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Kid's Health (Archive)
Our award-winning Kid's Health Magazine is designed to provide healthful information for your growing child. Please Note: Kid's Health Magazine is no longer being printed. Please visit our blog at http://www.choc.org/blog for the latest articles about your child's health from the experts at CHOC Children's. You can also receive our electronic Kid's Health newsletter in your inbox by subscribing to our mailing list: http://www.choc.org/subscribe

Zap those Zits

Regardless of what you may have heard growing up, certain foods do not cause teen acne, not even chocolate, french fries or other greasy foods. The hormones associated with puberty are the likely culprits. And here's why. At the onset of puberty, the adrenal glands secrete hormones causing the sebaceous glands of the skin to increase the production of sebum, the oily substance that makes the hair glossy. The extra sebum mixes with dead skin cells and plugs up a facial pore. Add in some overgrowth of the bacteria that normally live on the skin and you've got a zit.

A whitehead is a plug comprised of sebum and dead skin cells that lies just below the surface of the skin. A blackhead occurs when the pressure of the oil and dead skin pushes the plug all the way to the surface of the skin. When the plug comes into contact with air, it turns black.

"Blackheads are not caused by dirt, and you cannot scrub them away," says CHOC pediatrician Melissa Rosin, M.D. "For basic blackheads or whiteheads, I recommend starting with over-the-counter topical products containing benzoyl peroxide. That is usually enough to treat them."

For pimples, Dr. Rosin recommends prescription topical antibiotics in addition to the benzoyl peroxide to help kill the bacteria and to reduce inflammation or facial redness. Some new prescription medications contain both. Prescription topical retinoids such as Retin A, a derivative of vitamin A, may help break up the plug of oil, dead skin and bacteria. If there is a lot of redness, an oral antibiotic may also be necessary.

Prescription medication may also be part of the solution for painful, inflamed cysts beneath the skin's surface. Cystic acne is the severest form and the most likely to cause scarring. Isotrentinoin, or Accutane, is recommended for severe acne that has failed everything else. But it has significant side effects and requires close monthly monitoring by a physician.

If your child has begun experiencing problems with acne, Dr. Rosin recommends starting with home treatment. If over-the-counter products don't seem to work, then consult your child's pediatrician to see if prescription topical ointments or antibiotics might be an alternative. Tell your child to be patient and to stick to the treatment regimen.

"There are no magic treatments that will make acne disappear overnight. If a kid really wants the acne to go away, he or she will have to be diligent about using the medication," she says. "The medicines are effective, but they take time to work."

Melissa Rosin, M.D., recently completed her pediatric residency training at Children's Hospital of Orange County. She is now in practice with the St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group, 1201 LaVeta Blvd., Suite 700, in Orange. For more information, please contact her at (714) 288-3230

Acne Do's and Don'ts


  • Don't pick at blemishes

  • Wash your face gently twice a day, don't scrub

  • Keep your hands off your face

  • Use noncomedogenic sunscreen everyday, especially if you are using Retin A-type products or oral antibiotics that increase sun sensitivity

  • Use noncomedogenic makeup

  • Avoid overuse of hair products that irritate skin or cause break-outs near the hairline


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Children's Hospital of Orange County is affiliated with UC Irvine Healthcare and UC Irvine School of Medicine

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