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Treating Teen Acne In Girls

10 Things You Must Know About Treating Teen Acne In Girls


Updated May 27, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Lots of teen girls have acne. But knowing you have company still doesn't make you feel much better about your own skin, does it?

You don't have to wait until you "grow out of" acne. With some time and the right treatment, you'll be surprised at how much you can improve your skin.

1. You Didn't Do Anything To Cause Your Acne

Acne isn't your fault. It's caused by many things, all of which are out of your control. So it's not the chocolate bar you ate last night, or the pizza and soda you had over the weekend. It's not because you're not cleaning your face properly. And it's not your makeup (probably).

When it comes down to it, it's the hormonal changes that happen during puberty, plus genetics. Some people are just going to get acne; it's in your genes. So don't feel guilty -- you didn't do anything to cause your acne.

2. Those Products You See On TV Don't Really Work Overnight

You know what I'm talking about, right? Some teenagers, or even celebrities, talking about how such-and-such product started clearing their skin "from the moment I put it on" or how their "breakouts cleared up overnight." It's so tempting!

Those products may actually be effective and might clear up your skin, but none work overnight. Nothing can clear acne that fast, no matter what the ads say.

For an effective OTC treatment, look for one that has benzoyl peroxide. These can be the products from TV, or you can find benzoyl peroxide products at the store too (they often cost less and work just as well.)

Then, use these products for 8-10 weeks before expecting to see a difference in your skin.

3. You Might Need to See a Doctor

If those OTC products aren't doing much for you, a prescription medication might be the trick. This means a trip to your doctor. I know you'd probably rather treat acne on your own with products you find at the store or salon, but sometimes OTC products aren't quite strong enough. In this case, you'll be much happier with a prescription medication, especially once you start seeing results.

Acne is so common in teenagers, your family doctor or pediatrician more than likely has experience treating it. Your doc can prescribe an acne treatment medication, or refer you on to a dermatologist. Don't wait; the sooner you start treatment, the sooner you'll see improvement.

4. You Have to Use Your Treatments Every Day

So you have your treatments all set, whether they're OTC or prescription. Now you have to use them!

Seems like a no-brainer, but actually it's easier than you think to forget your medications. You rush out of the house in the morning for school, or you spend the night at a friend's house and leave your treatments at home. You have lots of activities and interests that keep you on the go. Acne treatments can simply be forgotten about.

The more consistent you are with using your treatments, the better results you're going to see. So do your best not to skip a dose. Set your cell phone to alarm at treatment time, ask your parents to remind you, leave a sticky note on the mirror, anything to get you using your medications every day.

5. Use Them Right

Do you know the most common reason why acne treatments don't work? It's not because they aren't effective; it's that they aren’t being used correctly.

Make sure you're using your treatments correctly: don't spot treat, don't over-apply, and don't jump around between treatments. Stick with something long enough to see results, and use it consistently.

Read all the directions on your medications, and ask your doctor if you have any questions. If you're spending time applying your treatments, you definitely want to make sure you're using them correctly and getting the best results.

6. Be Patient; Acne Takes Time to Treat

Even when you're doing everything right, it takes time to see results. Generally, it's between 8-12 weeks before you really start noticing improvement. That's a long time when you're really desperate for clear skin.

It may seem like, at least at first, your products aren't working at all. You're old pimples won't fade super fast, and you'll still get some new pimples. It's frustrating and you'll feel like giving up. Don't! Keep using your treatments even if you don't see results right away.

7. Makeup Is OK, Just Wash It Off At Night

While you're waiting for your acne to clear up, you can cover it up if you want to. Yes, you can wear makeup even if you have acne. It won't make acne worse, so long as you choose the right makeup (easier than you think) and make sure to wash it off at night.

8. Girls Get Body Acne Too (It's OK)

Those pimples can pop up on the most annoying places. Acne often occurs on the back, neck, chest and shoulders. Body acne makes some girls feel uncomfortable wearing tank tops, spaghetti straps and swimsuits. Even finding a prom dress can be an exercise in frustration when you have body acne.

Here's a little secret -- lots of girls have body breakouts. But it can be treated. You might want to start with a body wash or bar containing benzoyl peroxide (5%-10% strength). Use that daily for a few weeks. If you aren't seeing results, talk to your doctor. Body acne can be stubborn, so a prescription medication is often a good idea.

9. You'll Have to Use Treatments Even After Your Acne Clears

Yay! Your skin has cleared up! But don't stop using your treatments too soon.

You'll probably have to keep using your treatments even after your skin has cleared up. If you stop using them, acne will most likely come back.

This doesn't mean the medication didn't work properly. Acne treatments don't cure acne and don't keep it from ever coming back. They just control the factors that cause acne. Stop using your acne treatments, and acne will come back. (Isotretinoin, also known as Accutane, is one exception. This medication isn't used long-term, and acne usually doesn't come back.)

So, plan on sticking with your treatment for a while. Eventually, your skin will stop breaking out on its own and you'll be able to stop treatments for good. Until then, just work with it.

10. Feeling Down? There's Hope and Help

Acne can affect your life. It can make you feel depressed, angry, hopeless. It can affect your self-confidence and your self-esteem. It can be hard to admit that acne has that much control over us, but your feelings are normal.

Starting on a good treatment plan is step one, and can make you feel more in control of your skin and your life. Try to focus on things that make you feel good about yourself. Maybe you're a great artist or softball player, talented musician or budding fashionista. Remember those things you like about yourself.

Talking to someone else can also help. Sure, you may feel a bit embarrassed at first to be talking about your skin problems, but those who are close to you and love you will understand. Talk to your parents, your best friend, a favorite teacher, relative, or clergy person. This is especially true if you feel like acne is overwhelming your life.

Even though having teen acne is hard, you can get through this period in your life. You can see your acne improve, and you can feel good about yourself!

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