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A Parent's Guide to Treating Teen Acne

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


Updated May 27, 2014

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.

1. Learn the Basics

Acne affects nearly all teens to some degree. But you might be surprised to learn that teen 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.

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

2. Work to Keep Breakouts Mild

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.

3. Open the Lines of Communication

So, you've noticed your teen's face is breaking out. A lot. Many 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 can be really demoralizing to a teenager.

4. Be Prepared for Some Resistance

On the flip side, don't be surprised if your teen doesn't want to talk. Sometimes teens feel ashamed of their skin, and don't want to discuss their acne with anyone. Take the time to read between the lines. Know when to push and when to back off.

Don't let treatment become a power struggle. As a parent, you want to do all you can to help your child, but pushing to hard can cause resentment. Instead of fighting with your teen, it may be best to take a deep breath and let your child take the lead. Give your teen the tools he needs to properly care for his skin, then let him take responsibility for his treatment.

5. Explore Treatment Options

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 Accutane.

Many parents wonder if they should call their child's doctor about acne. But if you aren't seeing noticeable improvement after 10 to 12 weeks of treatment, prescription treatments are needed.

6. Offer Moral Support

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.

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