Acne Treatment For Teens - Types, Side Effects & Avoiding Breakouts

Tina Adoniou

Teenage Acne

As most teens are well aware, acne is a common skin condition which is caused when your follicles become clogged with dead skin or oil. The result is whiteheads, pimples, and blackheads. Teen acne can present itself in various degrees of severity, and at different times in a person’s life. It is most prevalent in teens due to all the hormonal changes in their body. Therefore, they would be most likely to benefit from one of the treatments we will examine next.

Common Acne Treatments for Teens

In this section, we’re checking out some of the most common treatments for teen acne. We’ll break them down, and also comment on their effectiveness or potential side effects. There are definitely varying degrees of extensiveness when it comes to these treatments, which means that you can expect different things from each.


Perhaps the most effective (and easiest) method to treat teen acne is simply by washing your face. Effective face washing can help to minimize and eliminate substances on your face which may clog your hair follicles and lead to acne symptoms. The key with washing is to use a gentle cleanser to remove any oil, sweat, or makeup from your face.

Basically, teens should develop a washing routine that keeps their face clean and free from oil build up. Of course, this is not always possible, as some teens are simply predisposed to oilier skin than others.

Teens should wash their face to clear oil and dirt, but should also be careful to not wash too much. One common side effect from over-washing is that the skin dries out, which actually can make acne symptoms even worse.

Of course, it is often the case that teens will have more persistent acne symptoms, and washing alone will not be enough. Next, we’ll check out some other common treatments for acne that are more extensive than just washing alone.

Topical Treatments

It is often the case that teens require specific acne treatments to deal with persistent symptoms. Topical treatments are among the most popular. These are treatments that you apply directly to your skin. There are a few varieties available:

Acne Medications

Common topical acne medications are creams and gels which contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Different products are applied differently, but often it includes rubbing a thin layer on your face after you have washed. These ingredients help to reduce the amount of oil produced by your skin, which helps to treat existing acne and also prevent new acne from forming.

These products are typically a delicate balance. Overuse of these ingredients can actually dry the skin out too much and result in less oil production. This can lead to irritation, itchiness, and even worsen symptoms.

Many dermatologists will simply recommend spot-treating acne symptoms. This includes simply applying the topical substance to affected areas, so that you narrow the focus on a particular area that needs treatment. This allows you to maximize the effectiveness of the product, without drying out your entire face.

This acne treatment kit offers a gentle cleanser, daily acne treatment lotion with salicylic acid, and a topical probiotic spray that balances the skin microbiome. 


Another emerging topical acne treatment is probiotics. New research is showing that probiotics could effectively reduce acne, and curb the processes that lead to acne development. Probiotics might actually be able to modify pathophysiology of acne development and improve the condition. 

We won’t get too deep into the science here, but research suggests that certain probiotics can increase ceramide production, which directly works against Propionibacterium acnes colonization. Propionibacterium acnes colonization is one of the key physiological processes which allows acne to develop in your body. 

Prescription Acne Medications

If the above treatments aren’t enough, you might require something more extensive for your acne. Prescription treatments are generally thought of as a last resort after other methods have not worked, but a doctor might prescribe something if acne symptoms are not going away.

Prescription topical creams generally contain stronger ingredients than over-the-counter. These ingredients might include tretinoin, a retinoid drug derived from Vitamin A. These creams may also contain a higher concentration of benzoyl peroxide, or even certain antibiotics.

These topical creams might be effective for acne symptoms, but they are also much harsher than most topical applications, and can dry out or irritate skin. They definitely have more side effects than most acne treatments, and as a result, dermatologists may be hesitant to prescribe them to teens unless completely necessary.

teen taking medication

Oral Treatments

Aside from topical treatments, there are oral treatments for acne as well. Oral treatments are ingested, and work to fight acne symptoms. Most of these oral medications need to be prescribed, and examples include:


As with the topical treatments above, antibiotics are a common ingredient in oral medications used to treat acne. Antibiotics need to be prescribed by a doctor, and are commonly used when the acne isn’t responding to milder treatment.


As was covered above, probiotics are an emerging treatment for acne symptoms. Research supports probiotics as a potentially effective treatment for addressing physiological processes that lead to acne. This also extends to taking probiotics orally. They are available without a prescription, and you can find probiotic supplements at most health food stores.


