2.5% cream. Be very careful to work the cream up to the very edge of the hairline, but not into it. Also leave an exclusion zone of about 1cm around the eyebrows. Benzoyl peroxide, as the name implies, does bleach. And of course, don't get it on the upper or lower eyelids. If your daughter has acne only on the t-zone there won't be any need to apply the treatment to the cheek area.

And this point is very important: LEAVE THE CREAM (OR ANY TOPICAL ACNE TREATMENT) ON FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES so it can bind to her skin. Don't apply anything else, get the face wet, or even touch the face until 30 minutes are up. As soon as I started doing this my acne truly started to improve. Until then, nobody had told me this, so the treatment was not ever getting a chance to work. Also, you need to apply the treatment every night without fail, not skipping a night.

If there's some improvement, but not enough, try applying the benzoyl peroxide in the morning as well for a while (30 minute rule still applies). This is what I had to do at first but I haven't had to do this for about 10 years.

After 30 minutes, it's a good idea to moisturize again but YMMV.

Be very careful that facial sunscreens don't make you break out. Cetaphil also do a factor 50 moisturizer which is good, though, being a moisturizer, you do have to reapply. Still I haven't had any trouble with it.

Finally, none of this would be any help to me if I weren't treating the underlying cause which in my case is hormones. Specific brands of the Pill are known to treat acne (and in my case dramatically reduced my greasiness within a few hours of taking the very first dose - it was like turning off a tap). However, you'd do this only on a doctor's advice and only if topical treatments weren't working. And of course I'm guessing your daughter is too young for this treatment unless you've tried everything. Oh, and I would add that the Pill is the exception to the 2-month rule - all the literature says it can take up to 3 months to improve acne, but actually it can, and in my case did, take as long as 9 months to work. No-one will tell you this so it is worth keeping in mind if you ever arrive at the point of trying this.
posted by tel3path at 3:36 AM on May 19, 2010 [9 favorites]

I just wanted to second what tel3path said about taking this seriously. My parents brushed off my teenage acne, and it made me miserable (as in, actually contributed to, but wasn't the sole cause of, actual depression) A problem that could have been made better 10 years ago has instead lingered, and thrown little off-shoot problems.

I'd start them on benzoyl peroxide; has a well-regarded regimen, as well as support forums. My little brother started that at fourteen when his face started acting up, and it helped for a while. He's since switched to clindamycin, with great results.

So, start with the OTC stuff, but be ready to go the dermatologist if it doesn't work.
posted by punchtothehead at 5:08 AM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

To echo dzaz, my best friend from jr. high and high school had terrible acne, but found amazing results with Proactiv.

For me, I swear by benzoyl peroxide. I currently use Clean & Clear persagel, and it works like frigging magic. I had used salicylic acid products for a long time, and they never really did anything for me save drying my face out.
posted by tastybrains at 5:10 AM on May 19, 2010

I came to recommend Fostex soap, as a first line of attack, but on further research it looks like it's been discontinued. It helped a lot, for a time at least, when I first started breaking out, at age 13 or so. Its active ingredients were salicylic acid and sulfur.

Later I moved on to ProActiv, and I, too, found it to be much more relatively effective than you'd think given the ubiquity of the ingredients and concentrations. Dunno why.

And then, when I started the Pill, I was able to drop all treatments. So for me, it was pretty much entirely hormonal.
posted by palliser at 5:21 AM on May 19, 2010

My daughter started Yaz at 13 for acne. We tried all the washes and creams and antibiotics and such, but nothing really helped. I had bad acne as a teen, and I wish my parents had taken it more seriously--it was no fun going to school with bleeding facial sores.
posted by pupsocket at 5:44 AM on May 19, 2010

Chiming in here with a slightly different experience.

My brother and I never had what I would call severe acne, but we were fairly zitty growing up. For some reason (probably reactionary), it never bothered us much, but my mom took it as an opportunity to wage a full scale war against our faces. It was insane. My first piece of advice is follow your kids' lead on this one. If they ask you to back off, just encourage them to keep their faces clean, but don't push the issue. (Seriously, the skin thing was one of the biggest causes of strife in our house, and it didn't make any sense! It was like we were being punished for something completely out of our control.)

