Acne Treatment for College Students

You’ve left high school behind, so why is acne still hanging around?

It probably won’t make you feel much better, but it's common for college-aged students to have acne.  Lots of people find their teenage acne hangs on into their college years. 

And even if you’ve managed to get through high school with relatively clear skin, acne may surprise you by popping up for the first time now.

Acne is annoying, but you can get it under control.  It just takes a bit of time, patience, and some know-how.

Newly breaking out? Try an OTC acne medication.

Acne often appears during the college years. Photo: Ababsolutum / Getty Images

College is prime time for acne breakouts.  It's not uncommon for acne to appear for the first time during your late teens and early twenties.

If your skin has been relatively clear up until this point, and you're just dealing with mild acne or occasional breakouts and blemishes, over-the-counter acne treatments may be just what you need. 

Not just any product off the shelf will do, though.  The most effective ones contain benzoyl peroxide.  Check the ingredient label. 

And don't worry about buying the most expensive product.  Generic brands work just as well, and fit within your college student budget.

Already on an acne treatment? Take them with you.

Everyone always told you that you'd outgrow your acne once you graduated high school.  Unfortunately, acne doesn't care what age you are.  It's very likely acne with follow you to college.

That's why it's important to take your acne medications with you as you head off to school, and make sure you have a plan to continue getting your prescriptions while you're away from home.

Lots of young adults decide to stop using their acne treatments at this age.  Even if your skin looks good and clear now, it's the treatments that are keeping it that way.  Stop using your medications, and acne is likely to come back.

Consistently use your acne treatments.

Classes, studying, work, and trying to have a life... it's tough to fit it all in.  It's super easy to forget to use your acne treatments every day. Plus, Mom and Dad probably aren't around to remind you anymore!

Acne treatments only work if they're used very consistently.  Skipping doses or forgetting days will come back to haunt you.  

Sure, it's tempting to want to just fall into bed after a long day.  And it's easy to skip treatments when you're rushing to get to class on time in the morning (or pulling an all-night study session.) 

Most people think their treatments aren't working, when in all actuality they aren't using them as they should.  So, if you really want to see improvement in your skin you've got to make using your treatments a priority.

Help!  I Keep Forgetting to Use My Acne Treatments

Don't hang your hopes on home remedies.

Acne treatment advice seems to run rampant on college campuses.  From kitchen remedies, like garlic and apple cider vinegar, to the more bizarre milk of magnesia or urine, it seems like everyone has their own "sure-fire" remedy to share.  

As tempting as it may be to give these a try (OK, urine isn't all that tempting) there are no home remedies that have been proven effective against acne.  

At best, you'll waste time trying remedies that are never going to work.  At worst, you'll end up with a nasty case of contact dermatitis from putting stuff on your face that was never meant for your face.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and skip these remedies.  Use products that are specifically made to treat acne. 

The Best (and Worst) Home Remedies for Acne

Acne Treatment Myths

See a dermatologist.

Acne isn't all that easy to treat, as you're probably finding out.  If you've tried to take care of it on your own without much luck, or if your acne is fairly inflamed, painful, or severe, have a physician take a look. 

If you’re still on your parents' health insurance, making an appointment is obviously easier.  But if not, see if your student health center can direct you to a clinic.  Even if you can't see a dermatologist right away, a general practice physician can still help get you started on treatment.

Don't wait!  Acne doesn't have to control your college years.  You can get it cleared.

Next Step:  Clear-Skin Tips for College Students


Whitney KM, Ditre C. "Management strategies for acne vulgaris." Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2011; 4: 41–53.

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