Acne can be extremely distressing for teenagers and young adults, although at the end of June 2021, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommended that healthcare professionals should consider mental health support for some people affected by acne, stating that the psychological effects can lead to anxiety and depression.
While this is a definite breakthrough towards dealing with the mental effects of this common condition, the effects on appearance and self-image will spur many teenagers and young adults to seek solutions towards managing and minimising breakouts and scarring.
I remember slathering Clearasil and benzoyl peroxide on my face in an attempt to clear up adolescent pimples which, on reflection, were probably more devastating to me than anyone else.
Still, their regular appearance definitely knocked my confidence – although I thought I’d won the lottery when I discovered that azelaic acid was more than capable of tackling the adult acne breakouts I used to get on my chest.
With the high street overflowing with spot treatments galore, many over the counter products just won’t cut it when it comes to treating this often stubborn condition.
Enter non surgical aesthetics and medical grade skincare containing ingredients such as glycolic and salicylic acid which have the power to really transform skin, along with prescribed medication such as Roaccutane which is effective but can have side effects including suicidal behaviour.
So what do three experts recommend for this age group?
"We see a lot of teenage and young adults with acne and congestion. There are so many treatments available for congestion and oily skin. We use a combination of HydraFacial with Obagi Blue Radiance Peel which we call Hydra-Radiance, Clinisept and ZO Skin Health.
"We also provide extractions before starting ZO Skin Health when needed, as well as Laser Genesis, LED and plasma shower treatments to minimise acne and help stimulate collagen and healing. Some younger patients have acne scarring which can be treated with Laser Genesis, microneedling, microneedling with radio frequency, as well as skin peels.
"Treatment of younger skin should be patient focused and appropriate for the condition. Prevention of ageing in younger skin can be started with effective professional skincare, which targets the living skin cells rather than occluding the skin and smoothing the dead skin cells back down on top.
"By targeting living skin cells within the epidermis, professional skincare keeps these cells healthy and encourages them to turn over and exfoliate without building up and blocking the skin's natural glow."
Anna Hemming, Thames Skin Clinic
"As we go from childhood to puberty and mature into young adults, not only do our hormones kick into action but there are also a number of psychological and social changes that impact our bodies. The skin becomes more oily and as it turns over, dead skin cells build up leading to blackheads, congestion and breakouts due to the hormonal surge of oestrogen and progesterone in females, and testosterone in males.
"These hormones stimulate the skin’s sebaceous (oil) glands to produce even more sebum, making it oiler and more prone to acne. Everyone will experience this to some extent, some more severely than others and family history also has an impact.
"Most of the treatments I do for teenagers are for acne and scarring. My treatment plans for this age group are based around medical grade and prescription skincare and occasionally peels with a collaborative approach with the GP.
"For at home products, I suggest benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid from the pharmacy/ over the counter, to be used a couple of times weekly, ensuring you moisturise regularly.
"If these basic measures don’t help, seek advice from your GP. Seek advice earlier if you see very swollen spots, if they are painful and if they are leaving dark marks. The GP will be able to assess suitability for topical creams like benzoyl peroxide, antibiotic creams or low strength Vitamin A, as well as others – they will also guide you to increase the strength as needed.
"GPs can also prescribe oral antibiotics, hormonal control and refer to a dermatologist for oral vitamin A if the acne is very severe and/or scarring."
Dr Amiee Vyas
“Teenage skin can be so challenging! And it’s all about hormones – especially testosterone. With the start of puberty, testosterone rises (in both boys and girls) and this switches on the sebaceous (oil) glands in the skin.
"This can lead to a wide spectrum of skin problems especially reactivity, congestion, blackheads and acne.
"Acne is incredibly common – most people experience some degree in their teenage years and it can have a profound effect on social interaction, confidence and relationships. And these effects can be long lasting when acne causes scarring.
"Managing acne is really important! As a very basic, when the first signs of oil production appear, a salicylic acid based cleanser will help, and of course everyone should be wearing SPF (it’s never too early!) – an oil-free formula is best.
"If acne is problematic there are many topical treatments that can be really effective. And for more severe acne, specialist treatment can be needed to minimise scarring – don’t hesitate to speak to a doctor.”
Dr Lauren Jamieson, Dr Nestor's, Edinburgh
Anna Hemming, Aesthetic Doctor
Dr Anna Hemming MBChB BSc DFFP MRCGP is a highly respected and skilled aesthetic doctor working in London. Conference speaker and KOL in aesthetic medicine,...Book with Anna Hemming
Nestor Demosthenous, Aesthetic Doctor
Dr. Nestor MBChB, BSc Hons Neuro, Associate Member of the British College of Aesthetic Medicine, Member of Association of Scottish Aesthetic Practitioners,...Book with Nestor Demosthenous