We went through so many products it would make your head spin. Our bathroom was constantly cluttered with half-filled tubes and bottles. Things got pretty crazy. At one point my brother was getting full on chemical peels at the dermatologist (like the ones they give to 50 year old women with sun damaged skin) and I was taking some pill my mom found online that I'm pretty sure was just a big capsule filled with sand. There was even a face gel that smelled like skunks (one of my personal favorites). We did Proactive and RetinA and a lot of generally acceptable things, too, but with almost no effect. The one thing I did get out of it was that I learned my face reacts really, really badly to benzoyl peroxide. Like, face inflamed and red and burning for hours bad. So watch out for that.

It wasn't until I was 17 or so and slept over at a friend's house that things changed. I went to take a shower and the only face wash she had was this stuff called Neutrogena Blackhead Eliminating Daily Scrub. I used it and just really, really liked it. It made my face feel clean instead of like I was just piling on more problems. When I got home, I put my foot down about all the wacky stuff and declared that I was going to just wash my face like a normal person, and wash it with this stuff that I liked. Within a couple weeks, my face cleared up almost completely. My brother started using it, too, and his situation got a lot better. The Neutrogena BEDS has salicylic acid in it, but it wasn't my first time around the salicylic acid block, so I'm not sure what it was about it that did the trick. Maybe it was just the decreased stress in the house, maybe it wasn't putting 100 different things on my face every day, I don't know. But if I could track down the developers for the Neutrogena BEDS, I'd plant a big, sloppy kiss on their likewise zit-free faces.
posted by phunniemee at 6:02 AM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I was on Proactive for a while, and I feel like the reason why it works so well is in the combination of treatments you use. So, if you don't want to do the program, you can sort-of recreate it by getting a good salicylic acid moisturizer, mild astringent, and benzoyl peroxide treatment.

I didn't see anyone mention it, but it's extremely important to good moisturize while fighting acne. When I was a kid, I gave my skin hell drying it out, and all that dry skin just causes more acne. When I started moisturizing, my acne lessened.

At this point, I keep my acne under control with spot benzoyl peroxide treatment and astringent for when I'm especially breaky-outy.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 6:19 AM on May 19, 2010

They're kids. The Patrick Bateman 10-part shower routine isn't going to work for them. Encourage them to try over-the-counter products such as salicylic acid face scrubs and similar. Benzoyl peroxide is great when it works, but it really irritates some people's skin and it drastically increases sun sensitivity, which can be a real problem. If some minimally invasive stuff like using 2% salicylic acid scrubs doesn't generate any improvement over a few weeks, ask if they'd like to see a dermatologist. And please pick a sane one that makes money on diagnosing things and making recommendations rather than selling products and upselling everyone to rare Sumatran diamond wax margarita facial peels.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:26 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it just a stage as they hit puberty?

Yes. And remember that, as teens, they probably feel the "Spotlight Effect" pretty accutely. They might feel like the acne on their faces is OMG a zillion times worse than the acne their peers have--even if it's exactly the same. Because they won't necessarily be noticing the acne their peers have (any more than their peers, ensconced in their own spotlight effect, will be noticing the acne your kids have). So, I'd strongly second phunniemee's suggestion of following your kids lead--if by some miracle they're not paralyzed with embarrassment over the acne they have, don't do anything to suggest to them that they should be embarrassed by it. I know a couple people whose parents were more embarrassed by their kids' acne than their kids were, and that's a really ugly situation for a teen to be in.

I had good luck with Noxema and Neutrogena products, as well as Vitamin E lotion (no idea if that actually did anything or just set my mind at ease about scarring) when I was a teen, but I still had breakouts. It just happens.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:41 AM on May 19, 2010

If neutrogena doesn't work, don't necessarily go stronger like some people are advising! I can say from experience that if they've got very sensitive skin, some face-cleaners can end up irritating it more.

If you think they do have sensitive skin, I recommend cetaphil face wash as the gentlest thing out there.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:15 AM on May 19, 2010

Please, please, as someone who had horrific acne in her teenage years, and whose parents yelled at me to constantly wash my face (AND I DID), take them to a dermatologist. Please. Scrubbing a face can actually make acne worse. I didn't get to a dermatologist until i was in my 30s (mostly because I was carrying the familial edict of 'just wash it better') and I just want to scream because it was so simple.

The dermatologist can recommend over-the-counter products (like Cetaphil) that your kids can use, can identify if it's a bigger problem (like rosascea) and can instruct them on good hygiene, a message better delivered by a medical professional than a parent, where it will be dismissed/seen as nagging. It's not something you have to take them to every week or even every month, but the self-esteem of having a blemish-free face will be worth every penny you pay. No matter if you or anyone here thinks that their acne "isn't that bad" - why make the poor children suffer? Teenage years are hard enough. It's also a gesture as a parent that will make the child feel cared for and that you take them seriously.

