Why Do I Have Teen Acne?

What Causes Teen Acne and What You Can Do To Clear It

Teen cleaning face with cotton pad.
Even if you take great care of your skin, you make still get pimples.. Image: BSIP / UIG / Getty Images

You take great care of your skin.  You wash your face three times a day.  You don't eat chocolate or drink soda.  So why do you still have acne? 

Although it's super frustrating, and doesn't seem fair, acne during the teen years is extremely common.  So common that nearly every teenager gets it at some point.   

Blocked Pores and Bacteria

First, know that you didn't do anything to cause your acne. Acne is caused by factors that are out of your control.

Pimples begin deep down in the skin, where you can't see. Oil and dead skin cells block the pore, creating a blackhead or comedo. If bacteria invade, the follicle becomes red and swollen, and a pimple is formed. 

There's a specific type of bacteria, propioni acnes, that cause pimples.  These bacteria are normal residents of the skin, but people with acne they tend to be more sensitive to them.

Having acne doesn't mean your skin is dirty, or that you aren't doing a good job at cleansing your skin. In fact, overzealous cleansing and vigorous scrubbing can make breakouts worse, not better.

Hormones

During the teen years, major hormonal changes are occurring within the body. These hormones, specifically androgen hormones, rev up oil production. This explains why your skin is suddenly much more oily than it was when you were a little kid. And more oil means more pore blockages.

Genetics

Acne runs in families, so if either of your parents had acne you are more likely to have acne too.

Most people outgrow acne, but for some people acne can last well into adulthood. Some people even get acne for the very first time as adults.

Here's What Does Not Cause Acne

Now that you know the basic causes of acne, you should also know what doesn't cause it.  (There are plenty of myths about what causes acne floating around.) 

Masturbation doesn't cause acne.  Neither does having sex.  Or not having sex.

And you don't have to forgo chocolate or other sweets. Most doctors agree that junk foods aren't the cause of your acne.  A nutritious diet is important, but a few treats now and then aren't going to cause pimples.

Ready To Get Rid of Your Acne?  Here's What You Can Do

This doesn't mean you have to wait for acne to go away on its own.  Teen acne can be cleared up, if you get the right treatments. 

First, start with an over-the-counter acne treatment from the store.  Use these every day for a few weeks.  Your skin won't clear overnight, but after a few weeks you should notice clearer skin.  

If your acne isn't getting better with store-bought products, you might need a prescription medication to get it under control.  There are a number of medications available that do a great job of clearing up teen acne. Talk to your parents about seeing a dermatologist, because you don't have to just "deal with" teen acne.  You can get it cleared up with the right treatments.

Next Steps:

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