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  • Writer's pictureRachel Cootes

Understanding your teenagers acne

boy with acne looking in mirror

What is Acne?

Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of teenagers worldwide. It occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, leading to the formation of pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. While acne can appear on various parts of the body, it is most commonly found on the face, forehead, chest, upper back, and shoulders.

Why Do Teenagers Get Acne?

Teenagers are particularly prone to acne due to hormonal changes during puberty. During this period, the body produces more androgens, which are hormones that increase the size and activity of oil glands in the skin. This leads to an overproduction of sebum, an oily substance that can clog pores. Additionally, the shedding of dead skin cells can block these pores, creating an environment where bacteria thrive, further contributing to acne.

Other factors that can exacerbate acne in teenagers include:

  • Genetics: If your parents had acne, you are more likely to develop it.

  • Stress: High stress levels can increase the production of hormones that worsen acne.

  • Skincare products: Using products that are not non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging) can contribute to acne.

Mental Strains of Teenage Acne

The physical impact of acne is often accompanied by significant emotional and psychological stress. Acne can lead to:

  1. Low Self-Esteem: Visible skin issues can make teenagers feel self-conscious and affect their confidence.

  2. Social Withdrawal: Fear of judgment or teasing can cause teens to avoid social interactions, leading to isolation.

  3. Depression and Anxiety: Persistent acne can contribute to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety, impacting overall mental health.

  4. Body Image Issues: Constant comparison with peers or media standards can lead to negative body image and dissatisfaction with one’s appearance.

  5. Academic Performance: Stress and emotional strain from acne can affect concentration and academic performance.

teenage girl with acne smiling

How Can Teenagers Reduce the Risk of Getting Acne?

While it may not be possible to completely prevent acne, teenagers can take steps to reduce their risk:

  1. Keep the skin clean: Wash your face twice daily with a gentle cleanser to remove excess oil and dirt. If you wear make up or SPF then encourage a double cleanse in the evening to ensure everything is well removed.

  2. Avoid harsh scrubbing & over cleansing : Scrubbing and cleansing the skin more than twice a day can irritate it and worsen acne.

  3. Use non-comedogenic products: Choose skincare and makeup products that do not clog pores (use google to check any products you have).

  4. Shampoo regularly: If you have oily hair, washing it regularly can help keep oil from transferring to your face.

  5. Maintain a healthy diet: While the link between diet and acne is still being studied, a balanced diet can promote overall skin health.

  6. Manage stress: Techniques such as exercise, meditation, and adequate sleep can help manage stress levels.

What Can Parents Do at Home to Help Teenagers with Acne?

Parents can play a crucial role in helping teenagers manage their acne:

  1. Encourage a consistent skincare routine: Help your teen establish a daily routine that includes cleansing, moisturizing, and using acne treatment products if needed.

  2. Promote healthy habits: Encourage a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.

  3. Avoid blaming or shaming: Acne can be a sensitive issue; offer support and understanding instead of criticism.

  4. Educate on proper skincare: Teach your teen about the importance of not picking or squeezing pimples, which can lead to scarring.

  5. Monitor skincare products: Ensure that all skincare and haircare products used are non-comedogenic and suitable for acne-prone skin.

  6. Seek professional help: If over-the-counter treatments are not effective, consider consulting your GP or a dermatologist.

  7. Promote cleanliness: encourage teenagers to change their towels and pillow cases frequently as these are perfect environments for bacteria to thrive

Tips for Minimising Teenage Acne

  1. Gentle Cleansing: Use a mild cleanser suitable for acne-prone skin and avoid scrubbing the skin harshly.

  2. Hydration: Keep the skin hydrated with a non-comedogenic moisturizer.

  3. Sun Protection: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect the skin from UV rays, which can worsen acne and cause hyperpigmentation.

  4. Avoid Touching the Face: Hands can transfer oil and bacteria to the face, so it's best to avoid touching it frequently.

  5. Regular Exercise: Physical activity helps improve blood circulation and reduce stress, which can help control acne.

  6. SLS free shampoos: Use shampoos, conditioners & toothpastes free from Sodium Lauryl Sulfate which distrupts the PH of the skin and the oil production levels both of which contribute towards acne

How Can Teenage Acne Be Treated?

Several treatments are available for teenage acne, ranging from over-the-counter solutions to prescription medications:

  1. Over-the-Counter Treatments:

  • Benzoyl Peroxide: Helps kill acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation.

  • Salicylic Acid: Helps unclog pores by promoting the shedding of dead skin cells.

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): Help reduce inflammation and exfoliate the skin.

  1. Prescription Treatments (requires GP appointment)

  • Topical Retinoids: Help unclog pores and reduce the formation of acne lesions.

  • Topical Antibiotics: Reduce bacteria and inflammation on the skin.

  • Oral Antibiotics: Used for moderate to severe acne to reduce bacteria and inflammation.

  • Oral Contraceptives: Can help regulate hormones that contribute to acne in some teenage girls.

  • Isotretinoin: A powerful medication used for severe, resistant acne. It is usually considered when other treatments fail.

  1. Professional Treatments:

  • Chemical Peels: Help exfoliate the skin and reduce acne lesions.

  • Laser and Light Therapy: Target bacteria and reduce inflammation.

  • Extraction Procedures: Performed by dermatologists to remove large cysts or persistent blackheads and whiteheads.


Acne is a common but manageable condition that affects many teenagers. By understanding its causes and implementing preventive measures, teenagers can reduce the risk of developing acne. Parents can provide invaluable support through education and encouragement, helping their teens navigate this challenging period with confidence. If necessary, professional treatments can offer effective solutions for more severe cases, ensuring that acne does not leave lasting physical or emotional scars. Seek GP support if you are struggling to manage your teenagers acne with OTC products or if their mental wellbeing is taking a knock due to their acne.

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