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How to Get Rid of Teen Acne

Tags: acne skin

Acne is a Skin disorder caused by inflammation of hair follicles and oil glands.[1] It's a very common condition among teens due to hormonal changes, and possibly improper skin cleansing and dietary triggers. Acne affects an estimated 85% of teens, usually starting at the age of 11 for girls and a few years later for boys.[2] Effective acne treatment involves deep cleansing, exfoliating, dietary change and using effective medications.


EditGetting Rid of Acne at Home

  1. Wash your face regularly. Acne in teens is caused by several factors, but removing excess oils and grime from your face at least twice daily can help prevent pores from getting clogged and inflamed.[3] Use an oil-free cleanser and thoroughly wash your entire face (particularly your forehead) in the morning, just prior to going to bed, and after exercising.
    Get Rid of Teen Acne Step 1.jpg
    • Gentle face washing on a regular basis is certainly helpful, but too much scrubbing can irritate pimples (whiteheads and blackheads) and lead to more inflammation and redness.
    • Use mild cleansers such as Cetaphil, Aveeno acne bar or Neutrogena Acne Wash.
    • The early teen years is when the skin's oil glands produce more sebum (oil) due to hormonal changes, which blocks pores and irritates hair follicles.[4] Sometimes bacteria grow within the blocked pores, causing more inflammation, redness and pustules.
  2. Don't forget to exfoliate. Exfoliating is also important for healthy skin because it removes the surface layer of dead cells and helps to clean out clogged pores and remove superficial blackheads.[5] Use exfoliating pads made especially for the face and make sure both the pad and your face are wet / moist. Apply a little bit of mild cleanser (see above) to the pad and lightly exfoliate in circular motions all over your face. Then rinse with water and thoroughly dry your face (by patting it) with a clean cloth or paper towel.
    Get Rid of Teen Acne Step 2.jpg
    • You shouldn't exfoliate every time you wash your face — it'll likely irritate your skin. Instead, aim to exfoliate two to three times per week.
    • Make sure to keep your exfoliating pads sanitized. Spray some hydrogen peroxide on them after use or toss them in the microwave for a minute or so — both methods will kill bacteria and most types of molds (fungi).
  3. Consider using herbal remedies. There are many plant-based remedies that teens and adults use to combat acne outbreaks, although scientific studies proving their effectiveness are usually limited. Some work as antiseptics (kill bacteria), others as anti-inflammatories or antioxidants, and still others as exfoliating (peeling) agents. Commonly used plant-based remedies for acne include: tea tree oil extract, lemon juice extract, azelaic acid cream, licorice root extract, raw (unripe) papaya fruit, green tea extract and aloe vera gel.[6] Applying herbal lotions and ointments to pimples at night after you exfoliate the area may be more effective because the medicinal plant compounds may be able to penetrate deeper underneath the surface layer of the skin. Allow herbal treatments a few weeks to be effective.
    Get Rid of Teen Acne Step 3.jpg
    • For acute (inflamed) acne, aloe vera is a good choice because of its mildly anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, as well as its powerful ability to heal skin.[7]
