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Health Team

Effectively treating acne requires persistence, nurse says

Posted May 12

Up to 50 million Americans struggle with acne each year, and many of them are teenagers or young adults.

Dealing with the blemishes can leave both physical and emotional scars. Treating them effectively, though, takes time.

Teens are often eager to get rid of acne breakouts with over-the-counter or prescription products, but acne won't disappear overnight.

"I usually say 80 percent better in eight weeks, not 40 percent better in four weeks," Cleveland Clinic nurse Mary Smith said. "So, you really have to give it time."

Smith said acne is caused by a combination of excess oil, blocked pores, inflammation and bacteria.

In pre-teen years, the first symptoms may involve scaling of the scalp with acne along the hairline and on the nose. Smith suggests using anti-dandruff shampoo two to three times per week to reduce overgrowth of yeast on the skin.

Next, try over-the-counter acne products with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria.

When using acne treatments, though, the condition may get worse before it improves.

It often takes about eight weeks to really see improvement.

If acne is scarring the skin, appears cystic or becomes emotionally difficult for a teenager, Smith recommends finding a dermatologist who may prescribe prescription-strength treatments.

Even with stronger treatments, Smith still warns that persistence is the key.

"You have to be consistent, you have to do it every night," Smith said.

She suggests keeping your acne medicines beside your toothbrush, so when you brush twice a day, treat your acne twice a day.

Smith said it's also important to remember to select oil-free and water-based products when using moisturizers, sunscreen or makeup to avoid clogging pores.

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