Dr. Herzog, is Proactive the best treatment for teenage acne? If not, can you recommend other options?
Dr. Jo Herzog
Iris, this is a great question and one that I hear regularly from patients. If you have teenagers that are starting to get acne, there are several approaches that you can take.
If you have the time and insurance, it is best to start by taking them to the dermatologist and having them looked at before a treatment plan is started. All acne is not the same and should not be treated the same way. All skin is not the same and should not be treated the same way. All climates are not the same, and I might use a different approach in Alabama’s hot moist environment than would a dermatologist whose patients live in a cold, dry area.
If going to the dermatologist is not an option, then the next best thing would be OTC treatment. Proactive has a group of products that contains benzoyl peroxide as the main active ingredient. Proactive also offers another group of products which contain salicylic acid as an active ingredient. Likewise, there are many other products containing the same active ingredients that can be bought OTC in the drugstore or supermarket, many of which are very inexpensive but can be equally effective.
Benzoyl Peroxide is drying, can cause redness and peeling, and many people are allergic to it. Salicylic acid preparations seem to be less irritating but do not function the same way or as well for most acne patients by themselves. Many people often wonder whether to choose a BPO or Salicylic acid product, and the following guidelines can be helpful.
BPO has the advantage of unplugging comedones, killing bacteria, and penetrating deeply into pores. However, BPO can be irritating to some. For those that can tolerate it, I would choose this product. The lower concentrations seem to do as well as the higher ones but are less irritating.
Be aware that BPO needs to be used carefully, as it can discolor clothes and bedding. If using a wash, rinse it all off and consider drying with a white towel. If using a leave-on product, be careful with clothes, and if using on back and chest, wear a white t-shirt.
If you have only superficial blackheads or cannot tolerate BPO, then choose salicylic acid products.
If your teenagers will be more likely to use a kit that they saw advertised on TV (and you can afford it), there is nothing wrong with purchasing a heavily marketed brand such as Proactive. Just be aware that you can do the same thing for a fraction of the price.
Purchasing any treatment OTC It is not a substitute for a doctor’s visit and will only get you so far. It is fine for a few little bumps and blackheads, but I would not let my teenager’s acne get any further than that without proper treatment, as scarring might occur, and this can be permanent.