    • Tea tree oil is a strong antibacterial that's a good choice for applying to a popped whitehead or pustule. Be careful, as tea tree oil can irritate some people's skin.
    • Lemon juice extract (mainly citric and ascorbic acids) not only kills bacteria and removes oil from pores, but it can help to fade (bleach) older blemishes and acne scars
  4. Avoid touching your face. Many teens habitually touch their face and unconsciously pick at their pimples, but that only makes acne worse.[8] Bacteria can easily transfer from your hands and fingernails to your face and start growing in clogged pores. Therefore, you should avoid habitually resting your head in your hands or sleeping with your face touching your arms or hands.
    Get Rid of Teen Acne Step 4.jpg
    • Popping your pimples might seem like a quick and easy fix, but it can cause inflammation, infection and scarring. Letting acne run its course often leaves smooth, healed skin in the long run.
    • Many dermatologists recommend not popping or squeezing your own pimples. Instead, they suggest leaving it to a skin specialist.[9]
  5. Don't use excessive makeup and lotions. During an acne breakout, use as little makeup as possible because it can easily clog pores and promote the formation of pimples. Lipstick and eyeshadow is likely fine, but avoid applying heavy foundation, face powder and blush to areas affected by acne — especially cosmetic products that are oil-based.[10] The same holds true for moisturizers. Although keeping your face moisturized is helpful for preventing and combating acne and the dryness that some acne medications can cause, any lotions and creams your use should be water-based, not oil-based.
    Get Rid of Teen Acne Step 5.jpg
    • When choosing makeup for acne-prone skin, look for "oil-free", "noncomedogenic", "water-based", "mineral-based" or "nonacnegenic."
    • Oil-free lotions (such as Complex 15, Cetaphil, Aveeno, and Eucerin) and sunscreens (Neutrogena or Coppertone Oil-free Sunscreen) are good choices if you have acne.
    • When using moisturizer, buy brands that are labelled "non-comedogenic pH balanced", which means it's not too acidic and won't block your pores.
  6. Keep well hydrated and eat healthy. For skin to maintain its health, it needs lots of water and essential nutrients, such as vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids. Water is lost in large quantities daily, so you need to replace it regularly. Unfortunately, your skin is usually the last organ to get replenished with water.[11] As such, aim for 8 eight-ounce glasses of purified water on a daily basis. Skin also needs nutrients, so avoid junk food with refined sugars and focus more on whole grains, beans, nuts and fresh fruits and vegetables.
    Get Rid of Teen Acne Step 6.jpg
    • Foods that cause your blood sugar to spike, such as simple sugars found in sweets like cookies, candy, and white grains, cause insulin overproduction, which may in turn increase oil production in the oil glands of your skin.
    • Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, papaya and strawberries — vitamin C is needed to make collagen within skin.
    • Some teens are allergic to dairy products (not just lactose intolerant), so their acne outbreaks may be triggered by drinking milk products and eating cheese, chocolate or ice cream. This is uncommon; however, some experts think that excess dairy products can lead to acne breakouts in some people.