It's the one thing my siblings and I all agree on and tear our hair out over - we all had terrible skin and my parents weren't poor and they just refused to take us to a dermatologist. It wouldn't have solved everything but it would have solved something.
posted by micawber at 7:36 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I read an insightful essay once that pointed out that while treatments for other skin conditions were about soothing and healing and calming the skin, acne treatments were about punishing and irritating the skin. The author questioned the necessity of this and the thinking behind it.

Skin doesn't need to be irritated, burned, injured or hurt to recover from acne.

Cetaphil's products are your best bet, being very gentle and as plain as possible with relatively few ingredients.

It is true that salicylic acid wash can be an irritant, so it should be left on for a couple of minutes, no more.

Benzoyl peroxide is definitely irritating, and perhaps I forgot to mention that in the evenings, before applying it, I put on the Cetaphil Nuclear Ultimate Solution (or whatever) Moisturizer and wait for 15 minutes. This makes a tremendous difference.

Also, Benzoyl peroxide, like topical retinoids (another common treatment) do increase sun sensitivity an awful lot (and so does the Pill) so you have to be rigorous about sun protection. I have exceptionally white skin and so I can get away with smoothing on Sudocrem diaper rash cream every morning; it is a zinc oxide cream which (unlike some zinc oxide creams) doesn't make my acne worse, and in fact it is also marketed as a treatment for acne, itching, and skin irritations generally. Zinc oxide is a physical sunblock so will work as soon as you put it on, unlike chemical ones which need time to bind to your skin (in which case I'd never get out the door). It's extremely safe, having been around since Victorian times, and gives skin the comfort and love it deserves. But then most people aren't as white as me, so I don't know how you'd get around that - mix it with foundation, maybe? Dunno.

"Vitamin E lotion (no idea if that actually did anything or just set my mind at ease about scarring)" - actually Vitamin E is one of those ingredients that can make acne worse so I avoid it. Not sure it ever made my skin worse though.

And yeah, you do want to follow your kids' lead on this. You obviously don't want to give them a complex for nothing. Being literal minded, I believed the adult propaganda about "IT'S NOTHING TO BE EMBARRASSED ABOUT JUST WASH WITH SOAP AND WATER AND EVENTUALLY IT WILL GO AWAY, OR NOT, WHO CARES" that was broadcast at the time. Then my dad came up to me one day and peered at my nose, and commented, "Aha! It's hit, has it? Well, never mind, it happens to all teenagers, it happened to your mother and me." Grar.
posted by tel3path at 7:47 AM on May 19, 2010

actually Vitamin E is one of those ingredients that can make acne worse

Oops! Never knew that... nevermind my recommendation for that one!
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:00 AM on May 19, 2010

I vote for Accutane. I took it 20 years ago. My sister did not. Both our parents had bad acne and pitty faces now. My skin is great and my sister has the same thing my parents do now.
posted by thorny at 8:06 AM on May 19, 2010

Just a word of warning to be very careful with Accutane, as it can cause severe birth defects, depression and has been linked to suicides. FDA regulations now require dermatologists to follow up carefully with patients taking the medication, and they also have to sign forms explaining that they understand its risks. Further, there are guidelines which the FDA asks dermatologists and patients to follow when taking it:
Female patients will not get their first prescription for Accutane unless there is proof they have had 2 negative pregnancy tests. The first test must be done when your prescriber decides to prescribe Accutane. The second pregnancy test must be done during the first 5 days of the menstrual period right before starting Accutane therapy, or as instructed by your prescriber. Each month of treatment, you must have a negative result from a urine or serum pregnancy test. Female patients cannot get another prescription for Accutane unless there is proof that they have had a negative pregnancy test.

A yellow self-adhesive Accutane Qualification Sticker on your prescription indicates to the pharmacist that you are qualified by your prescriber to get Accutane.

While you are taking Accutane, you must use effective birth control. You must use 2 separate effective forms of birth control at the same time for at least 1 month before starting Accutane, while you take it, and for 1 month after you stop taking it. You can either discuss effective birth control methods with your prescriber or go for a free visit to discuss birth control with another physician or family planning expert. Your prescriber can arrange this free visit, which will be paid for by the manufacturer.

posted by zarq at 8:26 AM on May 19, 2010

Also, if their acne does not respond to medications or topical treatments, some dermatologists may suggest phototherapy. Colloquially known as "blue light" therapy, the skin is exposed to light in a specific wavelength for a short period of time. (Usually 8-15 minutes at a time. The procedure will need to be repeated one or more times a week for several weeks.) It's usually used as an Accutane alternative for people with severe acne, but can be used on patients who do not wish to take any medication, or have a sensitivity to one or more topical treatments. It is a completely non-invasive procedure, which may also be appealing.
Sunlight was long known to improve acne, and this was thought to be due to antibacterial and other effects of the ultraviolet spectrum which cannot be used as a treatment due to the likelihood of skin damage in the long term.

