Why Do I Have Teen Acne?

Here’s How to Clear It

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You take great care of your skin. You wash your face three times a day. You don’t eat chocolate or drink soda. So why do you still have teen acne?

Although it’s super frustrating and doesn’t seem fair, acne during the teen years is extremely common. So common that nearly every teenager gets it at some point.

This article will help you to have a better idea of what’s really causing your acne. It dispels some of the myths you may hear about acne, and offers a few solutions for treatment that works.

Teen cleaning face with cotton pad.
BSIP / UIG / Getty Images


First, know that you didn’t do anything to cause your acne. Acne is caused by factors that are out of your control.

Pimples begin deep down in the skin, where you can’t see. First, oil and dead skin cells block the pore, creating a tiny acne blemish called a comedo. If bacteria invade, the follicle becomes red and swollen, and a pimple is formed.

There’s a species of bacteria—Cutibacterium acnes—that causes pimples. These bacteria are normal residents of the skin, but people with acne tend to be more sensitive to them.

Having acne doesn’t mean your skin is dirty, or that you aren’t doing a good job at cleaning your skin. In fact, overzealous cleansing and vigorous scrubbing can make breakouts worse, not better.

Hormonal Changes During Puberty 

During the teen years, major hormonal changes are occurring within the body. These hormones, specifically androgen hormones, rev up oil production.

This explains why your skin is suddenly much more oily than it was when you were a little kid. And more oil means more pore blockages and more pimples.

For most teens, acne peaks between ages 14 to 19 and slowly gets better from there. That doesn’t mean you have to wait to outgrow acne. There are many medications you can use in the meantime to clear up your skin.


The propensity to develop acne is genetic, so if either of your parents had acne you are more likely to have acne too.

Most people outgrow acne, but for some people acne can last well into adulthood. Some people even get acne for the very first time as adults.


Bacteria is the real cause of teen acne, and when it gets into a blocked pore it will cause a pimple to form. Blocked pores are more likely to form in the teen years because hormonal changes lead to more skin oil production. There are quite a few myths about what causes acne but none of them are the real reason for your acne.

Acne Myths

Now that you know the basic causes of acne, you should also know what doesn’t cause it. There are plenty of myths about what causes acne floating around. 

Masturbation doesn’t cause acne. Neither does having sex. Or not having sex.

And you don’t have to forgo chocolate or other sweets. Most doctors agree that junk foods aren’t the cause of your acne. A nutritious diet is important, but a few treats now and then aren’t going to cause pimples.

Touching your face doesn’t make you break out, either. But messing with existing pimples can make them worse, so definitely leave them alone to heal.


You don’t have to wait for acne to go away on its own. Teen acne can be cleared up if you get the right treatments.

First, start with an over-the-counter acne treatment from the store. Use these every day for a few weeks. Your skin won’t clear overnight, but after a few weeks, you should notice clearer skin.

If your acne isn’t getting better with store-bought products, you might need a prescription medication to get it under control. There are a number of medications available that do a great job.


Bacteria that get trapped in a skin pore may cause teen acne. The pimples also are more likely in people who are more sensitive to the bacteria, or who have a genetic leaning toward acne. In most cases, acne will peak in your mid-teen years and then get better from there. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help clear your skin.

A Word From Verywell

Knowing the science behind why you’re having acne is a big help. It may make it easier to see that you can begin, or that you already are, doing all the “right things” to take care of your skin. Talk to your parents about seeing a dermatologist (a doctor specializing in skin diseases) if you think you need medication. You don’t have to just “deal with” teen acne and you can get it cleared up with the right treatments.

3 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. Eichenfield LF, Krakowski AC, Piggott C, et al. Evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric acne. Pediatrics. 2013;131(Supplement_3):S163-S186. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-0490B

  2. Dréno B, Araviiskaia E, Kerob D, et al. Nonprescription acne vulgaris treatments: their role in our treatment armamentarium—an international panel discussion. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020;19(9):2201-2211. doi:10.1111/jocd.13497

  3. Ogé LK, Broussard A, Marshall MD. Acne vulgaris: diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2019;100(8):475-484. PMID: 1613567

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