If your skin problems persist though you've tried over-the-counter products, a dermatologist can tailor a more potent acne treatment for your skin type and condition.
Following are the most commonly used treatment options, each of which carries risks that your doctor should discuss with you.
- Antibiotics. This class of medicines can kill acne-causing bacteria and are often taken in combination with other drugs that unclog pores. Oral antibiotics can help more severe types of acne than the topical ones (placed on the skin).
- Accutane and Other Retinoids. Topical forms of these products help unclog pores to clear up moderate to severe acne. A well-known oral retinoid generically called isotretinoin and often referred to by the brand name Accutane can be effective in severe cases of acne, but requires a doctor's careful supervision because of its serious risks, most notably the possibility of birth defects and potentially serious depression.
- Oral contraceptives (for females only). The combination of hormones differs among brands of pills, some of which are more effective in clearing acne.
- Corticosteroids. A dermatologist may inject this type of anti-inflammatory medication into inflamed acne lesions to help them heal.
In addition to using these medications for pimple prevention, a dermatologist may use a variety of procedures in the office to remove existing lesions. Don't squeeze or pick at blemishes yourself, though, because only experienced health professionals can remove pimples without the risk of spreading inflammation and leaving scars.
If it does occur, though, scarring, too, can be treated with a doctor's help, often using a skin resurfacing technique such as chemical peel, microdermabrasion, or laser resurfacing. Katz has seen skin resurfacing's "dramatic" aesthetic and psychological impact "over and over and over again" in his patients. He recalls one patient in particular who came to his office two weeks after laser resurfacing. He was "a different person — confident, smiling, standing straighter, looking me in the eye where he had looked down before for a lack of confidence."
Other Than Acne
While acne is hands-down the most common skin problem among teens, it is far from the only one. Other skin conditions that affect young people more than other groups include:
- atopic eczema (makes your skin itchy, oozy and crusty, usually on the face and scalp)
- pityriasis rosea (appears as pink patches, sometimes hundreds of them)
- tinea versicolor (causes skin to take on uneven color and appear scaly).
Because many skin rashes or spots can be hard to tell apart and can sometimes signify diseases that run the gamut from harmless to potentially serious, be on the safe side: Seek treatment advice from a health professional when your skin's appearance changes unexpectedly.