EditUsing Acne Medications

  1. Try products containing benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide can be found in many over-the-counter acne medications because it can kill bacteria, unplug oil ducts and help to heal acne / pimples.[12] Start cautiously with a 2.5% or 5% gel or lotion once a day, after you wash your face at night. After about a week, apply it twice daily for at least a couple of weeks and see if your acne fades away. If it doesn't, start the process over with a 10% solution. Any product stronger than 10% needs a doctor's prescription.
    Get Rid of Teen Acne Step 7.jpg
    • You should see improvement after about four to six weeks, so be patient and keep using the product as directed. Continue using it regularly, either a daily or a few times per week, even after the acne’s been contained to prevent it from coming back.
    • Products containing benzoyl peroxide tend to dry the skin out, so be prepared to use a water-based moisturizer.
    • Benzoyl peroxide is available in lotions, gels, creams, ointments, cleaners and foams in virtually all pharmacies.
  2. Experiment with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). AHAs such as glycolic acid and lactic acid have been used for many years by dermatologists to treat acne, typically as facial peels using 20–30% solutions.[13] The acids cause the surface layer of skin to shed, which has an exfoliating effect on acne. Many over-the-counter products such as facial washes and moisturizers contain a 4-6% concentration of AHAs. These products can be used daily as facial cleansers in order to deter acne, but the stronger solutions have more success with combating acne breakouts.
    Get Rid of Teen Acne Step 8.jpg
    • AHAs can sting a little upon application and initially cause the acne and surrounding skin to look red and irritated before the medicinal benefits kick in.
    • Many well-known skin care companies (Oil-Of-Olay, Ponds, Clinique, Neutrogena) make products containing AHAs.
    • You may also want to try beta hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid.
  3. Ask your doctor about retinoids. Retinoids are a group of medications derived from vitamin A (such as retinol, Retin-A, Stieva-A, Avita,Tazorac) that control growth and differentiation of skin cells, reduce inflammation, deter bacterial growth and strengthen your immune response.[14] Retinoids can be very effective when used for acne, although they often cause a lot of peeling when you first start using them and make the skin very sensitive to sunlight. Retinoid products are available in many over-the-counter products, but stronger topicals and pills still require a doctor's prescription.
    Get Rid of Teen Acne Step 9.jpg
    • Retinoids should only be applied to acne at night, because it makes your skin more susceptible to sunburn.
    • Retinoids are a great choice for long-term use for treatment and prevention of breakouts as well as reducing scars from breakouts.
    • It may take two to three months to see improvement in your acne when using retinoids, and your skin may look worse for the first few weeks, but be patient and stick with it.
    • Studies suggests that Tazorac (0.1% cream) may be the most effective for treating acne pustules (whiteheads).[15]
    • A very strong oral prescription retinoid called Accutane (isotretinoin) is reserved for teens who have severe cystic acne (large painful pustules) with lots of scarring. It works as a strong anti-inflammatory and decreases the size of the sebaceous (oil) glands.[16]
  4. Consider prescription antibiotics. Bacteria growth within clogged skin pores is a common cause of whiteheads or pustules. Thus, using topical antibiotic creams or ointments can be helpful in treating acute (inflamed) acne, which is similar to a skin infection.[17] Topical antibiotics are often combined with retinoids or benzoyl peroxide for the first few months of treatment — sort of a one-two punch for acne. When combined, the topical antibiotic is applied in the morning and the topical retinoid in the evening before bedtime.
    Get Rid of Teen Acne Step 10.jpg
    • Combo products include clindamycin with benzoyl peroxide (Benzaclin, Duac, Acanya) and erythromycin with benzoyl peroxide (Benzamycin) or clindamycin and tretinoin (Ziana).
    • Antibiotic pills (taken orally) are more effective at treating moderate-to-severe acne caused by overactive oil glands, but they cause more more side effects (upset stomach, nausea, dizziness and sun-sensitivity) than topical treatments.[18] The most common types are tetracyclines, such as minocycline and doxycycline.
    • Oral antibiotics are usually used for just a few months to help control larger acne bumps while the topical treatments have time to take effect.



  • Your pillowcase likely has bacteria, oils, dust and other acne-triggering agents on it, so change it frequently — at least a couple times per week.
  • Heredity (genetics) plays a role in getting acne, as well as its severity. As such, if your mother and father had bad acne, you are at greater risk for it.
  • The acne some teens get is different from the kind that affects adults. “Acne vulgaris” is common among teenagers, whose bodies are going through big hormonal changes.
  • Anyone can get acne, but it often gets worse in teenage boys because they produce more skin oils due to increased levels of testosterone.
  • Talk to your doctor or dermatologist if you are unsure of what to use for your acne or if what you are using isn't working as well as you'd like. Your dermatologist may also offer alternative treatments such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or laser or light treatments to help clear your skin.
  • Another great tip is to use toothpaste. Put a little on an active spot at night, and it may be better in the morning.
  • If you're not sure which acne product to start with, then go with one that contains benzoyl peroxide. It's effective and well-tolerated by most people, and results can often be seen within a week or so.
  • Oral contraceptives (birth control) can be an effective acne treatment for teenage girls. These pills regulate hormonal imbalances and tame overactive sebaceous glands. Side effects including nausea, weight gain, increased risk of blood clots and breast tenderness.

EditRelated wikiHows

  • Use Biore Pore Cleansing Strips
  • Treat Acne (Teen Boys)
  • Treat Acne (Teenage Girls)
  • Get Rid of Acne
  • Get Rid of Acne (For Women)
  • Treat Acne with Facials

EditSources and Citations

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How to Get Rid of Teen Acne


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