Back To School Stress Can Trigger Acne Problems

Armen Hareyan's picture


For teens, getting rid of embarrassing acne can be just as time consuming as picking out an outfit for the first day of school. But Dr. Denise Metry, an assistant professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and Texas Children's Hospital, says improving your skin isn't as difficult as you may think.

"Stress can be a catalyst for acne breakouts because it stimulates hormones, which in turn causes some skin glands to pump out more oil," Metry said. "Teens are more prone to this type of outbreak because of hormonal changes."

Acne begins when hair follicles become blocked with excess skin cells. Oil produced by sebaceous glands cannot flow to the surface and instead backs up within the follicle. A thin hair also grows through the follicle and out the skin. As the oil collects, a swollen pocket develops and a pimple forms.

Mild acne usually causes only whiteheads and blackheads. Occasionally, these may develop into an infected pore, or pimple.

"When acne gets severe it can scar and it's permanent," Metry said. "So anything that we can do to prevent that is ideal."


Acne can cause problems that go beyond skin-deep, especially when it affects your social life, and even schoolwork.

"I think that parents downplay acne a lot of the time thinking that it's just a part of being a teenager, but it can become a serious problem if it's not addressed early on," Metry said. "I encourage kids to talk to their physicians and in severe cases contact a dermatologist."

Today, dermatologists have an arsenal of effective acne treatments including topical creams such as Retin-A to help unclog oil ducts. Antibacterial creams, lotions, or gels with benzoyl peroxide, can be used alone or in combination with topical or oral antibiotics.

Metry says that most topical and oral medications will take several weeks before you begin to see results.

"For women that don't respond to any of the topical creams we may use birth control pills, because the fluctuating hormones that can cause acne are stablilized by the pills," Metry said.

For those who suffer from severe acne Metry suggests chemical peels, which involves resurfacing of the skin with an acid solution that peels the top layers and allows smoother, regenerated skin to emerge, or laser treatments, which heat the skin and shrinks oil glands.

She warns teens about scrubbing their faces and using strong astringents, which can aggravate the skin and make the acne worse. Metry suggests that teens wash their face twice a day with a gentle cleanser, maintain a healthy diet, and get adequate rest to help prevent future breakouts. - HOUSTON - (July 28, 2005)


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