Teens and acne: Top tips to clearer skin

Teens and acne: Top tips to clearer skin


Eighty-five percent of teenagers are affected by acne during their teenage years and more than 50 million people have acne in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. June is acne awareness month and we asked UC Davis pediatric dermatologist Smita Awasthi for her top tips to help teens on the path to clearer skin. 

What age does acne typically start?

Acne affects around 80% of people at some point between 11-30 years of age. Typical acne can start as early as 7 years old. It tends to occur around the onset of puberty. 

Washing your face twice daily can help keep acne away.

What are some prevention tips?

The tendency to develop acne is, in part, familial, so it usually can't be prevented entirely, but there are several things that can help: 

  • Wash your face twice daily
  • Use products that are oil-free
  • Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet, including vegetables.   

How often should teens be washing their face?

Teens should wash their face twice a day to remove excess oil, dirt and makeup using a gentle cleanser. 

What can teens do to treat their acne? Are there over-the-counter products that they should try?

If washing twice a day with a gentle cleanser is not enough, I'd recommend first trying an acne cleanser with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. 

If the acne continues, a topical retinoid, a vitamin A-derived medication, can be quite helpful. Adapalene 0.1% gel is a retinoid that is available over the counter. Benzoyl peroxide creams can also be helpful. Azelaic acid can also work well, especially in treating dark spots left behind by acne.   

Do facials help?

Sometimes facials can help, but not always. Harsh scrubbing and manipulation can increase inflammation and worsen acne or increase the risk of scarring.

What are prescription treatment options that are available?

There are several prescription options for the treatment of acne. Topical retinoids, topical antibiotics and other anti-inflammatory topical medications can be helpful. Common oral options include oral antibiotics, hormonal control methods (birth control, spironolactone), and isotretinion.   

When should teens consider a dermatology visit?

Teens should visit their dermatologist if: 

  • They feel they have given over-the-counter options a good try
  • They are noticing scarring
  • They are feeling down about their acne. 

Studies show that acne can contribute to low self-esteem and depression.  Since we have treatments that work well for acne, I hope teens realize they do not need to suffer with their acne.    

Related links

All about acne – Kids Considered podcast