LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Back to school can be a nerve-racking time for teens. While students put their best faces forward, many are dealing with the embarrassing issue of acne.
Fourteen-year-old Connor Fleniken is walking high school halls for the first time as a freshman at Sulphur High School. This year, he is feeling very different about his confidence compared to junior high years plagued by acne.
"I felt self-conscious and insecure about it," he said, "I could tell it wasn't right and it was noticeable."
Connor's outbreaks started during puberty - prime time acne years for young people.
"Probably around fifth grade, that's just when it started coming up and I just saw little things on my face," he said.
Over the counter washes and creams did not cut it, so Connor began seeing Imperial Health dermatologist, Dr. Maureen Olivier. She said puberty causes oil glands to become active and hormones called adrenal androgens start increasing, triggering pimples.
"Hormones, when they break down, can be androgen-like and there are receptors in the oil gland that notice this and that causes the oil gland to produce more oil," said Olivier.
From whiteheads to blackheads, pimples and cysts, the face of acne can vary. Olivier said hormone imbalances, stress and family history all affect a teen's skin.
"People who have a strong family history, there's certainly a hereditary or genetic component to developing acne," she said.
If you start to notice acne, over the counter products can help reduce bacteria count.
"Something in the benzoyl peroxide category, there are also some products that have salicylic acid in them and that causes your skin to shed a little bit faster," said Olivier.
If that is not enough, prescription creams and wipes are next - followed by antibiotics or an oral skin normalizer like isotretinoin.
"It has the ability to clear your skin completely and also induce remission," said Olivier.
Connor is on a maintenance plan, taking one isotretinoin pill a week after initial treatments two years ago.
"I see a lot of kids with acne in high school, but knowing that's not me ... that just feels amazing," he said, "I love it."
Side effects of the medications can be dryness or irritation of the skin.
Olivier said it is important for parents to know acne does not have to be a part of teen years. If treated early, clear skin can be a reality.