A Pimply Problem

The appearance of acne can easily affect a child's confidence. We tell you how to help him improve his skin -- and self-esteem.

Q: My 12-year-old's self-esteem is sliding now that acne is appearing on his face. How can I make him feel better about himself?

A: "Don't tell him that he looks fine or that he's overreacting," warns Daniel P. Krowchuk, M.D., professor of pediatrics and dermatology at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At this stage, "his own perception of how bad the acne is matters more to him than your opinion."

A better approach is to try to help him understand what acne is and how to treat it, advises Dr. Krowchuk. The first step is to explain that acne is perfectly normal at his age. The truth is, almost everyone gets some degree of acne around puberty, mainly due to hormonal changes.

The next step is to reassure your child that most cases of acne eventually clear up by themselves, says Dr. Krowchuk. Still, there are steps your son can take to decrease irritation. If the acne is mild (two or three pimples at a time), he can try an over-the-counter product containing benzoyl peroxide. If the blemishes are more extensive, you should consult a dermatologist. Any improvement in his skin condition will help your son feel better about his appearance.

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