I recently ran into a friend I hadn't seen in about 5 years. We were catching up on each other's lives when her teenage son joined us. The last time I saw John he was about 11 years old and full of pre-teen energy and curiosity. This time however, he was quiet and kept his head down when he said hello. When he finally looked up, I saw why he had been avoiding full-face eye contact. John had a pretty severe case of acne. Not a few pimples, but entire areas on his face that were red and dotted with large pustules and cysts. It looked painful.
Typically, acne isn't a serious medical condition. It comes and goes throughout life and is more of an annoyance than anything else. For some though, acne can cause emotional distress and lead to scarring of the skin and psyche.
Fortunately, there are many over-the-counter (OTC) medications that when combined with a consistent face cleaning routine, keep breakouts to a minimum.
But for some people, teens in particular, acne can progress to the point where OTC medications don't control the problem. Pediatricians are often called upon to help teens come up with a plan of treatment.
There is a range of medications that can clear up even severe cases of acne, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Writing in the May issue of its journal Pediatrics, the group throws its support behind new guidelines from the American Acne and Rosacea Society that detail how to treat acne in children and teens of all ages.
That "all ages" part is important because acne is becoming more and more common in pre-teens, too, said Dr. Lawrence Eichenfield, the lead author of the AAP report. One study of 9- and 10-year-old girls found that more than three-quarters had pimples.
A possible reason for why kids are experiencing breakouts at a younger age is that, on an average, boys and girls are starting puberty earlier than in past generations says Eichenfield.