Acne Myths

Lots of kids and teens have to cope with acne. Because it’s so common, acne is the subject of much discussion — and many myths. By clearing up some of the common tales about acne, you can help your son or daughter get through it. Check out the following facts from Kids Health, an online resource for parents on

Myth: Getting a Tan Helps Clear Up Skin.
Fact: Even though a tan may temporarily cover the redness of acne, there’s no evidence that having tanned skin helps to clear up acne. People who tan in the sun or in tanning booths or beds run the risk of developing dry, irritated, or even burned skin. They’re also at increased risk of premature aging and developing skin cancer.

Encourage kids to keep skin safe by wearing protective clothing, hats and sunglasses when outdoors. They should also wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (or SPF) of at least 30 that’s labeled “noncomedogenic” or “nonacnegenic,” which means the product won’t clog pores. Discourage the use of tanning beds or booths. It’s especially important for kids who use prescription acne medications (including oral contraceptives, which are often prescribed to help clear up acne) to stay out of the sun and away from tanning beds. These drugs can make skin extremely sensitive to sunlight and the rays from ultraviolet tanning booths.

Things that may aggravate acne:
• Irritants such as pollution, hair products, and makeup that’s not labeled noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic
• Pressure from hats and headbands
• Friction caused by touching or rubbing the face
• Changing hormone levels
• Overzealous scrubbing
• Popping pimples
• Sun exposure

Myth: Washing Your Face Often Prevents Breakouts.
Fact: Hygiene isn’t related to the development of acne, either. Washing the face each day gets rid of dead skin cells, excess oil, and surface dirt, but too much cleansing or washing too vigorously can lead to dryness and irritation — which can actually make acne worse.

Dermatologists usually recommend gently washing — not scrubbing or rubbing — the face no more than twice a day with a mild cleanser and patting the skin dry. Kids should steer clear of harsh exfoliants or scrubs, which can actually irritate blemishes. Toners containing high concentrations of alcohol can dry out the skin and should be avoided.

Myth: Popping Pimples Makes Them Go Away Faster.
Fact: Though popping a pimple may make it seem less noticeable temporarily, popping can cause the zit to stay around longer. Popping a pimple pushes bacteria from the zit further into the skin, making the area around the acne even more reddened and inflamed.

If your child is bummed because a huge zit arrived just in time for a special event, apply a dab of benzoyl peroxide gel to dry it. A dermatologist may also be able to recommend treatments for a teen with severe scarring.

Myth: For Clear Skin, Don’t Wear Makeup or Shave.
Fact: Kids don’t have to forego cosmetics as long the products used are labeled noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic, which means they won’t cause breakouts. Some concealers now contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which help to fight acne. Tinted acne-fighting creams may also help to fight pimples while hiding them. However, if any product seems to be irritating the skin or causing breakouts, have your child stop using the product and call your dermatologist.

Cosmetics labeled “organic,” “all natural,” or those containing herbs have gained popularity, but they may contribute to clogged pores and acne, so it’s best for kids who are prone to breakouts to steer clear of them.

Teen boys who have acne and shave can use either safety or electric razors, but should shave lightly around blemishes to avoid nicking the skin and causing irritation and infection.

Myth: Use More Acne Medication to Prevent Breakouts.
Fact: When it comes to over-the-counter acne medication containing active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, more isn’t better. Using too much medication can actually worsen acne because it leads to dryness, irritation, and more blemishes. A dermatologist can suggest acne treatments if your child:

• Has tried over-the-counter acne treatments with little or no success
• Has developed acne scars
• Has painful, large pimples
• Is dark-skinned and has acne that’s causing dark patches to form
• Has low self-esteem or a reduced enjoyment of life because of acne

Prescription acne medication may take up to eight weeks to have a noticeable effect, so remind kids to use the medication exactly as directed. If the acne doesn’t improve within six to eight weeks, talk to the dermatologist.

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Ask the Experts – How Can I Get My 13-Year-Old Son to Take More of an Interest in his Personal Hygiene?

Chris Koutures, MD

How can I get my 13-year-old son to take more of an interest in his personal hygiene?

Answer: During the early teenage years, children have a growing sense of wanting to be independent, so finding creative ways for a boy to have “control” over his body and hygiene decisions might provide less conflict.

• Take your son to the store and let him help select his own personal hygiene products. He very well may choose stronger fragrances than most adults would tolerate – that’s OK and part of the learning process.

• Since teenagers favor sleeping in to the last possible moment before school or other early commitments, try to make the morning routine as efficient as possible. Consider allowing individual bathroom time (sharing can be distracting and a threat to that emerging independence) with key items readily accessible and not hidden in drawers or cabinets.

• Tie in better hygiene to particular teenage concerns such as acne – for example, showering right after sports or exercise may reduce blockage of skin pores and may reduce acne.

• This is one time where peer pressure may be a positive thing – often, direct comparisons with friends may motivate a young man to “improve his looks” much more than constant reminders from parents.

• When he begins to show more interest in his hygiene, appeal to his vanity by offering ample praise, even if the selected presentation isn’t your first choice.

