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Helping teens tackle common skin care problems

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Skin care problems other than acne

As if teens didn’t have enough to worry about, dealing with chronic skin problems can become not only a daily irritation for them, but a serious emotional issue as well.

Teen splashing face with water

Oily complexion

Overactive oil glands can give teens a glistening glow — just not the kind they want.

Tips for treatment: "You can use topical treatments to 'mop up' the oil, or you can get to the root of the problem which is excess oil production, and shut it down — and both methods can work very well," says Charles E. Crutchfield III, M.D., clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

To soak up the oil, suggests Crutchfield, choose products containing alcohol such as a "drying solution" that soaks up excess oil on the surface of the skin. You also may use a blotting product — sheets of specially treated paper that you touch to your face to absorb oil.

Professional laser treatments such as the Aramis laser, for example, are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of oil production in acne. "It actually interacts with the oil glands themselves to get them to be less active. In a sense, it causes them to 'go to sleep' for up to a year, so oil production is dramatically down," says Crutchfield.

The last thing you want to do is to wash your face too much to try to get rid of excess oil. "The 'squeaky clean' feeling people get from using soaps is derived from stripping the fatty oils from our skin, and is more harmful than good," says Resnik. Instead, wash your face with a gentle cleanser no more than twice a day.

Excess sweating

Most nervous teens get sweaty palms and drenched underarms from time to time, but heavy, persistent sweating can be a condition called hyperhidrosis. This condition is characterized by excessive sweating on the palms, soles, underarms, and sometimes, the face. Excessive sweating can be so embarrassing that teens may avoid bringing it up to their parents or doctor.

Tips for treatment: The American Academy of Dermatology suggests these tips to control excess perspiration:

  • Wear natural fibers like cotton, which are cooler and absorb sweat.
  • Use absorbent inner soles and try to alternate shoes, leaving a day in between so they can dry out.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that trigger sweating. These vary from person to person, but may include spicy dishes or very hot liquids such as soups.
  • Reduce grains and sugars in the diet that can reduce excessive sweating.

Some physicians recommend maximum-strength antiperspirants that work by plugging the sweat ducts so the perspiration never reaches the skin. In extreme cases, if over-the-counter antiperspirants don't help, a doctor can prescribe medical-strength products.

In extreme cases, doctors occasionally recommend surgical treatment to target sweat glands, as well as Botox, the same substance used as a wrinkle treatment. Small amounts of the purified botulinum A toxin is injected into sweat glands to block the release of a neurotransmitter or brain chemical called acetycholine, which is linked to sweating. The treatment lasts up to eight months and may be repeated. In extreme cases, surgery is performed on the nerve bundles that control sweating.

Teens can also practice stress management, through deep breathing exercises to help reduce the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system — often the cause of excessive sweating when people feel anxious. In addition, washing underarms with mild soap once or twice a day can reduce bacteria.

Tackling chronic skin care issues can feel overwhelming for a teen who already faces the emotional and physical changes of puberty. Parents and teens can work together to pinpoint and attack the underlying causes of any skin care issue — even the most persistent ones.

More on teen skin care

Helping your teenager deal with acne
Skin care and your teen
Acne and teen self-esteem

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