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Top Teen Skin Problems – and How To Solve Them

The teen years can be filled with angst – the last thing you need is troubled skin. WebMD asked the experts for solutions to the most common teen skin problems.
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WebMD Feature

From breakouts that come out of the blue, to those funky finger warts that makes you feel like everyone's staring, to an oily complexion that shines out of control, the teen years can be filled with skin problems.

If you're like many teens, you probably feel you're the only one who's affected. But the truth is that you're not - skin problems are common in teens.

"As a dermatologist, I understand how frustrating and embarrassing certain teen skin problems are," says Joel Schlessinger, MD, president-elect of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery. "But it's important to remember that you're not alone and that is always a way to make it better - you just have to find the right treatment path."

To help you do just that, WebMD turned to several experts for advice on some of the most common teen skin problems.

Teen Skin Problem No. 1: Acne

As hormone levels rise and bodies change, skin reacts. For some teens, it's an occasional pimple or blemish. For girls, it can occur right before each menstrual cycle.

For other teens, though, breakouts go far beyond a zit or two, to create a chronic condition known as acne. It's characterized by whiteheads, blackheads, and, more frequently, pus-filled pimples.

"It usually develops in the central area of the cheeks and on the forehead, and it's almost universally caused by a hormone imbalance or a hypersensitivity to the robust hormonal activity going on the body during this time," says Doris J. Day, MD, author of 100 Questions and Answers About Acne.

Day says that stresses associated with teen life can also be a contributing factor.

What can help? For many teens, over-the-counter acne treatments containing benzoyl peroxide and/or various acids in a cream, lotion or gel will do the trick. The key, however, may be to purchase several different products and rotate them.

"Very often your skin responds favorably, then all of a sudden the product stops working," says Schlessinger. "The way to deal with this is to have two or three products you like and switch off, using one for two to three months and then changing once breakouts are no longer controlled."

If acne doesn't clear -- or gets worse -- see a primary care practitioner or a dermatologist as soon as you can. Treatment includes professional-strength acne products, along with antibiotics. Special laser or other light treatments, as well as abrasive therapies, are available in dermatologists' offices, but these options are expensive.

And what about those occasional "just before the prom/Christmas vacation/school play" breakouts?

Barry Resnik, MD, dermatologist at Memorial Regional Hospital and Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., offers this quick solution:

"Run a washcloth under hot water, and soak the pimple till cloth is cool, then apply topical acne medicine," he says. If you repeat this process two to three times a day, Resnik says, you may stop or hasten an outbreak.

For the "world's worst pimple," Resnik says, don't try to cover it with regular makeup. Instead, buy a compounded tinted drying lotion and use that to hide it and help speed healing.

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