For those students who deal with acne, back to school might mean back to breakouts. The change in routine, diet, and exercise not to mention the added stress of going back to school can all contribute to a greater risk for acne breakouts. According to Dr. Seena Monjazeb of U.S. Dermatology Partners Houston Clear Lake, “Back to school acne breakouts are extremely common for my teen patients, but when you work with a dermatologist, you can take steps to prevent breakouts before they begin and address the effects of acne during an active breakout.” In this blog, Dr. Monjazeb walks through some of the skincare basics to help students keep their acne-prone skin healthy all school year long.
Types of Acne
According to Dr. Monjazeb, “One of the most important aspects of preventing and treating acne breakouts is understanding what type of breakout you’re dealing with since acne treatment and prevention tips can vary based on the type.” Below, Dr. Monjazeb breaks down the most common types of acne.
Acne vulgaris is the most common type of acne. It can develop on any part of the body, but acne vulgaris most often develops on the face, back, shoulders, and chest. This type of acne may include the following:
- Comedones – The official term for common pimples, including blackheads (open comedones) and whiteheads (closed comedones). Comedones develop when pores or hair follicles become clogged.
- Papules – This type of acne develops when open or closed comedones become inflamed. They are usually larger and more sensitive compared to open or closed comedones.
- Pustules – This type of acne is also developed out of comedones that are inflamed. Specifically, pustules are usually whiteheads that become inflamed or infected.
- Nodules – This type of acne develops in deeper layers of the skin and can be very painful to the touch.
- Cysts – This type of acne is characterized by large, painful bumps that are filled with pus. Cysts develop deep beneath the skin and may be difficult to treat.
This type of acne is characterized by primarily developing cysts and can be seen in conjunction with the other types of pimples and acne listed above. It is less common than acne vulgaris, but it typically requires advanced treatment from a dermatologist.
Severe Nodulocystic Acne
Nodulocystic acne is characterized by breakouts with numerous cysts and nodules. It can be very painful, and like cystic acne, it typically requires professional treatment.
This is another severe form of acne. Individuals with acne conglobata develop large, inflamed nodules below the skin that become connected to each other. These nodule clusters are extremely painful.
This type of acne develops due to friction. It is frequently connected with sports because it often develops along the scalp when a hat or helmet is worn.
What Causes Acne?
Dr. Monjazeb says, “In addition to understanding the type of acne you’re dealing with, it’s essential to learn the specific triggers and underlying causes of your acne breakouts. When you understand the cause of your acne flare-ups, you can take steps to prevent them.” Millions of people in the U.S. struggle with acne, and the most common cause of acne breakouts is simple – clogged pores or hair follicles. Hair follicles can become clogged when dead skin cells are trapped inside. The clog is usually a result of excess sebum (oil) production that causes the dead skin cells to be trapped inside the hair follicles rather than being naturally shed from the skin. In addition to the dead skin cells, bacteria will often be trapped inside the clogged follicle where they can multiply, causing inflammation and infection. The longer a follicle remains clogged, the more likely it is to become inflamed, creating a pustule or papule, or move deeper beneath the skin’s surface to become a nodule or cyst. In addition to clogged follicles, rarer forms of acne may also be caused by infection and friction.
Preventing Back to School Acne Breakouts
Once you determine the type of acne you’re dealing with and the underlying cause, the best first step is to avoid the underlying causes of acne breakouts. According to Dr. Monjazeb, “That means keeping skin clean and free of sweat, dead skin cells, and bacteria. It also means moisturizing. That may sound counter-intuitive when excess oil is part of the problem, but actually, sebum production is increased when skin lacks moisture. By ensuring skin is moisturized, you can reduce the unnecessary production of oil. The best thing you can do to prevent acne breakouts is to schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable dermatologist. Your dermatologist will help you to create a personalized skincare routine to prevent acne breakouts and reduce the severity of current flare-ups. Consistency is essential. Most at-home acne treatments can take weeks or even months to be effective, so patients need to stay diligent in order to achieve and maintain clear skin.”
To help in achieving and maintaining clear skin, people with acne-prone skin should follow a few simple, daily skincare steps, including:
- Wash your face at least twice a day or after exercising or sweating excessively, using a gentle cleanser. To prevent or clear up breakouts, you can use skin care products that include ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinoids. A dermatologist can help you choose the right products to maintain your skin health.
- Do not irritate the skin by using exfoliating cleansers or abrasive materials on your acne-affected skin. That includes using a washcloth or loofah to clean skin. Instead, use your hands to gently apply face wash and cleanse the skin.
- Avoid using excessively hot water when cleansing the skin. Use cool or lukewarm water instead. This can decrease pain and inflammation.
- Never pop your pimples. Popping pimples may seem like a good way to relieve the pain and discomfort of a breakout, but actually, popping pimples can make healing after a breakout take longer and increases the risk of infection and scarring. Avoid touching the affected area in general as oils on the skin can prolong breakouts.
- Minimize sun exposure. Tanning and spending time in the sun can damage the skin and make breakouts worse. Additionally, certain acne medications cause UV sensitivity, which can increase the sun’s impact on the skin.
Treating Back to School Acne Breakouts
When acne breakouts happen, there are numerous skin care products available to address the effects of an acne breakout and clear skin more quickly. Some of the treatment options your dermatologist may recommend for acne breakouts include:
- Topical ointments to directly heal pimples and clear skin. Like the recommended face wash products used for acne-prone skin, topical treatments may include ingredients like retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories.
- Oral medications to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and attack bacteria.
- Isotretinoin, a medication derived from vitamin A, may be prescribed in severe cases, especially for individuals suffering from nodular or cystic acne that isn’t responsive to other treatments.
- In-office dermatologic procedures may also be recommended, including laser therapy, light treatments, chemical peels, and acne extractions.
Schedule a Visit With Your Dermatologist
Scheduling regular trips to see your dermatologist is an excellent way to maintain skin health. If you have acne-prone skin, it may be beneficial to schedule a trip to see your dermatologist when the school year begins. They can evaluate your skin and help you develop an effective treatment routine to avoid or minimize acne breakouts. If you’re interested in setting up a visit at a U.S. Dermatology Partners office, you can get started whenever you’re ready by filling out our simple online scheduling form. Once we receive your scheduling request, a member of our team will be in touch to finalize the details of your visit.
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