Is acne dangerous to teens?
Tips on helping your child avoid the physical and emotional scars of acne.
Most teenagers will probably experience the embarrassment of having a pimple or two at some time in their lives.

However, some teens will experience the severe agony and wretchedness caused by a full-blown case of the dermatological condition Acne Vulgaris. This kind of acne is far more serious and can cause physical and emotional scars that can last a lifetime.

Guidelines for Parents - how can I support my teen?

It’s not their fault

Your teenager must always be assured that he or she is not to blame for the condition. Many teens find it extremely hurtful when people suggest a lack of cleanliness or bad eating habits are to blame for their condition.

In the words of one sufferer: “People say that my skin looks oily and that I don’t wash enough. It makes me feel dirty”.

Acne is not related to dirty skin. Acne lesions are deep-rooted impactions that cannot simply be washed away!

Teenagers often wash their skins repeatedly in an effort to control their acne and because they feel dirty. This can strip away the skin’s natural barriers, leaving it vulnerable to infection. Parents should therefore instruct their children to only wash their faces twice a day with a mild cleanser and to follow this with a good moisturiser.

However, depending on the severity of the acne, it is important not to rely solely on over-the-counter treatments, as prescribed medication is necessary in many cases.

There is also no scientific evidence that certain foods like sweets, chocolate or greasy foods cause acne. Although teenagers should be given a healthy diet they must not be made to feel guilty if they eat the occasional chocolate or hamburger.

Exercise is not a cure

Many parents mistakenly believe that exercise can improve acne and therefore often put pressure on their children to exercise more. Although exercise should be encouraged for the sake of a healthy body, parents need to know that the combination of sweat and friction during exercise can actually exacerbate acne bacteria.

How can acne affect my child?

Acne is associated with poorer academic performance, decreased dating and participation in sports. Therefore be understanding if your teen’s grades suddenly drop or if he or she is reluctant to socialize or participate in sports.

You need to be very aware of the negative impact that acne can have on your teenagers self-esteem. Be extremely careful of what you say and how you act around the child, as even the slightest negative comment or gesture can be experienced as a crushing blow.

Avoid touching the teenager’s skin and resist the temptation to try to extract the pimples.

In the words of one teen: “I hate it when my mother touches my skin. I want to die of embarrassment.”

Remember, these teens experience a high level of anger and frustration this can lead to conflict with parents. Instead of reacting to your teenager’s anger and escalating the conflict, you should rather remain calm, listen and allow your child to express his or her anger and frustration.

Lastly, always comment on any improvement in your child’s skin as this will give your teen the hope that the condition is curable and will eventually clear up.

A final word

Severe acne can lead to serious emotional difficulties and permanent scarring. Therefore never trivialize the condition and assume that it is just a normal part of growing up. Be sure to go to a dermatologist for the appropriate treatment before it is too late.

Catherine Radloff developed acne vulgaris while she was teaching and studying Educational Psychology. Her own experience and the shame and anguish she saw in the pupils she was faced with daily inspired her to do her Master’s Thesis on the effect of acne on teenagers.

She is now a qualified Educational Psychologist who practices in Cape Town. She may be contacted at:
Cell: 083 379 3595, or,

Has your child had to cope with acne? How did you help your child cope?

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