Montana Public Radio

Kids and Pimples: Dr. Starbuck Explains

Oct 22, 2018

Hi! I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck, a naturopathic family physician. I’m here today with health tips for kids about: pimples. 

Pimples are small inflamed spots on the skin. Pimples show up on kids’ faces, sometimes on their backs or shoulders. If you have lots of pimples, doctors will say you have a skin condition called acne.

Pimples happen in pores which are tiny holes that are all over your skin. At the bottom of the holes are little glands called sebaceous glands. They make sebum, a sticky oil that helps keep your skin and hair moist. Pimples happen when your pores clog up and the sebum can’t get out. Pimples that are red bumps are pore that are closed up and that have a little infection.

‘Blackheads’ – are where the pore is clogged at the bottom but open at the top. The dark you can see is sebum that is stuck down inside the pore.

‘Whiteheads’ are pimples that are bulging out of your skin and that have a white top. The pore is clogged at the bottom and closed at the top. An infection is brewing inside and pushing a small bit of white pus up to the top.

‘Cysts’ are big, bulging, red pimples. With a cyst, the pus burrows down, deep into your skin, making a big red bulge. Cysts can be very painful and sometimes they take a long time to heal and go away. Since about 85% of kids get pimples, it’s good to know how to prevent them and what to do about them if you get them.

Here are my tips: First, wash your face with warm water and gentle soap. Your parents can find all sorts of gentle soap in stores. My favorite is cucumber. When you wash your face, just use your fingers to spread the soap around and to clean your face. Don’t scrub your face and don’t use anything scratchy. All you want to do is to get the dirt and bacteria and dead skin off your face. You are not trying to scrape off a layer of skin!

Second, if you use lotion or sunscreen on your face, wash it off at the end of the day. Wash your face if you’ve been playing outside or you’ve been sweating because sweat and dirt can make your pores clog up if you leave them on your skin for a long while.

Third, don’t pick at your pimples, don’t poke them or pop or rub them. If you bother your pimples, they get worse – they’ll bleed or get really red and could even leave a scar.

Fourth, keep your hair clean so it doesn’t add oil to your skin where it touches. If you have long hair, you might want to wear it pulled back off your face.

Fifth, make healthy choices about your food. Kids who eat lots of sugar, junk food and fried food are more likely to have acne than kids who eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Your skin is not only the protective cover for your body; it’s also an organ that your body uses to get rid of waste. If your food is junky, your waste will be junky and your sebum, the oily stuff that lives in the bottom of pores, will be thick and more likely to get clogged in your pores.

Sixth, drink lots of water. Just like the rest of your body, your skin likes water. It needs water to stay moist and work properly.

Seventh, if you do have pimples, your parents can buy an herbal plant medicine mix that will help. Get a tincture (that’s a liquid medicine) that is a mix of calendula, Echinacea and Oregon grape root. Twice a day use a Q-tip to put a little of the mix on your pimples. These plant medicines will reduce infection, dry out pus, and help heal the skin around the pimples .

Don’t tease kids who have pimples. Just about everyone will have pimples some time, and we all feel a lot better about ourselves when people are kind. I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck and I’m wishing you well.