9 ways to tackle teenage acne (and 3 things to avoid)

Our top tips for treating acne in teens.

Written by
Kaitlyn Wilson
Medically reviewed by
min read
twitter iconpinterest iconfacebook icon
Table of contents

Being a teenager can be difficult, and acne — which affects 1 in 3 Australian teenagers — certainly doesn't help this awkward life phase. While experiencing pimples during your adolescence is entirely normal, it's also completely normal to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about it.

In fact, acne is one of the leading causes of low self-esteem in young people [1]. But fret not; from severe acne to just a few blemishes, there are plenty of treatments to put a stop to your spots. Time to say goodbye to your face and body acne.

Here are our top tips for treating acne in teens.

What causes acne in teenagers?

Hormones are responsible for some pretty gnarly changes in adolescence, and they also happen to be the primary culprit for causing acne.

Most teenagers, regardless of sex, experience an increase in hormones, which are called androgens, during puberty. Androgens increase the size of your oil glands, which in turn, create sebum.

Sebum is the natural oil produced by your body and is usually no cause for concern, but increased sebum production can cause acne [2]. While excessive sebum production is not exclusive to teenagers, it is the most common cause of acne for adolescents.

Another factor in acne is genetics, so if the parents experienced acne as a teenager, it can flow down to their children.

What are the different types of acne teenagers experience?

You'd be forgiven for assuming that pimples are the only kind of acne but there are actually several varieties of this skin concern. Commonly referred to as just acne, 'acne vulgaris' encapsulates all kinds of skin conditions affecting teenagers.

Different types of acne include:

  • Whiteheads: A typical form of acne that usually presents as small white or skin-coloured bumps underneath the skin.
  • Blackheads: Usually caused by clogged hair follicles, blackheads are a mild kind of acne that appear as small black or dark spots on the face, neck, back, chest or shoulders.
  • Papules: These can come in a variety of colours and shapes; they are usually less than a centimetre wide but can cluster together to form a rash.
  • Pustules: Small bumps containing fluid or pus that form under the skin. They are usually caused by acne but can also be a symptom of an allergic reaction.
  • Nodules: These are abnormal growths larger than 1cm in size that can appear deep under the skin.
  • Cysts: Cystic acne is considered the most severe form. Bacteria, oil, and dry skin cells get trapped in the pores and cause cysts to form deep under the skin. It can cause permanent scarring and can be very painful.
  • Milia: Most commonly found grouped together on the nose, cheeks, and chin, Milia are tiny white bumps that form when skin flakes become trapped on the surface of the skin.

The most common type of acne for teenagers is cystic acne, blackheads, whiteheads and pustules [3]. And, these types of acne don't just appear on the face and temples. Teens can also experience acne on body parts like arms and breasts.

Why do some people get acne and others don't?

There are several reasons why some people get worse acne than others. One of the major reason is genetics.

In fact, research has found that if both of your parents experienced acne as a teenage, you're more likely to develop acne at an early age [4].

However, even if your parents have perfect skin, you may still fall victim to blemishes. Hygiene, lifestyle, diet and even your environment can all contribute to acne. Unfortunately, it isn't often known exactly why some people are more susceptible to acne than others.

Can you stop teenage acne?

While many acne treatments can help, there is no definitive way to stop teenage acne for good [5]. In the case of chronic or cystic acne, the best way to beat the blemish is to seek medical advice.

As well as being painful, severe acne can cause scarring, so you want to reduce the chances of this as much as possible. This is why early treatment and medical intervention are suggested.

A GP or dermatologist will help identify the root cause of the issue and alleviate some of the symptoms.

Tips for treating teenage acne

From medication to over-the-counter acne treatments and lifestyle changes, there are various ways teens can beat the blemishes [6].

Medical-grade acne treatments

Everyone's skin is different and following a customised acne treatment plan designed is the way to go. Software's personalised acne treatment uses medical-grade ingredients like retinoids, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to fight acne causing bacteria, reduce redness and inflammation and strengthen the skin barrier.

Simply complete our online consult and our Australian health practitioners will create a customised formula for you. The treatment is then compounded in our partner pharmacy and sent straight to your door.

Oral antibiotics

A doctor or dermatologist, including Software's skin experts, can recommend a medical treatment that can drastically reduce teenage acne. Oral antibiotics can help fight excess bacteria and reduce inflammation.

