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Teens Getting Acne? Here’s What Might Be Causing It

Acne is a major concern for teenagers going through puberty. There are some who never get acne, and those that get intense bouts of it. Most of this is decided by genetics, but that does not mean that other factors aren’t affecting the frequency and severity of the breakouts. It’s important to understand what exactly is the cause or trigger of your teenager’s breakouts so that you can take the proper steps to minimize the impact it has on their life. Here are some of the most common causes of acne and how to remedy the underlying problem. 


Stress can be a significant contributing factor to teen acne. Teens are often stressed because of schoolwork, extracurricular activities, their image among their peers and more. Lack of sleep or an irregular sleep schedule factors under this, as well. This typically causes fluctuations in the level of various chemicals in the body, leading to deep, sometimes cystic acne. When caused by stress and/or sleep problems, the acne will typically appear about the forehead, temples, and sometimes even about the eyelids. Meditation, physical exercise, breathing exercises, and other methods can reduce stress and, by extension, reduce the occurrence of acne. Having a regular sleep schedule is also vital to reducing the impact of stress-induced acne. Doctors suggest that six hours of sleep can potentially be as effective as eight hours, so long as it is happening at the same time every night. Encourage your teen to schedule their time carefully so that they aren’t overwhelmed by the stress of school deadlines and are able to get proper sleep on a proper schedule. 


The hormones associated with puberty are one of the main sources of acne. During puberty, various hormone levels are changing so rapidly that it affects the pH levels in your skin. Teenage girls, in particular, are vulnerable to breakouts during various points in their menstruation cycle, especially if the cycle is disrupted. Unfortunately, hormones aren’t something you can easily alter and the occasional outbreak may not be completely preventable during teenage years. However, if your teenager is suffering from frequent outbreaks of hormonal, cystic acne, then this can indicate that they have chronically low or high levels of certain hormones in their body. Indicators of this include chronic acne on their back, chest, neck, jawline, and sometimes the forehead as well. If an acne problem is particularly bad, cosmetic dermatology might be an effective way to clear up excess acne. If your teenager is also suffering from frequently irregular and extremely painful periods, rapid weight gain or loss, and/or other chronic symptoms, then it may be a sign of a hormonal disorder and require the help of an endocrinologist and OBGYN.


Acne can be caused by a number of hygiene problems as well. For example, not washing the face can allow oil and dirt to clog pores and cause both pimples and blackheads. Heavily using cosmetic products such as makeup, face creams and other similar products can clog pores as well. If your teenager is experiencing acne mainly about the hairline, this may indicate that the oils of their hair or ingredients in their hair products are clogging the pores. To avoid this, make sure you are getting them products with non-comedogenic ingredients. Washing too often can also cause acne. This is because washing dries out the skin, causing it to overproduce oils in response, which can go on to clog pores. Irritation from harsh chemicals will also cause problems by swelling the skin, closing up the pores and trapping oil inside. If your child’s acne is all over their cheeks, face, nose, and is accompanied by blackheads and swelling, then you may want to look into gentler, organic products with non-comedogenic ingredients to prevent irritation.

Certain Foods 

Certain foods have also been reported to cause higher instances of acne. Foods high in fat, oils, and sugars, such as in fast food, have been known to cause acne. Dairy products, sodas, and foods with high saturated fats (which aren’t good for the gut and can increase inflammation) have specifically been linked to acne. An irritated digestive system can result in acne about the mouth, nose, and chin. When acne is centralized around this area, you can be certain that food is the likely cause of your teenager’s acne. If they have chronic stomach pain and acne about that region, it can also be a sign of a sensitivity to dairy, soy, or gluten. While a gluten intolerance can and should be tested for, dairy sensitivity is very hard to test for and the results of such tests are often inaccurate, so the best way to be check for one is to go on a break from dairy for 1-2 months to see if that alleviates the symptoms. In general, ensure your teen eats a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, nuts, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids and vegetables to maintain their general health as well as the health of their skin. 

Acne is a very natural part of puberty and is nothing for your teenager to be ashamed of. Factors beyond their control can cause the occasional breakout, whether that means a single pimple on the cheek or forehead, or a large cluster of blackheads, pimples, and cysts. However, if the acne is chronic, then it may be a sign of an underlying issue that should be investigated and addressed. These four common causes serve as a great place to start in your investigation, guiding you to how changes in the body are changing the health of your teenager’s skin.

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