A Parent's Guide to Treating Teen Acne

6 Steps to Help You Treat Your Child's Teen Acne

Remember your own acne-filled teenage years? It can be even tougher to watch your kid suffer through bouts of pimple-induced anxiety.

But with a bit of know-how, you can greatly reduce, or even completely clear up, your child's acne.  These 7 steps will show you how.

(Got a younger preteen, age 8 to 12, that's breaking out?  This article will give you tips to help your tween: A Parent's Guide to Preteen Acne.)


Photo: Kin Images / Getty Images
Learning the basics of teen acne will help you help your child clear their skin. Photo: Kin Images / Getty Images

Acne affects nearly all teens to some degree. But you might be surprised to learn that acne can appear as early as age nine.

During puberty hormones go into overdrive, stimulating sebaceous glands, causing an oily skin that is more prone to breakouts. Fortunately, most kids outgrow their acne. Until that time, though, you can help keep their acne under control.

Be sure you have all the facts so you can help your teen. Does eating french fries and pizza really cause breakouts? Should you squeeze pimples? By learning the basics, you can help your teen separate acne fact from fiction and answer any questions he may have.



Start teaching basic skin care at a young age. Although acne isn't caused by a lack of cleansing, daily skin care will get rid of oily shine and can help fight the formation of blackheads.

Many times parents wait until their child's acne becomes a major problem before seeking treatment. Instead, start your child on an over-the-counter acne cleanser as soon as you notice even small blemishes.

Remember, it's usually easier to clear a case of mild breakouts than it is to control severe acne. So catching it early is always preferable. Doing so can protect their skin from scarring and preserve their self-esteem.


Open the lines of communication -- gently.

So, you've noticed your teen's face is breaking out. A lot.

Some parents are afraid to bring this up, but if you've noticed a worsening of breakouts your child has too. Don't wait for your teen to ask for help (he may never ask). Take the first step and get the conversation going.

Approach your teen during a quiet time, not while rushing out the door to work or school. Be upfront, but not judgmental. Saying, "I'd like you to start on an acne treatment" will net far better results than "It's no wonder you have pimples with the amount of makeup you wear!"

If your child does open up to you, don't downplay their feelings. A pimple may not seem like a big deal to you, but acne can be really demoralizing to a teenager.


Plenty of treatment options are out there. So many, in fact, that you may wonder where to start.

Over-the-counter products may work, especially if your child's pimples are fairly mild.

For more stubborn or serious cases of acne, prescription medications offer better results. Many teens find topical treatments like Differin, or Benzamycin do the trick. Others may need the help of oral medications like minocycline or even isotretinoin (AKA Accutane).



Yes, acne is a natural, normal part of growing up.  But that doesn't mean your teen needs to suffer through it.  Especially if your teen's acne is severe, scarring can happen that will last on their skin for the rest of their life. 

This is where a dermatologist can be a huge help.  If you aren't seeing noticeable improvement after 10 to 12 weeks of treatment with over-the-counter products, prescription medications are needed.



Your daughter wears heavy makeup to cover pimples. Your son stays away from the pool because of body acne. Acne can absolutely affect your teen's confidence, so they may need a bit more reassurance from Mom or Dad.

Girls, generally, tend to be more open about their feelings. Boys might not come right out and say it, but breakouts bother them too. Even mild acne can feel like a huge catastrophe to a teen.

Offer your support, be involved in their treatment, and help them find areas of interest in which they can really shine. Teens often feel societal pressures to look "perfect." But kids who are involved in other activities like sports, clubs, or volunteer work, draw self-esteem from developing their innate talents and interests.