Dr. Chris Koutures is a CHOC pediatrician and sports medicine physician. As the father of three children, and team physician for USA Volleyball and Cal State Fullerton Athletics, he uses his experiences to guide families in the care and physical health of their children.

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Help Your Teen Practice Good Hygiene Habits

Are good hygiene habits part of your teen’s back to school routine? Check out these easy reminders to help keep your teen happy and healthy, and continue these habits into adulthood.

Understanding the body. If you’re talking about good teen hygiene, that also means talking about puberty. Have a casual and open conversation with your teen about the topic. Refer your teen to a good book or a reputable health web site on the subject, which may help with the conversation. If you’re having trouble talking about a particular issue, discuss it with your pediatrician who may have input on how to address the topic.

Showering. Once puberty hits, daily showering becomes essential, especially after playing sports or sweating a lot. Recommend that your teen use a mild soap and to concentrate on the face, feet, underarms, groin, bottom, hands and fingernails. Also, discuss the pros and cons of daily hair washing. Some teens may want to wash their hair daily, especially if they have oily hair.

Using deodorant. When puberty hits, your teen’s sweat glands become more active and the chemical composition of the sweat changes, causing it to smell stronger. When you or your teen begin to notice it, using deodorant or an antiperspirant should become part of her daily routine.

Maintaining good oral health. Teens can get pretty lax about their teeth care. Be a good role model and show them the importance of brushing and flossing. Encourage your teen to brush all of her teeth thoroughly – not just the front ones! Ask your dentist if an antibacterial mouth rinse is right for her.

Preventing acne. To help prevent the oil buildup that can lead to acne, encourage your teen to wash her face gently twice a day with warm water and a mild soap or cleanser. Encourage your teen to keep her hair away from her face and to wash it regularly to reduce oil. If your teen has acne, she may want to try a lotion or cream from the drugstore to help clear it up. Remind her not to pick, squeeze, or pop pimples.

Sharing makeup. Talk to your teen about the serious problems that can come from sharing makeup, as well as brushes or other hair accessories. Cosmetic brushes and sponges, for instance, pick up bacteria from the skin that can then be passed on. Remind your teen to wash her hands before and after applying makeup.

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Protect Your Little One’s Smile


I bet you didn’t know that in addition to Heart Month, February is also National Children’s Dental Health Month! This is a great time to teach your kiddos about the importance of oral health. Developing good habits at an early age and scheduling regular dentist visits can help children stay on track in maintaining healthy teeth and gums.

Check out the tips below, recommended by Richard Mungo, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist at CHOC Children’s:

  • Take your child to the dentist by the time he or she is 12 months old – or as soon as he or she gets his or her first tooth.
  • After each feeding, wipe your infants tongue and gums with a wet cloth.
  • When the first tooth appears, begin brushing with water, or an appropriate baby toothpaste. Toothpaste with fluoride is not recommended until your child is old enough to spit and swallow the toothpaste – around age 3.
  • Come up with, or play, a fun song for your kids while they are brushing their teeth to get them used to brushing for a full 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Remind your kids not to eat sugary foods between meals.
  • Instruct them on the proper way to floss – Carefully insert the floss between two teeth, using a back and forth motion. Gently bring the floss to the gumline, but don’t force it under the gums. Curve the floss around the edge of your tooth in the shape of the letter “C” and slide it up and down the side of each tooth.
  • When brushing, have your kids hold their brush at a 45-degree angle against their gumline. Gently brush from where the tooth and gum meet to the chewing surface in short strokes. Brushing too hard can cause receding gums or tooth sensitivity.
  • Lastly, create a calm, positive attitude about going to the dentist. Children can pick up on a parent’s anxiety and associate the dentist with a negative experience.

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Enjoy the Holidays, Skip the Cavities

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year!’… especially for holiday treats and candy! While it’s quite nice to enjoy this season’s treats, keep these tips in mind to ensure your children enjoy the spirit of the season – without the toothache!

  • Make sure your child maintains a balanced diet. While sweets abound during this time of the year, try to limit the amount of sugary and starch-filled goodies given to your child. Try some sliced fruit, raw vegetables with dip, string cheese, and yogurt, instead.
  • Encourage good oral health habits with your children, including brushing at least twice a day, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly. If sugar is not removed with brushing, it can remain in the crevices of your child’s teeth long after sweets have been consumed.
  • Have your children use an age-appropriate mouthwash in the evening to strengthen their teeth and rebuild the enamel, which helps prevent cavities.

Also, keep Christmas lights and electrical cords out of the reach of children – especially infants who may be crawling and can put items in their mouths, explains Richard Mungo, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist at CHOC Children’s and Medical Director of the Healthy Smiles for Children of Orange County Oral Health Care Center. He has treated children who have suffered burns to the side of their mouths due to chewing on these cords.

Remember, your children’s dental care is an important part of their overall health, during the holidays and year-round! “It’s really never too early for parents to take an active role in preventing tooth decay in their children—even before kids get their first tooth,” says Dr. Mungo.

For more tips to protect your little one’s teeth, check out the latest issue of CHOC’s Kids Health newsletter:

For more information on CHOC Children’s Pediatric Specialties, visit

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