Acne relief for teenage skin
It seems to happen overnight. Our children begin to look and sound more like adults. Those childish features transform into the more mature version of themselves, giving us a glimpse at the grown-up person they will soon become. During puberty, our children morph in appearance, they mature psychologically and start to develop and express social and sexual attitudes. It is during this pivotal developmental stage that we are also confronted with acne and acne-related skin problems. The hormone induced skin changes taking place during puberty are largely responsible for the onset of acne. But our environment and the way we care for our skin can affect the severity of the acne we experience. If we look at the science of the skin and what is happening in the epidermal layer during adolescence, we can better understand what acne is and why it happens, showing us ways to bring comfort and relief to the affected teenagers and young adults in our lives.
What is acne?
Acne is the most frequently diagnosed skin problem in people between the ages of 11 and 30. It is reported to affect 80% of people in this age group. Acne is considered an inflammatory disease, commonly affecting the chest, face and back.
It can present as open comedones (blackheads) or closed comedones, (whiteheads), papular eruptions (small solid bumps in the skin) or purulent (pus filled) cysts.
What causes acne?
There are various causes of acne including genetic, environmental and individual skin factors. Skin processes that lead to acne lesions include excess sebum production, excessive growth of keratin (leading to blocked sweat and sebaceous glands), and development of abnormal bacterial flora and inflammation.
In the epidermal layer of the skin are the pilosebaceous units that contain our sebaceous glands. The activity of the sebaceous glands is regulated by our sex hormones. The increased activity of sex hormones during puberty influences the activity of sebaceous glands, whose job it is to produce sebum, or oil for the skin. If sebum production occurs in excess, it can create an environment that is optimum for the growth of abnormal skin bacteria, like Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria strongly implicated in acne. When this type of bacteria colonises the skin, the enzymes it produces convert sebum to free fatty acids, which irritate the skin and cause inflammation.
Dietary factors are also believed to contribute to the development of acne lesions. For example, linolenic acid deficiency has been implicated in acne. In addition, diets containing large amounts of sugar (ranking high on the glycemic index) and saturated fats have also been strongly associated with acne. Problems with nutrient signaling in this type of diet have been shown to increase fatty acid and triglyceride synthesis, resulting in overactive sebum production. Diets high in sugar and fat also promote an environment that is ideal for acne bacteria to grow.
Populations that consume a low glycemic load diet, without consumption of refined sugars, grains, milk and dairy products have reported no acne.
Caring for acne prone skin is incredibly difficult. The relationship between diet and acne is contentious and inconclusive. Although oral and topical treatments for acne are available, they come with some risks and can be ineffective or poorly tolerated by some people. Hormonal interventions, such as the pill, have been widely advocated to women as treatment for acne but are also associated with a comprehensive list of potentially serious side-effects. So, is there anything we can do to alleviate the symptoms of acne and give our teenagers back that smooth, flawless skin we envied not so long ago?
Caring for teenage skin
When we evaluate the potential side-effects of some acne medications, diet is a reasonable first line of defence in the fight against acne. At the very least a healthy diet has many benefits and can certainly do no harm. Skin-loving foods incluce nuts, seeds, olives, legumes, vegetables and fruits. Foods to avoid include foods high in sugar, and saturated fat (i.e. processed foods), chocolate and dairy.
LED Light Therapy
LED Light Therapy is growing in popularity as a treatment for a range of skin conditions. Improvements to acne after exposure to natural sunlight, suggest the inherent benefits of light. LED therapy works to improve acne by decreasing and destroying the bacteria that cause it and reducing the size and function of the pilosebaceous units. Light Therapy also has anti-inflammatory effects. Several clinical trials have shown beneficial effects of LED Light Therapy treatments on acne, with reductions in lesion counts after multiple treatments and minimal side-effects.
When it comes to skincare, acne-prone skin requires delicate balance. Cleansing is important to remove irritants and excess sebum, but it is equally important not to strip the skin of its naturally beneficial oils and the healthy microbial environment necessary for proper skin health. When it comes to moisturising, even oily and acne prone skin can benefit from balancing nourishment and light moisture.
Rosehip oil is rich in naturally-occurring vitamins and antioxidants and one of the purest and gentlest botanical extracts used in skincare. Renowned for centuries in its ability to renew, restore and regenerate the skin, it has been used effectively to treat all sorts of skin conditions including acne. Rosehip oil can help balance the skin, repair damage and reduce scarring.
Try to remember that acne is usually a temporary rite of passage for a young person with symptoms generally easing and clearing up on their own time. To help you cope in the meantime, a free skin consultation with an endota spa therapist can help you choose appropriate skincare and book the most effective LED treatment suited to acne-prone skin. You can also seek advice for the treatment of acne from a medical practitioner, dermatologist, naturopath, dietician or Chinese medical practitioner, depending on your preferences.
Dr Hayley Dickinson is a research scientist with a PhD in women’s reproductive health, who does not claim to be a medical practitioner. We seek to offer insights into the health of women experiencing the reproductive, menstrual and hormonal characteristics of female biology. In addition, we offer scientific insight into wellness and lifestyle choices relevant to all. Neither endota nor Dr Hayley Dickinson accept any liability for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided in this blog or incorporated into it by reference. We provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for evaluating its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest hospital Emergency Department. © endota, September 2018
• Ablon G (2018) Phototherapy with light emitting diodes: Treating a broad range of medical and aesthetic conditions in dermatology. Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. 11(2):21-27
• Bergler-Czop B, Brzezinska-Wcisto L (2013) Dermatological problems of the puberty. Postep Derm Alergol 3:178-187
• Sorbellini E, Rucco M, Rinaldi F (2018) Photodynamic and photobiological effects of light-emitting diode (LED) therapy in dermatological disease: an update. Lasers in medical science 33:1431-1439