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Acne. Stop right there! Your teenager just ran out of the room screaming!

Yes, that single word, clinically known as acne vulgaris, is way scarier to a teenager than Saw V. Acne can ruin a young person’s life, at least in their minds, or surely cause a crimp in their self-esteem.

What causes this scourge of youth? And what can be done about it? At the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, we’re acne experts. We can help your teenager get through this phase of life with various treatments to eliminate or at least lessen the outbreaks.

Here’s more information about acne, the bane of every teenager.

What’s behind those zits?

Acne comes down to the sebaceous glands at the base of the hair follicles. The sebaceous glands produce oil, keeping the skin and hair lubricated and moist. Acne forms when the hair follicles under your skin clog, trapping the oil beneath the skin. You know where acne is more prevalent: on the face, back, neck, shoulders, and chest. It appears as occluded pores (blackheads or whiteheads), red bumps (pimples), pustules, or cysts.

The condition isn’t serious — although don’t tell this to your 16-year-old daughter in the midst of a breakout — unless the acne is cystic in nature. Those cysts can scar the skin.

Causes of acne

Acne is still somewhat of a mystery, believe it or not. Doctors believe it’s due to a combination of factors. The rise in the male sex hormone androgen in teenagers of both sexes is thought to be the primary cause. When androgen levels increase, the oil glands enlarge and produce more oil. This overproduction causes the glands to clog, as the oil cannot be dispersed as quickly as it is produced. Clogged glands then allow the p.acnes bacteria to explode, causing a breakout.

Genetics also play a role. Some people are simply more prone to the condition. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can trigger acne outbreaks, even if you got off easy as a teenager. Certain cosmetics and medications cause breakouts for some people, as well.

Contrary to popular belief, research has not shown there is any link between foods such as chocolate or junk food and acne.


At the Center for Dermatology, every acne case is individual, so our treatments are always varying. We employ products that contain active ingredients such as Retin-A and Resorcinol. We also put patients on skin care regimens with various products. Chemical peels and blue light therapy can also be very effective. If these options don’t work, we may work with oral antibiotics or topical antimicrobials such as adapalene, tazarotene, and tretinoin.

A Portland summer is a great time to get your teenager’s acne under control in time for school in the fall. If your teenager is suffering with acne, let’s have a look. Call us at (503) 297-3440 and schedule an appointment.