A Blog From Your Kaiser Permanente Physicians

Teen Acne

Helping Your Teen with Acne – 8 First Steps

My children think I’m obsessed with looking out for teens’ skin! They may be right. Acne is a problem that I care about! Having acne can be more than just a nuisance – it can seriously affect a kid’s self-esteem and cause lifelong scars.

Let’s look at how to help your teen put their best face forward.

  1. Acne can be treated. Seriously, this is a fact that many parents are unaware of. Your teens don’t have to suffer through acne – it can be treated and they can look great! Left untreated, acne can leave scars. Often mild acne responds well to over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide. Start using this, and if it’s not helping after 2 months, ask their pediatrician for help.
  2. That’s right – Get help from a pediatrician. Parents often ask for a referral to a dermatologist for their kids’ acne. You don’t need a specialist to treat most acne. Your pediatrician has all the tools and training needed to help your child and will know when a referral is needed. Think of it this way: Who sees more teens day in and day out and therefore sees more acne? Your pediatrician. We’ve got this one covered for you!
  3. It isn’t about dirt. You can’t scrub, peel, or wash acne away. In fact, all those over-the-counter scrubs and cleansing tools may make your teen’s acne look worse. Have them wash their face with a gentle soap like Cetaphil or Dove.
  4. It isn’t about what they eat. Shhhhhhh . . . Please don’t tell them this but they don’t have acne because of eating all that junk food. We can let them be motivated to eat well for the sake of their skin, though.
  5. Acne is caused by genetics and hormones. As hormones change in puberty, acne can be triggered. It often runs in families.
  6. Picking is the pits. Picking, popping, and squeezing will cause damage that makes even minor acne look awful. The red and dark marks left behind after this trauma to the skin can last for months. Let your teens know that if they stop picking at their skin, they’ll look better within a few months!
  7. Treatment requires patience. Acne will improve with treatment, but slowly. I often warn teens to not expect any change for months – even when they’re diligently using their medication every day.
  8. There are many treatment options. From creams and gels to antibiotics and hormones, we have medications that will help teens look and feel their best. After starting one medication, check back with your pediatrician with a video visit in 2 to 3 months to see if a change should be made. Or, if something that previously worked doesn’t seem to anymore, please let us know.

To understand more about what causes acne and how to treat it, see Acne in Teens on My Doctor Online.

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