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Acne is prevalent but use of its treatments is infrequent among adolescents from the general population


*Corresponding author, Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Antwerp, Wilrijkstraat 10, 2650 Edegem, Belgium, tel. +32 3821 3223; fax +32 3825 3428; E-mail:


Background  Little is known about the use of acne treatments among teenagers in the community.

Objectives  To assess the prevalence of use of acne treatments in a general population sample of adolescents and to investigate factors associated with its use.

Methods  During official school examinations, 594 adolescents (14–18 years old) were examined for acne on the face and body using a validated scoring system. In addition, they were interviewed about current and prior treatment use by showing them packages of available (non-)prescription treatments of acne in Belgium.

Results  Despite the high prevalence of acne, its treatments were used infrequently; 13% had used topicals and 5% systemic drugs. Among adolescents who used therapy, benzoylperoxide and oral antibiotics were most often used. Although the likelihood of having used treatment increased significantly for both number of retentional and inflammatory lesions (P ≤ 0.03), only a quarter of those with 20 or more papules and/or pustules had used topical treatment, and 10% systemic therapy. Multivariate logistic regression models demonstrated that girls were about twice as likely to have used topical agents (adjusted OR = 2.30 [95%CI = 1.37, 3.87]). Those with more inflammatory lesions on the face and with more extensive acne on the chest and back were about three times more likely to have used topical and/or systemic acne therapy.

Conclusion  Acne is very common among teenagers but very few have actually used treatments. These findings suggest that it may be worthwhile to better inform the community about acne and its treatment options to reduce acne severity and its impact on those affected.