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Navigating Acne Woes for a Smooth New School Year 
treating acne in time for back to school

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Going back to school can be tough enough, but throw in an acne break out and the transition can be seriously stressful. While acne is very common, it can take its toll on a teen’s self-esteem. Fortunately, we have many tools in our acne treatment arsenal ranging from quick fixes to long-term control. In this blog, we’ll delve into acne causes and treatments to give your teen a smoother start to the school year.

Acne Triggers

  • Plugged Pores: A summer’s worth of sweat, oil, and sunscreen have piled up in the pores. The result? The sebum, aka oil, can’t escape and whiteheads and blackheads appear. As the sebum collects under the skin, acne bacteria happily proliferate and turn a more subtle white heads into angry red zits.
  • Bad Bacteria: As the pores fill with oil, they provide a haven for P. acnes, the bacterial bad guy in the acne world. This bacteria causes more inflammation than true infection and needs to be addressed.
  • Hormones: Hormone fluctuations and surges stimulate oil production and are big contributors to teenage breakouts.
  • Diet Doozies: Certain foods, many of them staples of an American teen diet, trigger and exacerbate acne. Dairy is the most scientifically proven culprit, particularly low and no fat dairy products. If your teen guzzles milk and dines on ice cream, consider cutting back or switching to a dairy free alternative. Chocolate is also linked to acne in teenage boys.

Acne Fixes

  • Get a Clean Routine: Schedules and routines change in the summer, and things like regular face washing fall by the wayside. It’s important to cleanse the skin twice daily. I recommend using a gentle cleanser in the morning (Cerave foaming wash is one of my favorites) and an alpha-hydroxy cleanser with glycolic acid before bedtime (Glytone cleansers are well tolerated and effective). A consistent cleansing regimen will wash away the buildup so the pores can release the grease.
  • Banish Bacteria: P.acnes is the primary player in angry red acne breakouts and is a target of many acne treatments. Bacteria clearing treatments include benzoyl peroxide washes and gels, topical and oral antibiotics, and washes and toners containing Hypochlorous acid. Hypochlorous acid works by balancing the skin’s microbiome (keep the healthy, kick out the bad) without drying or irritating the skin. I use and recommend Hyacin Mist, a light toning spray used twice daily to kill over 99% of pathogenic bacteria on the skin.
  • Get a Script: Whether its cyclical hormone surges or overactive oil glands, your Dermatologist can prescribe a range of medications to target specific triggers for your acne. There is no “one size fits all” treatment regimen, so an in-depth acne consultation is an important first step to clear skin.
  • Book a Treatment: Impatient for improvement? There are some easy treatments to get some instant gratification. Chemical peels and extractions jump start the acne treatment journey by enzymatically clearing build up and safely extracting build up and oily debris. Hydrafacials are another option that thoroughly cleanse, exfoliate, extract (vacuums the pores!), and infuses boosters to keep your newly evacuated pores squeaky clean. We combine these treatments with LED light that further removes bacteria and reduces inflammation. BBL Clear is a light-based treatment that penetrates to the oil gland and destroys bacteria and sweeps away inflammation. This is a terrific option for those who prefer to avoid oral medications. Finally, we can inject inflamed angry acne bumps with a small amount of dilute steroid for reduction within 24-48 hours.


While acne is common, we don’t have to accept it as a normal burden of growing up. Acne’s negative impact on self-image is a real issue for teens.

Inflammatory acne can leave red marks for months and even long-term scarring that follows teens into adulthood. With all of the treatment strategies available, teens can enjoy a smoother ride through the bumpy road of adolescence.

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