Teaching Your Teen to Treat Acne (the Right Way)

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The main message is that it’s a natural part of growing up–and it’s manageable

Have you finished your algebra homework? Did you pick up your wet towel off the floor? Who is driving to the cookout? Will their parents be home? What time will you be home?

Oh, the questions parents of teenagers have to ask. And the eye rolls they get in return. It’s just all part of the natural cycle of watching (dealing with) your children growing up. And, as if changing hormones in the teenage years aren’t bad enough (you know, mood swings, changes in height, weight and shape, hair growth in new places), the appearance of acne is just the icing on the cake.

And since your teen is already self-conscious about his or her acne, questioning them about it will only make the eye rolling and moodiness worse. So, rather than nagging them with questions (Did you wash your face? Did you eat French fries for lunch? Why did you eat that extra slice of pizza?), take a more supportive approach and educate them as to what causes their acne and what they can do to manage it.

What causes acne?

While many believe that greasy, sugary foods are the cause of acne, you’ll have to find other reasons to convince your teen to reach for healthier choices. You see, acne is primarily caused by changing hormones. And while adults can also suffer from acne for this same reason, hormones change most consistently and dramatically during the teenage years.

Quite simply, hormones stimulate glands in the pores to make more oil, and oil clogs the pores. When the pores are clogged, bacteria multiply and cause pimples, lesions, or acne.

So how do I talk to my teen about treating acne?

Believe it or not, you were once a teen yourself. Yes, this will come as a shock to your teenager, as he or she thinks you know nothing about what they are going through, but we all know that you’ve lived through the glory days yourself. So take a supportive approach and give them the good news: they don’t have to suffer with acne the way you did. Today, there are high-quality, premium treatments available—and they’re the perfect place to start for glowing skin.

Encourage a daily routine

Following a daily skincare routine may be the last thing your teen wants to do, but when he or she sees the rewards of following a regiment to prevent acne, things will change for the better.

1. Start with gently washing twice a day. Using just the fingertips and lukewarm water, gently wash skin once a day with a non-soap cleanser, and once with a benzoyl peroxide wash. To keep it gentle, avoid using a washcloth.

2. Spot clean. After the once-a-day washing with a non-soap cleanser, use a product with salicylic acid on specific problem areas. Don’t use this after using the benzoyl peroxide wash.

3. Use a moisturizer. Choose a product that is oil free or non-comedogenic and preferably one with an SPF of 30 or more (it’s a good idea to follow these guidelines when choosing makeup products, too).

Teach your teen to exfoliate

Exfoliating removes the surface layer of dead skin cells and helps to clean clogged pores. Since it is a deeper cleaning method, teach your teen to exfoliate just two to three times per week with exfoliating pads and a mild cleanser, making gentle circular motions all over his or her face. And yes, even guys need to exfoliate, so get scrubbing!


Touching the face and popping the pimples will only make matters worse. Bacteria from your hands and fingernails can transfer to your skin and become trapped in clogged pores. Therefore, if your teen subconsciously touches their face or picks at their pimples, this is one of the times where it’s okay to nag.

In addition to the daily routine, your teen will benefit from following preventive steps, such as washing oily hair daily and washing their face after sweating. When playing sports, it’s important to be diligent about cleaning anything that can hold sweat on the skin, such as chin straps, helmets, or hats. Changing out of sweaty clothes immediately after exercise can also help prevent outbreaks.

Now, if you can just get your teen to pick up that wet towel on the floor...

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