Tricks of the Trade: How to treat pimples and scars on adolescent skin


Hi, I am very insecure, and I do not know how to get rid of my pimple scars. I am only 12, and my face is pretty oily. For some reason, my nose is always shiny, and I have some faint freckles. I do not know what cleansing product to use for my pimples. I mainly get pimples on the crease of my chin—little blackheads, and I usually have at least one big red pimple. My mom says I’m pretty and tells me not to be insecure, but I need to get rid of the stupid pimples on my face! Can you help me? -MAYA

I understand how stressful it is when skin goes through big changes and, seemingly out of nowhere, suddenly breaks out. It is not easy, as constant worrying only makes skin worse, and in turn affects your confidence. Know that what you’re going through is just a phase. You’re growing up. And though it may not seem like it, everyone (and I mean everyone) goes through these changes. These times can be quite scary, as you really don’t know what to expect. But in time, you’ll see that you will naturally fit into your new skin (and body).

There’s a reason why your skin is acting up. Upon hitting puberty, your body produces hormones that prompt your sebaceous (or oil) glands to produce a substantial amount of sebum. And yes, sebum is the oil that makes your skin shiny (or oily). You said that your nose is always shiny. Well, you have sebum to blame. Take note that every strand of hair has its own sebaceous gland, so you can just imagine how much oil is produced in a day. All that oil has to go somewhere, but what happens when pores are clogged? This is where whiteheads, blackheads and pimples come in the picture. The natural movement of oil is through the hair follicles and out through the pores to your skin’s surface. But what we don’t see are the dead skin and dirt that oil brings along with it. When this heavy load of oil, dirt and dead skin block the follicle and come in contact with bacteria, that’s when whiteheads, blackheads and pimples form.

A blemish is basically a plugged or blocked follicle. Whiteheads usually form underneath the skin and are not exposed to air; blackheads are exposed to air and become dark because of oxidation, while pimples become inflamed and are usually topped with white or yellow pus. I know, all this talk about pimples might sound icky, but understanding what is happening to your skin will help you find a solution for it. Let me break it down for you.

Switch to a soap-free cleanser. Soap-free facial cleansers are gentler on the skin and don’t leave residue that may cause more blockage on your follicles. They also don’t strip away all the oils on your skin, which you think you want to do but may only make matters worse. When too much oil is removed from your skin, it may either turn dry and flaky or prompt your oil glands to produce more oil to compensate. Finding a soap-free cleanser made for oily skin will also work well for you; also one that contains pimple-zapping ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or tea tree oil.

Try on-the-spot treatments. To dry out that pimple and not the rest of your face, you may need to apply an ointment or blemish cream. These should contain the same ingredients I mentioned earlier: benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and tea tree oil. But consider the strength or potency when buying creams. Some may be too harsh for your skin.

Minimize pimple scars. You can get pimple scars when bacteria gets into the lesions of your blemishes, causing them to form cysts and leaving you with a scar. One thing you should never do is touch your face, as your hands and nails are far from sterile and you can end up depositing bacteria into the pimple. In order to minimize pimple scars, look for spot lightening ingredients like niacinamide, licorice extract and azelaic acid. These work well to stop melanin production and lighten dark spots in a few weeks.

Visit a dermatologist. When in doubt, go to a skin doctor. I’ve established a close relationship with my dermatologist who advises me on what products to use and what to do in case of a breakout. You’ll find that basic skin cleaning can do wonders for you and will help prevent pimples from forming.

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