By Guest Blogger Neely Turlington

June is Acne Awareness Month, but for millions of teenagers every day is a reminder of the devastating effects acne has on their lives. In the United States alone, 85 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience acne.

Acne can be debilitating, becoming all you think about. Many people don’t realize that acne is caused by hormones and genetics, and it’s not the fault of the person who has it. Life for a teenager with acne, the most common skin condition, can result in low self-esteem, isolation and even depression.

What’s different about teen skin?

It’s important to know that teen and young adult skin tends to be oilier, breakout in clusters in the T-zone and can tolerate stronger delivery of acne medications, such as benzoyl peroxide. In contrast, adult skin is less resilient, more sensitive and in need of gentler acne treatment. Breakouts tend to be on the chin and cheeks and are often painful bumps.

When it comes to acne, you need to know what it is and how can you stop it!

Most people recognize acne as the blemishes that appear on the face, chest and back that almost everyone has experienced. What is less known is that the pimple you see is actually the final step of the acne process called the acne cycle. It starts like this.

What causes acne?

Genetics and hormones are in control of how much oil your skin produces. When oil production becomes excessive it mixes with dead skin cells that clump together in a pore. The environment on your skin’s surface has access to plenty of oxygen. But deeper down into the pores oxygen is scarce. The O2-starved pores shift harmless bacteria into the destructive kind which kill all the other bacteria around them. This triggers your body’s inflammatory response — resulting in zits.

Blemishes start forming days or even weeks before showing on the skin’s surface. So the secret to controlling them is to stop them from forming in the first place. You have to interrupt the acne cycle so the blemishes never show. This is why “spot treating” only visible blemishes  doesn’t work in the long run.

There are so many myths about acne, so like attacking the acne cycle, let’s bust them!

Myth #1: The sun is good for treating acne.

Nope! There is no such thing as a healthy tan. Sun exposure damages skin and results in a “tan,” which is actually the body’s reaction to this injury. Sun doesn’t dry out acne, it aggravates it. Sun exposure eventually leads to shedding dead skin cells which clogs pores. This is a major step in perpetuating the acne cycle. Further, sun exposure can lead to post-acne dark marks and scars. Always wear sunscreen!

MYTH #2: Acne can be cured.

False! Acne cannot be cured. But like other skin conditions, mild to moderate breakouts can be prevented and controlled.

MYTH #3: Acne is your fault

No way! This is such a damaging myth because it creates feelings of shame or embarrassment. Acne is not your fault. It’s caused by many factors including hormones, genetics, bacteria, stress, clogged pores, medication and more. Many of these factors you cannot control, but you can control how you manage your skin day-to-day.

MYTH #4: Certain foods, like chocolate or caffeine cause acne.

Mostly wrong! There is some research that shows a link between a high glycemic diet with processed foods and simple sugars and breakouts. But, medical studies show no conclusive link between pizza, fries and chocolate to breakouts.

Myth #5: Sunscreen causes breakouts.

Wrong! Choose a noncomedogenic sunscreen, which won’t clog pores. It’s important to wear sunscreen even when it’s cloudy.

Myth #6: If you have active acne you shouldn’t use moisturizer.

Wrong again! Plenty of people have both dry skin and acne. Not only does moisturizer help skin feel more comfortable, it reduces shine that comes as a result of excessive oil production.. Just make sure you’re using a non comedogenic moisturizer.

MYTH #7: Stripping oil from your skin and scrubbing it is a good idea.

False! Using ingredients like rubbing alcohol leaves the skin dehydrated and irritated, which makes it more susceptible to infection. Scrubbing the affected area can also leave behind scars.

MYTH #8: Spot treatments rid acne.

Not true! The spot treatment you use may help dry up a visible pimple, but that pimple started forming weeks ago below the surface. That’s why you manage the entire acne cycle, and don’t pinpoint an area, treat the full face. Acne is treated best through prevention, not spot by spot.

MYTH #9: Glass cleaner and toothpaste get rid of zits

Um, no! Where did this myth come from? Household cleaners are harsh, and toothpaste is for your teeth. Over the counter products that have been clinically tested with ingredients such as Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid are the keys to treat acne. Using a full face approach prevents breakouts from forming, not spot treatments.

In addition to using a great skincare regimen (keeping groceries and household cleaners off the face), here are some great tips for teens with acne.


Change your pillowcases.

Eight or more hours of sleeping on a buildup of dirt and oil can clog pores. You may want to try using a silk pillowcase as it is a calming and soothing fabric.

Clean your makeup brush.

Brushes collect dead skin cells, dirt, bacteria and oil.

Beware of “tech-ne”.

Tech-ne is acne brought on by using a tech device, your phone. Phones pick up lots of dirt and bacteria which can then get transferred to your face. Clean your phone often with antibacterial wipes or rubbing alcohol, hold it off the side of your face or wear ear buds.

Keep your hands off.

Keep your hands as clean as possible and stop touching your face!

Treating acne is a marathon, not a sprint. With the right skincare routine and a few lifestyle changes, you’ll get to the finish line even sooner and with greater confidence.

Neely Turlington is a skincare enthusiast, particularly concerned with helping teens and young adults tackle acne and get back their confidence. As a longtime acne sufferer, Neely knows firsthand the devastating effects acne can have on teenagers’ self-esteem, social life and ability to live happy.

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