By Jenny Chin

After waking up refreshed and energized, you walk to the bathroom and peer into the mirror, only to discover the reflection of a horrendous invader on your face: a huge pimple (and even worse, it’s red)! These irritating visitors are no longer strangers to most teenagers, and other skin issues can also arise depending on the changing circumstances of their environments. Although we all despise it when our skin isn’t in an optimal condition, it’s important that we understand the causes of these skin problems to alleviate and prevent them from frequently hindering our lives in the future.

Roots of the Most Common Skin Diseases

According to Kids Health, “The type of acne that a lot of teens get is called acne vulgaris”.  The pores contain oil glands, which secrete an oily substance known as sebum. Sebum secretions are essential for regulating our bodies in varying temperatures. However, the pores get clogged if there’s too much sebum and dead skin cells, and that’s when bacteria proliferates. The body sends red and white blood cells to the site, leading to inflammation and eventually paving the way for different types of acne to appear.

Acne can be categorized into two main categories: inflammatory & non-inflammatory. Red and swollen pimples, along with papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts are usually inflammatory. Skin products that contain benzoyl-peroxide and help dissipate the bacteria under the skin and remove the excess sebum for inflammatory acne. On the other hand, non-inflammatory acne includes whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. A clogged up and closed pore becomes a whitehead, while a clogged up pore that stays open results in a blackhead. If the wall of the pore opens, the bacteria and sebum will dive into the skin, leaving a small, red bump known as a pimple.

Another common skin disorder is eczema. An article by the Medicine Net describes eczema as  “a reaction pattern that the skin produces in a number of diseases…it begins as red, raised tiny blisters containing a clear fluid atop red, elevated plaques. When the blisters break, the affected skin will weep and ooze.” It’s a chronic problem for many people, and although it’s the most common in infants, many people usually see it disappear before adulthood.

Teen’s experience with acne

Junior Ashley Wang has dealt with excessive acne throughout middle and high school.

“I’ve had a lot of pimples ever since the beginning of middle school, and this has been an ongoing problem for me,” Wang said.

She said that her pimples have never stopped before, but her highest peak was from December to February of her sophomore year, when she began to use new skincare products, since her old ones proved to be ineffective in alleviating her previous acne. Wang read a lot of reviews about her new acne cleansers online before purchasing them, yet she didn’t realize that they were unsuitable for her skin type until she began using them.

“I carefully read and followed the instructions on the packaging of the products, so I thought my pimples would be gone soon. After a week of using them everyday, I started noticing that my acne was still there, and if anything, it spread out around my entire face,” Wang said.

Wang’s acne also appears more frequently when she is unable to get enough sleep. She said that sleep deprivation usually causes her a great deal of stress, which leads to breakouts. For Wang, however, the biggest problem with acne is not just the physical appearance of it, but mostly the mental burdens associated with it.

“My acne makes me feel really self-conscious and insecure. I feel like when people are looking at me, they can only concentrate on my pimples rather than my general demeanor. I know that makeup can help temporarily cover them up, but it will probably irritate my skin and have the opposite intended effect,” Wang said.

She visited a dermatologist shortly after her serious breakout in sophomore year, and was given a topically applied medicine that was targeted for Wang’s acne. Wang stopped purchasing the cleansers and lotions that worsened her pimples, and instead sought after products containing benzoyl-peroxide, as recommended by her dermatologist. Although she knows that her acne won’t fully disappear, she has been taking measures to improve her skin by applying a facial mask every other day and strictly following a skincare routine that can help her acne disappear in the long run.

Treatments and how to keep the skin healthy

In general, products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can prevent acne and concurrently clear it up. Salicylic acid is a kind of beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that repairs abnormal shedding of cells, and also soothes the skin. Benzoyl peroxide functions as an exfoliating agent by destroying the bacteria that cause the skin issues. Following the label directions when using skincare products is essential: you don’t want your skin to become dry and flaky from excessive usage! However, it’s also important to apply products that are fit for your own skin, and the consequences can be shown through Wang’s experience.

Oil accumulation is another factor that contributes to acne, and it can be prevented by washing your face around two times a day with a cleanser or mild soap with warm water. Scrubbing your face harshly won’t scrub that acne away, and will only hurt your skin even more! If you wear makeup, it’s essential to remove all of your makeup properly to prevent it from clogging your pores. Our diets can also contribute to breakouts, so it’s important to eat healthy and avoid junk foods like fried or sweet treats (although they’re tasty, the effects can be regretful!). Although we can’t avoid skin issues time to time, our skin can still look healthy if we take the time and effort to take care of it, and that’s when we can say “Bye!” to those troublesome pimples.

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