10 Things Teen Girls Should Know About Acne

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.


You Didn't Cause Your Acne

Teen girl acne
Image Source/Getty Images

Acne isn't your fault. It's caused by many factors, 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. Acne is not caused by masturbating, and it's not caused by your makeup (probably).

When it comes down to it, it's the hormonal changes that happen during puberty.

And 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.


Nothing Really Works Overnight

You know what I'm talking about, right? Some teenagers, or even celebrities, talking on TV 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 acne products may actually be effective and 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 acne treatments you find at the store. You can even build your own DIY acne treatment kit that works just as well and costs loads less.

Whichever products you're using, you will have to wait at least eight to 10 weeks before you start noticing a difference in your skin.


When to See a Healthcare Provider

If over-the-counter acne products aren't doing much, you might need a prescription medication. This means a trip to your healthcare provider.

Yes, you'd rather treat acne on your own with products you find at the store or salon, but sometimes OTC acne treatments 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, pediatrician or healthcare provider more than likely has experience treating it. Your medical professional can prescribe an acne treatment medication, or refer you on to a dermatologist if need be.

Don't wait; the sooner you start treatment, the sooner you'll see improvement.


Use 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 are sometimes 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.


Use Your Treatments Correctly

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 healthcare provider if you have any questions.


Acne Takes Time to Treat

Even when you're doing everything right, it takes time to see results—about 8-12 weeks. 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. Your 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.


Makeup Is Okay, But Wash It Off

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 and make sure to wash it off at night.


Girls Get Body Acne Too

Body acne can make you 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. It's totally normal, and it can be treated.

Start with a body wash or bar containing benzoyl peroxide (5% or 10% strength). Use that daily for a few weeks.

If you aren't seeing results after 2 to 3 months, talk with your healthcare provider. Body acne can be stubborn, so a prescription medication is often a good idea.


Use Treatments After Skin Clears

It's a great feeling when your skin has noticeably cleared up. But don't stop using your treatments yet.

You'll probably have to keep using your treatments even after your skin has cleared up. This doesn't mean the medication didn't work properly. Acne treatments don't cure acne, they just control it. If you stop using them, 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.


There's Hope and Help

Acne 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 you, but your feelings are normal.

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.

A Word From Verywell

Even though having teen acne is hard, you can get through this period in your life. Just starting on an acne treatment can make you feel more in control and confident.

If you're having a tough time getting your skin cleared up on your own, talk to your parents about seeing a healthcare provider about your acne. In just a few short months you can see improvement of your skin and keep your acne under control during your teenage years.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Decker A, Graber EM. Over-the-counter acne treatments: A review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012;5(5):32-40.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 things to try when acne won't clear.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. I have acne! Is it okay to wear makeup?

  4. American Academy of Dermatologists. Isotretinoin: Overview.

Additional Reading

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.