Acne in Children – Causes, Signs, and Treatment

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Acne in Children - Causes, Signs, and Treatment

Adolescents and adults are susceptible to acne on their face & other body parts. But they alone do not suffer from this problem. Sometimes children may also get acne. If you are alarmed by the appearance of acne on your child’s skin, this article will help you understand and mitigate the problem efficiently.

What Is Acne?

Acne is a term used to describe a disorder of the sebaceous glands and hair follicle. Pimples, plugged pores and lumps occurring on the face, back, neck, chest, and upper back are considered as acne. Acne occurs when the sebum (natural oil of the skin) gets trapped inside the hair follicle (base of hair roots), fostering an environment for bacterial growth inside. This causes inflammation of the follicle and irritation of the skin. Newborn acne is caused if the mother has passed on the hormones before delivery or the baby’s body produces the hormones due to the stress of birth.

1. Types of Acne

The types of acne are as follows:

  • Pustules: Pustules are close to the surface of the skin and are caused by inflamed hair follicles.
  • Papule: Papule is found deeper into the skin where the walls of the follicle are irritated.
  • Nodules: These occur as a result of the growth of abnormal tissue and develop just below the skin. Nodules are solid, large, and deep.
  • Cyst: Cyst is a kind of an acne which is filled with pus.

2. Progression of Acne

Acne progress slowly in the manner described below:

  • Partially blocked hair follicle resulting in semisolid, black plugs called blackheads.
  • Completely blocked follicles resulting in semisolid, white plugs known as whiteheads.
  • Whiteheads form due to infection and irritation.
  • The follicles burst as an effect of being plugged, causing oil, bacteria and accumulated skin cells to spill on to the surface of the skin. This further irritates the skin into developing lesions or pimples.

What Causes Acne in Kids

If you are wondering if kids can get pimples, then the answer is ‘yes’. Acne is a common disorder, and there are many causes of acne in childhood. The level of hormones that spike during puberty is attributed to the appearance of acne. Besides this, the following are the causes of acne in kids:

  • Using hair care and skin care products that contain harsh skin irritants.
  • Washing face too often especially with hot water or strong soaps can also result in acne.
  • Pervasion and spreading occur rapidly with plucking or picking pimples.
  • Stress-induced acne is a very common cause for child acne in 4-year-olds.
  • Perspiring and dandruff on the hairline also increase the chances of acne on the face.
  • Facial oil increases when hair falls on the face, increasing a chance for breakouts.
  • Clothing accessories like tight straps cause hair follicles to get blocked.
  • Equipment abrasion against the skin frequently can also aggravate acne formation.
  • Helmets, turtlenecks, shoulder pads, headbands etc. can be a cause for acne formation.
  • Use of cosmetics and cream can block pores and if the face is not cleaned properly, it may lead to acne formation.
  • Humidity in the air can create pimples.
  • Certain medicines like corticosteroids can result in the development of acne, too.A teenage boy with acne on his face

What Are the Symptoms of Acne in a Child?

Every child may present different symptoms of acne. The symptoms present themselves in areas of skin with a high concentration of sebaceous glands like the face, shoulders, chest, upper back, and neck. Pimples on kids sometimes mimic the symptoms of other skin conditions. It is wise to consult a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis in case you notice the following signs in your child.

  • Small, skin-coloured bumps or whiteheads
  • Small, dark coloured bumps or blackheads
  • Reddish, inflamed and pus-filled pimples
  • Solid nodules that look like raised bumps
  • Darkening of skin in areas
  • Scarring of skin

How Is Childhood Acne Diagnosed?

Consult with a dermatologist, he would examine the history of the child along with the current symptoms of acne. An examination of the affected areas would help you determine whether the symptoms are acne or not. If you are consulting with a paediatrician, they may refer you back to a dermatologist.

A doctor examining a boy's skin

How Is Acne Treated in Children?

Acne treatment depends on a child’s age, general health, and symptoms. The treatment suggested will be regular yet gentle. The suggested treatment for paediatric acne may include the following:

  • Gels, lotions, cleansers, and creams that are non-prescription products
  • Chemical peels, dermabrasion treatments, and laser therapies
  • Injection of medicine into the skin or draining of a cyst
  • Switching to noncomedogenic or non-acnegenic products for makeup and skincare as they do not clog the pores
  • Topical prescriptions
    • Benzoyl peroxide: Bactericide
    • Tretinoin: Improves cell turnover and prevents the development of fresh lesions
    • Adapalene: Prevents the formation of comedones
    • Antibiotics: Arresting bacterial growth
  • Oral prescriptions
    • Tetracycline, erythromycin, and doxycycline are commonly used to treat mild cases of acne
    • Isotretinoin is used to prevent scarring and appearance of new acne in severe cases where other treatments have failed

Are There Any Possible Complications?

Complications stemming from acne are mainly related to lasting scar formation and development of severe infection. Another complication that is related to acne is the socio-psychological issue of self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

How to Prevent Acne in Kids

Acne may last long or may occur for a few days and then stop all of sudden. However, early intervention and preventive tips may help lessen the development of severe acne. To prevent acne in your child, here are some points that you should remind your child of:

  • Constantly remind the child to not squeeze, pop, or pick at their zits and pimples. This proliferates the infection and increases the chances of permanent scarring.
  • Work with your doctor when non-prescription drugs are not effective in treatment.
  • Go for counselling when you feel the child is emotionally affected by this condition.
  • Consider professional dermatologists for the treatment of severe acne.
  • Stop treatment slowly, do not discontinue if there are still signs of acne.
  • Endorse gentle and regular skincare with your child.

When to Consult a Doctor

Consult a dermatologist if your child’s acne is getting worse or non-prescription drugs to lack efficacy. Also, consult a professional when your child is upset and emotionally affected by this acne problem.

Preventive care and timely treatment of acne can go a long way in helping a child maintain a good self-image and be interactive in social situations. Help your child by being thorough and clarifying doubts during a consultation. Make sure to keep up with follow-up appointments and educate your child about the importance of a healthy lifestyle in reducing the formation of acne.

Also Read: Home Remedies for Scars in Children

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