Benzoyl peroxide

This is a powerful acne treatment found in many over-the-counter gels, cleansers, and spot treatments. It kills bacteria that have formed under the skin and helps unclog pores. It works particularly well for inflammatory acne.

Wash your face twice a day

It sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people, especially teens, don't even wash their faces once a day.

Something as simple as cleaning your face twice a day with a clean washcloth and hot water can go a long way to help with clogged pores and oily skin. Using a mild cleanser every morning and night to wash away dirt and debris will make a big difference for mild acne. However, severe acne may require something a little tougher.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is commonly used in skincare products as it does an incredible job of targeting acne by gently exfoliating the skin and clearing away acne-causing bacteria.

Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash sloughs away dead skin cells, helps unclog pores and injects hydration, while also reducing the formation of blackheads and whiteheads.

Plus, this wash is formulated with a unique blend of low-irritant ingredients for acne-prone and sensitive skin. Use this two to three times a week on your face as well as any other areas of the body prone to acne, including neck pimples, the chest, arms and the back.

Wash your hair regularly

Overactive sebaceous glands can cause oily hair, which clogs hair follicles. This can worsen acne or cause breakouts, particularly around the forehead. Ensure you wash your hair regularly to help reduce this.

Clean your face after exercise

Teens are very active and sometimes, hygiene can take a backseat. But, remember that sweat is a major factor in clogged pores. And, teen acne can be aggravted by regularly sweat sessions so be sure to wash your face or shower after sport to clear away sweat, dirt and oil.

Wear sunscreen

Sun damage can cause inflammation, which can exacerbate redness and swelling on already irritated skin. Plus, it can also dehydrate your face, making acne much worse and a bit more painful. Use a lightweight sunscreen daily to protect your face without clogging your pores.

Eat skin-friendly foods

Diet plays a huge role in healthy hormone production and in turn, can impact your breakouts. Try to eat in moderation, with plenty of leafy green veggies, complex carbs and antioxidant-rich fruits such as berries, and small amounts of sweets and soft drinks every now and then.

What to avoid when treating acne

On top of finding an acne treatment that works for you, there are also a few things teens can do to avoid aggravating their acne further.

Popping pimples

As tempting as it might be, popping your pimples can cause infection, scarring and more inflammation. It also slows the natural healing process and spreads the bacteria, resulting in more pimples.

Heavy makeup

If you're suffering from acne or breakouts, it might be tempting to cover it up, but heavy cosmetics can clog pores, irritate your skin and worsen acne. Try to opt for non-comedogenic products that don't clog the pores and are lightweight on the skin.

Touching your face

While it's a common habit for many people, touching your face isn't the best for acne as it can spread bacteria across your skin and aggravate breakouts [5]. If you are going to touch your face for whatever reason, be sure to wash your hands first.

Your clinical-grade acne-fighting formula
$54 per month for your custom formula
Create my formula
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.

Real people, incredible transformations

woman with acnewoman without acne
woman with acne
5 rating stars
Wish I bought this sooner
So I’m currently one month into this skincare and it has made such a difference. My acne has reduced significantly as well as my pigmentation. The instructions are clear to use and their other skincare products work great with the custom made solution.
5 rating stars
Only thing that’s worked!
I have tried everything under the sun to fix my skin, noticed a difference straight away with software and was able to get off the medication I was given by my GP, super grateful!!
fine lines
woman with acnewoman without acne
5 rating stars
Life changing!!! Not exaggerating.
I had horrible pigmentation all over my face and after 4 weeks it had reduced so much, and I’m only half way through the treatment! I can finally look in the mirror without disgust. It has made me feel so much better about myself!

The initial process of Software was so easy and straight forward. Got exactly what I wanted. And I LOVE that you can upload photos of your progress. I recommend software to my friends with pigmentation (melasma) too :)
5 rating stars
Saved my skin
Helped improve texture and pigmentation!! Gone from being too scared to leave the house without makeup, to not even thinking about how my skin looks! Couldn’t be happier.
Loved by patients,
backed by dermatologists
91% of patients see improvements in skin texture & brightness*
* Software lifestyle survey of 116 patients who were using
Software for ageing concerns, June 2022
Create my formula
* Software lifestyle survey of 116 patients who were using
Software for ageing concerns, June 2022