Isotretinoin is one of the most extensive oral acne medications. It actually reduces the size of a person’s oil glands. It is commonly known by the popular brand name Accutane. It is only available by prescription, and will commonly be turned to when other alternatives are not effective.

Isotretinoin has a host of side effects that can be very unpleasant for most teens. Side effects are physical and mental. A doctor won’t put a teen on isotretinoin unless it is truly necessary. 


There are also physical procedures which can be used to treat acne. These procedures are typically reserved for acne which is severe, and unresponsive to oral or topical treatments. These procedures can be invasive, leave side effects and scars, and can be very painful.

Procedures include manual drainage of large pimples or cysts, laser therapy, and chemical peels which remove a layer of the skin. 

These treatments might be effective if acne is severe enough, but they won’t be turned to unless truly necessary.

As you can see, treatment options for teen acne range from the mild to the severe. Acne is such a common affliction that numerous treatments have been developed to address it. From washing and over the counter topical applications, to prescription medications and invasive procedures, there are many treatments available, and many require a consultation with a dermatologist.

A method that can be just as effective for many teens is to prevent breakouts before they start. In the next section, we’ll examine some common ways that people lessen the likelihood of acne breakouts.

How to Avoid Breakouts

To wrap up this article, we’ll check out some common tips and tricks to keep skin healthy and minimize the likelihood of acne breakouts. Most of these methods are aimed at keeping skin clean, healthy, and clear of impurities that would lead to clogged hair follicles which cause teen acne to develop.


We mentioned washing the face above, but it bears repeating here. Washing your face is one of the most effective ways for teens to prevent breakouts. Using a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser, warm water, and not scrubbing too hard is the key. Teens must also be sure to completely wash off any cleanser. This keeps their face clear of impurities and oil which can lead to breakouts.

One other area that is often overlooked of a healthy wash is drying. Drying too vigorously can dry out skin to less than ideal levels. A recommended method is to “pat” dry after a wash. Dab the areas to dry your skin without using excessive force. This may seem like overdoing it, but your washing and drying routine is extremely important to your skin’s overall health, and in preventing acne breakouts.

Change Your Pillowcase and Sheets 

teen making bed

Here’s one that you might have considered. Oil and dead skin can build up on sheets and pillowcases over time. As a result, these impurities transfer to the face during sleep, which can lead to acne breakouts and pimples. Changing and washing your sheets is a great way to keep your face clean while you sleep.

Avoid Touching Your Face 

One of the most common ways that a face gets dirty is by touching it throughout the day. Your hands encounter many germs, bacteria, and grimy surfaces throughout the day, and that can be transferred to your face when you touch it. Avoiding this is key to keeping skin clean all day.

Don’t Pop Pimples! 

Most teens have surely heard that popping pimples actually makes the acne worse. This isn’t just an urban myth. Popping pimples often leads to scarring, inflammation, or infection. These can actually exacerbate inflammation, which can further clog pores and make breakouts even worse.

Moisturize Your Skin

Dry skin can cause acne to worsen. Therefore, properly moisturizing skin keeps it hydrated and healthy. The best idea is to use a moisturizer that is free of irritants or oils which can clog pores and lead to more acne.

Use Less Makeup 

Heavy use of makeup can further clog pores, leading to more persistent breakouts. Anything that you put on your skin can potentially irritate the skin and worsen acne, and teens should be particularly aware of this.

Bottom Line

There’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to preventing breakouts before they start. The main idea is that you want to keep skin clean, healthy, and clear of irritants. Most of these breakout prevention methods are all geared toward accomplishing this goal. As long as this basic principle is kept in mind, any teen can develop a proper skincare routine and do everything in their power to prevent breakouts.


Thanks for checking out our guide to common acne treatment methods for teens. In this guide, we took a comprehensive look at what causes acne, and the type of treatment methods available. We examined these treatments based on the extensiveness, effectiveness, and potential side effects. We also gave some tips for avoiding breakouts before they develop. 

Acne can be very stressful for teens, and it’s important to understand the root cause so that they can develop a solution. If none of the above methods are working, you might require a trip to the dermatologist to look into more extensive solutions.





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