What Parents Need to Know About Managing Teen Acne

Just like school dances and football games, acne is a rite of passage that most children will experience as they approach adulthood. This can be a stressful time for both children and parents.

Stanford Medicine Children’s Health pediatrician Nivedita More, MD, of Bayside Medical Group – Fremont, shares some tips for parents to help their children cope with acne. Pediatrician Nora Fahden, MD, of Bayside Medical Group – San Ramon also explores this topic in a HealthTalks podcast.


Educate your child about acne

As a parent, one helpful thing you can do is educate your child about acne. Although it’s small comfort when your child is in the throes of a breakout, acne is a very common ailment and is a natural part of growing up.

“Just about everybody gets acne at some point,” Dr. More said. “Believe it or not, acne is the most common skin disorder. It peaks in adolescence and affects more than 80% to 85% of youths, especially between the ages of 12 and 30.”

The trademark whiteheads and/or blackheads can appear anywhere, but often they are found on the face, which can be very embarrassing for teens and tweens. Dr. More encourages parents to let their kids know that it’s temporary and usually goes away on its own.

Help kids take care of their skin

Since acne is largely caused by hormones, there is not much that teens can do to prevent a breakout. However, good hygiene can help minimize acne. Encourage your child to wash their face with a gentle cleanser and moisturize every day. It’s also important to remind them to avoid touching their face or popping pimples, as this can spread the bacteria that contributes to breakouts.

“Skin care products that clog skin pores or hair follicles play an additional role in the formation of acne,” Dr. More explained. “Hence, it’s important to use products that are noncomedogenic, or non-acne-forming products and cosmetics.”

She also urges parents to help kids stay away from abrasive scrubs and harsh cleansers, as they can do more harm than good. Washing the face with a gentle cleanser, along with using an oil-free moisturizer and sunscreen every day, helps teens maintain healthy skin and keep acne-causing bacteria at bay.

How to treat a breakout

Once your child starts getting breakouts, Dr. More suggests beginning use of mild skin products and treatments.

“The first thing I recommend for teenagers when they come in with acne is to start with over-the-counter management,” she said. “Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are readily available, and they can be used by teenagers.” For teens who wear makeup, removing it at the end of the day is also essential to avoid making the pimples worse.

The important thing to remember when treating acne is that it takes time to see results. “Unfortunately, anything that we do is not going to change acne overnight,” Dr. More said. “Skin regeneration actually takes about a month and a half to two months sometimes. So, these teenagers need to be patient. They need to understand that it’s going to take weeks, if not a couple of months, before the treatments begin to make a difference.”

When to seek professional help

If your child doesn’t start to see results after a few months of over-the-counter treatment, or their acne is severe, it’s probably time to check in with their pediatrician or a dermatologist. A health care professional can prescribe medication and provide additional treatment options.

“If you’ve given it a good two, three months, and things are not looking better, it is a great idea to see a provider,” Dr. More advised. “I really emphasize the need for early management of moderate to severe acne. It can help prevent scarring from acne, which is really hard to treat.”

While there is a lot that doctors can do to help your teen manage their acne, families also need to understand what to expect from acne treatments.

“The goal is to reduce the severity of the acne and reduce the scarring and pigmentation on the face, rather than to make it completely disappear,” Dr. More stated. “Realistically, most of the treatments can’t get rid of acne completely, since the hormones are still going; they’re still not done being a teenager, you know.”

Provide support and understanding

Acne can be frustrating and embarrassing for your teen. Dr. More encourages parents to be supportive and understanding, especially if a child has severe acne.

“Sometimes they feel so stigmatized with how they look that they don’t want to participate in activities,” she shared. “Try to avoid commenting on what your teenager is doing wrong; it is better to focus on what they’re doing right. Talk to them about being patient and to look at the end goal as seeing the reduction of acne severity rather than making it disappear.”

Read “How Parents Can Help Prevent Food Allergies in Kids” or listen to the podcast “Caring for Your Child’s Skin” for additional advice from Dr. More. Or, learn more about acne and children.


One Response to “What Parents Need to Know About Managing Teen Acne”

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