Employee & Community Health

10 tips for coping with teen acne

6/6/2019 by Dr. Marcie Billings

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Just when you think you've got them beat, another zit pops up. It's so frustrating! Whether you call them zits, pimples, blackheads, whiteheads — they are all a form of acne. 

Acne is a skin condition caused by hair follicles becoming plugged with oil and dead skin cells. It can appear on the face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders. Unfortunately, they heal slowly and just when one begins to go away, others crop up. 

Here are 10 tips for coping with acne and helping minimize the severity and duration of outbreaks:

  1. Be kind to your skin. Whether you're experiencing an outbreak or not, use a gentle facial cleanser and avoid scrubs, astringents and masks, as well as excessive washing and scrubbing. 
  2. Keep your hair and body clean. Use shampoo every day, especially if your hair is oily, you wear a hat or helmet during sports or exercise, or you have problems with acne around your hairline. Shower after activities that make you sweat. 
  3. Treat acne early. It's easier to deal with a few pimples than a full breakout. 
  4. Use over-the-counter (OTC) acne cleansers. Look for ones that contain topical benzoyl peroxide as the main ingredient. Apply with your fingertips and rinse with warm water. 
  5. After washing, treat with a topical product. Ones containing adapalene help unclog pores and prevent new outbreaks. Be sure to use any OTC product according to the directions. More is not better and may cause side effects. 
  6. Parents, remind your teen to use their acne treatment, but don't nag.
  7. Don't pick at your zits. It can make the breakout worse and cause scarring. 
  8. Protect your skin from the sun. Sun exposure can make acne worse, and some medications make skin more susceptible to sunburn. Choose a sunscreen formulated for faces to avoid making acne worse. 
  9. Be aware of items that cause friction or pressure. These include phones, helmets, backpacks, tight collars and straps. 
  10. Manage your stress. Stress can cause an acne flare-up. 

If self-care doesn't clear up your acne, see your primary care provider. They can prescribe stronger medications and determine if you may need to seek specialized care. 

Dr. Marcie Billings is division chair of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM) within Employee and Community Health (ECH). Her primary area of practice and special interest is adolescent medicine.