Spot control

Surviving the teen years usually involves waging war on dreaded acne or pimples.

During puberty, there is an increased level of androgens (male sex hormones) in both males and females. This hormone stimulates the sebaceous glands (oil glands) in the skin and hence more sebum (oil) is secreted.

Dr Lim Yen Loo, a consultant dermatologist at the National Skin Centre, and Dr Cheong Lai Leng, a dermatologist at L L Cheong Skin and Laser Clinic, share some tips on how to emerge from this war victoriously.

Keep your face clean

Though acne is not due to dirt and the bacteria Propionibacterium acne plays only part of the role in the development of pimples, it is still important to keep your face clean, said Dr Lim.

Use a suitable facial cleanser twice a day. If your skin is dry or sensitive, you should choose a gentle facial cleanser.

If you have oilier skin, wash your face often - about three times a day.


Skip the moisturisers if your skin is oily. But if you develop dry or irritated skin as a result of your acne treatment, Dr Lim said a light moisturiser can help alleviate the problem.

Acne cream contains salicylic acid which is known to cause dry skin and sometimes irritation.

If you are using a strong acne cream, use a milder facial cleanser to avoid excessive drying, said Dr Cheong.

Try over-the-counter products

To treat whiteheads or blackheads, over-the-counter products would suffice.

In cases where the acne is inflamed and presents itself as red spots, a topical antibiotic will be prescribed by a doctor as part of the treatment, said Dr Lim.

Only in cases of severe acne will doctors prescribe antibiotics.

Use make-up sparingly

While make-up may enhance your features, if you have acne, make-up can aggravate it.

Dr Lim said that thick make-up can encourage the formation of comedones, otherwise known as blackheads and whiteheads.

Keep your hair out of your face

If you have an oily face, chances are you will have an oily scalp as well.

Avoid using hair styling products that can cause comedones to erupt, if you do not want to go bald.

Check labels to be sure that hair products are non-comedogenic, as these will prevent clogged pores.

Pimples that cause scars on your scalp could result in a permanent bald spot, cautioned Dr Cheong.

Hands off

Resist the urge to touch or squeeze pimples.

Scars can be permanent and hyperpigmented marks take a long time to fade, warned Dr Lim.

This is why he does not encourage facial treatment for teens who have acne, as it sometimes includes forcing out blackheads. This can leave pigmentation marks or scars if not done properly.

Avoid greasy food

While there is no strong scientific evidence that links greasy food to acne, having a healthy and balanced diet that is high in fruits and vegetables will speed up your skin's recovery from acne, said Dr Cheong.

Stay out of the sun

The use of some topical or oral medication in the treatment of acne can cause photosensitivity of the skin, said Dr Lim.

This means that the skin becomes extra sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. So read medicine labels well and get information from your doctor or pharmacist.

In addition, pigmentation marks usually occur after the pimple heals. If you have to spend time in the sun, apply sunscreen lotion to prevent further darkening of pigmentation marks.


If you have acne, staying relaxed is vital.

Being stressed can lead to increased sebum production from the sebaceous glands, said Dr Lim.

'I have had patients who pick at or squeeze their acne as a form of stress-relief behaviour and this leaves scars,' said Dr Lim.

Laser treatment is not the easy way out

Dr Lim does not recommend laser treatment for scar removal for teenagers. As teens constantly develop new acne, areas that have been treated for scars may be affected again.

He said that what bothers most people about depressed scars is that they appear red at the base. But the redness will fade with time so the actual depressed scar may not be so obvious.

This article was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times.