Acne: Not necessarily a teenage problem

from North State Parent January 2016 by Jeana LeClerc

As many teens can attest, acne is a very unpleasant skin condition that has physical, emotional, and social consequences. Unfortunately, the problem is frequently made worse by three very common mistakes. By simply avoiding these three mistakes, teens and adults alike can make a big difference in their skin.

Mistake #1: Consuming foods or supplements that cause inflammation of the skin.

“Don’t eat chocolate!” “No French Fries!” “Stay away from candy!” This kind of dietary advice for dealing with acne has been circulating for years. What no one has told you is that the problem is not the chocolate or even the French fries. The real culprit is iodides. Foods rich in iodides, including iodized table salt, dairy products, seafood, and seaweed should be avoided. For teens, milk products and salt are two of the most common source of iodides. Many teenage boys love to drink gallons of milk that unfortunately can contribute to their cystic acne. Health food supplements, drinks, powders, and bars can also be a problem for acne sufferers. These products should be checked for and avoided if they contain iodides, iodine, kelp, or biotin.

Mistake #2: Using acne, skincare, and makeup products that make acne worse. Most people don’t know this, but there are many skin/hair care products, makeup, and even acne products that contain ingredients that clog your pores. These pore-clogging ingredients are called comedogenic ingredients, and are often found in over-the-counter as well as prescription creams, lotions, make-up, and hair products. Some of the more common comedogenic ingredients that you will see in makeup and hair products are sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, laureth 4, lanolin, and acetylated lanolin. Organic skin care and acne lines can also be among the worst acne offenders. Natural oils that sound really wonderful like cocoa butter and coconut oil are disastrous for acne prone skin. Other oils such as jojoba, olive, and lanolin are mildly comedogenic and can be a problem if formulated with other comedogenic ingredients. Liquid foundation makeup can be a source of these problem ingredients. Loose powder mineral makeup tends to be the safest choice but still should be checked for comedogenic ingredients.

Mistake #3: Using acne products incorrectly. Products that are specifically made for clearing acne are often very irritating and drying to the skin. Frequently, I see people start products but then prematurely stop or reduce application to one or two times per week in order to avoid the dryness and irritation. This inevitably leads to discouragement and frustration as the acne continues. Another big mistake is to take an acne product and just use it on the existing acne breakouts (spot treatment), especially with benzoyl peroxide. The acne process begins invisibly under the skin with the formation of microcomedones. An effective acne system will prevent these microcomedones from forming in the first place. Thus the entire area of acne-prone skin needs the right products and consistent use in order to stop acne in its tracks before you can even see it. Sometimes the effectiveness of a product can diminish over time. This is fairly common as the skin seems to adapt to product use. Perhaps this is similar to why we have to change our exercise routines to keep getting results. In any event, when improvement reaches a plateau, it is often advisable to alter your regimen. Often times just a small adjustment is all that is necessary to keep progress moving forward.


Achieving clear skin need not be a frustrating guessing game. By simply avoiding these three common mistakes acne sufferers will usually see significant improvement. For those who want to go further, the next step is to get accurate information from a reliable source. One source is a certified acne specialist who will use his/her training, experience, and knowledge to help find the right skin care products for your unique needs, monitor your progress, and make the necessary adjustments that will accelerate healing and help prevent future outbreaks.

While acne cannot always be avoided, it can be controlled. By avoiding these common acne mistakes and then education ourselves on our own unique skin care needs, we can limit acne’s impact in our lives.