Teens' acne struggles more than skin-deep

[attach]5765[/attach]When kids told Bobby Sweet to connect the dots, they were not referring to the game. Instead, the remarks were directed at the red spots on his face.

At age 14 Bobby has heard it all. From connect the dots to pizza face to turkey neck. He was only 10 when his face first began to break out.

“My self-esteem dropped,” he said. “I was the only one that had a significant amount of acne.”

Acne is an inflammation of the skin’s oil glands and occurs on the face, neck, chest and back and is often the result of hormones, bacteria, clogged pores and abnormal oil production.

Before the acne, Bobby described himself as quite outgoing. But with the advent of the skin disorder his social life took a hard hit. He said he stopped hanging out with friends after school because his self-esteem had dropped.

“It was harder to talk to people because they looked at my skin,” he said.

To distract others from the acne, Bobby said he would sometimes act tougher and meaner. He admitted his new attitude made him a difficult person to be around.

“I would start being a jerk to a lot of people even if they didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.

The acne seemed to affect many different aspects of Bobby’s social life. He dreaded the simple activity of going swimming. Bobby said he feared taking off his shirt and exposing the acne on his chest out of fear of being the center of attention.

In the dating department, he felt equally insecure. He said his acne made him feel unattractive.

“If a girl was standing and looking at me, I wasn’t too sure if she was looking at me or at the acne,” he said.

Bobby only felt confident enough to approach a girl if he was absolutely sure he knew she liked him.

The acne slowly began to affect his schoolwork too. When his grades spiraled downward, Bobby realized he couldn’t continue on the same track.

“Not only did I act tougher in class … I acted like I didn’t care about my homework,” he said.

When Bobby moved and entered a new school at the age of 13, the move along with his failing grades was the final impetus to change.

“I came to the conclusion that I needed to smarten up,” he said.

Dermatologist Martie Gidon, who runs Gidon Aesthetics and Medispa in the Davisville area, said 10-year-olds with acne aren’t uncommon. She said acne can start to develop anywhere between the ages of 8–14.

“There’s no cure,” she said. “It’s all about controlling it until they grow out of it.”

But she added the earlier a person seeks treatment the better. Getting help in the early stages reduces the chances of scarring, she said. Moreover, what many teenagers and acne suffers don’t realize is that they don’t have to suffer from acne.

“No one has to walk around with severe acne,” Gidon said.

She said it’s natural for teenagers to feel embarrassed about the acne, but seeking treatment will improve their self-image. Gidon said she has seen teenagers with make-up and hairstyles to mask the acne, but after treatment their confidence levels rise and they often come back with shorter haircuts and less makeup.

As for Bobby, he said he is still the kid with the most acne in his school, but he refuses to allow his acne to define him.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he said.

But he said the worst thing about acne is not even the name calling.

“I can handle the names,” he said. “But there is stuff I can’t really regain … like social skills.”