There are a variety of acne treatments that a teenager can try to help ease the symptoms and prevent future breakouts.
Most teenagers experience acne as they go through puberty. For some, it can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.
However, a range of treatments can help, including medication and home remedies.
This article will look at the main types of acne a teenager might have, offer some practical tips on managing the condition at home, and explain when to see a doctor.
As a teenager goes through puberty, increased levels of some hormones prompt the glands in the skin to produce more sebum than they usually do.
Sebum is an oily substance that the body secretes through the hair follicles to lubricate and protect the skin. When there is too much of this substance, however, it can mix with dead skin cells to block the hair follicles. This can result in spots or pimples.
Hormonal changes are a common cause of teenage acne. Learn more about hormonal acne here.
There are three main types of acne that affect teenagers. These are:
Doctors call blackheads and whiteheads comedones, or non-inflammatory acne lesions. Comedonal acne causes blackheads and whiteheads.
Whiteheads are known as closed comedones, and blackheads are known as open comedones. Blackheads are like whiteheads, but their contents have been exposed to the outside air, which makes them turn black.
People with inflammatory acne have red or tender spots. Doctors call these spots papules.
They start as comedones and grow as the blockage mixes with bacteria on the skin and becomes inflamed. Some teenagers may find that these papules fill with pus. Doctors call these spots pustules.
Cystic acne is the most severe type of acne. It can cause large breakouts of spots that can cover the face, chest, back, jawline, or neck. It can also develop on the buttocks.
These spots are often painful and can extend deep into the skin. Doctors call these spots cysts and nodules.
Cystic acne can cause scarring. Learn about treating acne scarring here.
The best products and medications to use will depend on the type and severity of the acne.
Lots of different acne treatments are available. Some are creams and lotions that a person can apply directly to the skin. Others come in pill or tablet form.
Creams and lotions that might help mild or moderate acne include products that contain:
- benzoyl peroxide
- salicylic acid
Teenagers who have severe acne may benefit from medications that are only available with a prescription. These might include:
- oral contraceptives, in people with acne linked to their menstrual cycle
- steroid injections
- photodynamic therapy
- chemical peels
It is important to note that most treatments do not cure acne, but they can improve the way it looks. It might take 4–8 weeks to see any results.
Anyone who tries over-the-counter remedies without seeing positive results can speak to a doctor about stronger prescription medications.
There are certain things a teenager can do at home that might help reduce the appearance of acne. These include:
- using a gentle, nonabrasive cleanser
- using skin products that are free from alcohol, astringents, toners, and exfoliants
- washing the face with the fingertips rather than a washcloth or sponge
- never scrubbing the skin
- regularly shampooing oily hair
- avoiding touching the face
There are some other practical measures that people can take to help reduce the severity or frequency of acne. These include:
- washing twice per day and as soon as possible after sweating
- not popping or squeezing spots and pimples
- not using sunbeds
Experts have not found a link between diet and acne. Hormonal changes during puberty are the main cause of acne in teenagers.
Although eating a healthful, balanced diet and avoiding sugary foods will have little effect on acne, it will have other health benefits.
Dermatologists also believe that stress can make acne worse. Some ways to reduce stress in everyday life include:
- taking daily exercise
- practicing yoga
- doing breathing exercises
Most teenagers grow out of acne as they get older and exit puberty. When that might happen is different for everyone.
Some people will still experience acne in adulthood.
Teenagers can find it difficult to live with acne. The American Academy of Dermatology (ADD) offer the following advice to parents and caregivers of teenagers with acne:
- Take it seriously: Parents should not dismiss acne. It can affect teenagers’ self-esteem and potentially lead to bullying.
- Try to reduce stress: Stress can make acne flare up and worsen.
- Look for symptoms of depression: For some teenagers, acne can cause a drop in self-esteem, leading to anxiety or depression. Some warning signs to look out for include being sad for 2 weeks or more, losing interest in the activities they used to love, and a tendency to avoid social activities.
Acne will usually go away on its own, but some teenagers find that it interferes with their daily life. Anyone who feels that their acne is making them feel sad or anxious should speak to a doctor.
Severe acne can scar the skin. People who notice that acne is leaving marks or darkening the skin should speak to a doctor.
According to the ADD, it may be a good idea for a teenager to speak to the doctor alone for a portion of the appointment. This can make it easier for them to talk about their skin condition and how it makes them feel.
Most teenagers who experience acne will eventually grow out of it. When this happens is different for everyone. In fact, some people may still have acne in adulthood.
There are many different treatments and medications available for those who find that acne is interfering with their everyday life. Although these will not cure the condition, they can make the skin look better and boost a person’s self-esteem.
Anyone with severe or chronic acne should see a doctor to discuss treatment options.