It was found that some of the visible violet light present in sunlight (in the range 405–420 nm) activates a porphyrin (Coproporphyrin III) in Propionibacterium acnes which damages and ultimately kills the bacteria by releasing singlet oxygen. A total of 320 J/cm2 of light within this range renders the bacteria non-viable.

Deep penetrating light therapy for 3 consecutive days has been shown to reduce the bacteria in the pores by 99.9%.[citation needed] Since there are few porphyrins naturally found in the skin, the treatment is believed safe except in patients with porphyria;[3] although eye protection is used due to light-sensitive chemicals in the retina. The light is usually created by fluorescent lamps, or very bright LEDs.

Overall improvements of on average 76% for 80% of patients occurs over 3 months; most studies show that it performs better than benzoyl peroxide and the treatment is far better tolerated. However, approximately 10% of users see no improvement.

posted by zarq at 8:32 AM on May 19, 2010, as mentioned upthread, has an AWESOME regimen.

Also, conditioner should not be used on the bangs on the face. You don't need to condition all the hair - just the part that is at least a few inches away from the scalp. (just as shampoo does not need to be used near the ends, it just dries the hair) Conditioning at the scalp leads to more hair greasiness. And in this case conditioning bangs is probably a contributing factor.

I also had great luck with the "Klear Action" (generic proactiv, but works awesome!) regimen.

I'm a teenager myself, and still fighting the issue. Salycilic (sp?) acid never did a thing for me, but take that as you will.

Good luck!
posted by R a c h e l at 10:21 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please, please, as someone who had horrific acne in her teenage years, and whose parents yelled at me to constantly wash my face (AND I DID), take them to a dermatologist.

This. Acne often has absolutely nothing to do with cleanliness, and many of the topicals suggested above will exacerbate things (particularly if this is hereditary).

Acne is a medical condition; go see a doctor!!

posted by coolguymichael at 11:45 AM on May 19, 2010

I do not have personal experience with this but I have read that washing the face using Milk of Magnesia works for people who have tried lots of other things without success. Try googling it. Since it is inexpensive and OTC it might be worth a try. We are just approaching the acne years in my house so this is an interesting discussion that I will need to remember!
posted by maxg94 at 1:16 PM on May 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you all for all the great suggestions!

I'm absolutely not trying to stress the kids out at all. My mom did that to me, and I know it doesn't help. I'm not nagging them. I just don't want them to feel like they're inferior somehow. I remember when my mom made a big deal out of the occasional blemishes, pimples, or blackheads or whatever, I felt so ugly, but was only given the advice to wash my face more often and to use the Stridex pads that made my face sting so much and only seemed to aggravate my skin. It's a pretty fragile time, in spite of the bravado that happens at that age. (Why should I wear wrist-pads, helmet, etc. when I rollerblade, Mom? I'm invincible! Aargh.) I'm certainly not trying to make it worse.

Some of their friends also have similar skin issues and others are blissfully unaffected so far. The kids aren't self-conscious about any of it, thankfully.

My son has had a handful of small pimples over the past year, one at a time. My daughter's forehead is causing me more concern, so we had a brief, easy chat about conditioner use before her shower tonight. I bet that's the current culprit. Her spots are so localized and there are so many. Otherwise, they both have the occasional spot on their chin or forehead that witch hazel or the Burt's Bees roll-on stuff clear right up.

I wished when I was a teenager that my parents could afford to send me to the dermatologist, but they just couldn't. So, I completely agree that if they continue to have problems, that's what we'll do. The kids' dad had amazingly good skin growing up, so hopefully that will help them in the long run.

I also wished someone had given me more preventative information or alternatives besides using extra makeup to cover the blemishes, which only made my relatively minor problem worse and has left me with a couple of scars.

Thank you all again so much for sharing your stories and helpful advice. I now have several things to try if this worsens. I'm grateful for the information to add to my mom toolbox. Please consider every answer here a best answer, because I learned a lot from all of you and will be referring back to this thread as the years go by.
posted by lilywing13 at 11:10 PM on May 19, 2010

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