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Teenagers and the Big A”: Tips for Helping Noncompliant Teenage Acne Patients”


It’s important to find out about your teenage patients’ lifestyle, habits, and personality to know how to best coach them to treatment compliance.  Teenage acne can cause social, emotional, and even psychological distress. Yet teenagers can be notoriously noncompliant when it comes to taking their acne medication.  Why is that?


Most teens are desperate to see their acne clear up, yet struggle with taking their acne medication. Sometimes it has to do with the form the medication comes in.  Talk to your teenage patients, asking them point-blank if they would be more likely to take oral medication, rather than topical medication.  Often the teenager will feel a stigma about using a topical treatment, such as a cream or gel.  


Busy, active teenagers may become forgetful about taking their medication.  Some Derm practitioners have even found simple sticker charts to be effective in gaining patient compliance with young teenagers.[1]  


Since the teenager will be anxious to see their skin quickly clear up, they may use more of the topical medication than is necessary—which can cause irritations such as rash, dryness, or burning.  These side effects will frustrate the patient and likely cause them to stop taking the medication.  


Additionally, most acne medications can take eight to twelve weeks to see results. Many teenagers may become impatient and stop taking the medication, believing that it is not working.  It’s important to stress the long term view of taking acne medication.  Sometimes telling teenage patients that they will see results in eight weeks is not specific enough.  Pull out a calendar and show them the dates when their medication will likely start to show results!  


Other teenagers may be noncompliant as a form of rebellion.  Medical professionals may be intimidating for the teen, so it’s important to gain rapport with the teenager—to be someone whom the teen can trust.  Often parents have a hard time of knowing when to let their teenager start to be responsible for their own health.  


Make sure you address the teen, rather than just the parent, when talking about medication issues. Teenage patients may also want to see their doctor or PA by themselves, especially if you need to ask about issues related to side effects and pregnancy or sexual activity.  Keep in mind that by law, teenagers have the right to privacy when it comes to their reproductive health.


Ultimately, with a little patience and understanding, you can indeed help your teenage patients become more compliant with their acne treatments.  


[image by: The Shopping Sherpa]


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