Treating Teen Acne & Products That Work

Tackling Teenage Acne

Teenage acne is the scourge of the young as they mature and go through puberty.  My teenagers hit puberty simultaneously.  My daughter was 10 and my son 14.  It was hell.  We lived in a cauldron of permanent hormonal angst as they both adapted to the emotional and physical changes that puberty forces.  Acne was the biggest challenge of all.

Unfortunately, acne is a common condition that affects most people at some point in their lives.  In fact according to the NHS around 80% of 11-30 year olds will suffer from acne.  It is claimed that genes also have a large part to play, so if your parents had it, it’s likely you will too.  Ironically, neither of my parents suffered but I went through a brief spotty period when I was 16 before going onto suffer adult acne in my 30’s (coincidentally perhaps), during the period of my divorce.

Of the two, the latter episode was the worst.  As a teenager it is expected you will fall victim to the occasional bout of zits as your hormones start raging but less so as an adult.  Whatever your age it is debilitating but my own experience did equip me with the appropriate empathy to deal with my teenagers’ distress.  I knew how self-conscious they felt so didn’t brush their complaints and tears aside, but instead decided to tackle it head on and avoid the paper bag syndrome setting in.

  • The GP

Our GP is always my first port of call.  Pharmacists can advise on various over the counter treatments but the GP is best for giving the all important medical opinion or a referral to a specialist should that be necessary.  For mild cases, they can also prescribe a course of antibiotics to combat any bacterial infection. In fact my daughter was prescribed Differin a topical antibiotic which really helped in the initial stages.  Also I found that by taking them both to a professional they listened carefully to the advice their were given on the importance of keeping their skin healthy, which made my job easier.

Medical advice is to resist the temptation to clean your skin too much as this can over-stimulate the sebaceous glands into producing more oil which in turn will block the pores if it is not washed away, trapping bacteria and creating a breeding ground for more spots.  It is important, however, not to abandon cleaning your skin completely and developing a good skin care regime early was an important step for both my teenagers.  As a parent you don’t want to make your child feel embarrassed about their skin but acknowledging there is a problem sooner rather than later and agreeing on finding a solution, is much better in the long run.

  • A Good Skin Care Regime 

My son plays a lot of sport so is frequently sweaty and dirty and on occasions just doesn’t have time to wash properly after practices. Dermalogica does a great introductory kit with trial sizes aimed at teenagers and young adults called Clear Start but he wanted something that he could use easily and quickly whilst showering.  Recommended by dermatologists, Cetaphil is his preferred cleanser.  Gentle and non-abrasive he uses it daily and always has some in his sports bag for use after matches.

Of the two, however, my daughter suffered the most and her situation was made worse by the fact that she suffers from atopic eczema.  For her using a cleanser that required washing her face with water was overly drying, particularly as we live in a hard water area.  Also at just 10 she needed something uncomplicated and straightforward as we didn’t want cleaning her face to seem like a chore, so we looked at lotions which she could simply apply on a cotton pad, the challenge was to find the right one.

There are hundreds of cleansing products to choose from and we worked our way through a fair few.  At times I felt truly despondent and was convinced that we would never find anything that would work on her skin.  She was the first to go through puberty and that was tough as she was very much alone among her peers with her skin issues.  She felt totally isolated and desperate at times and her self-esteem took a real knock.  It was also hard for us to remain upbeat and positive when at times it was truly hard to look at her once beautiful skin erupting in such a way.

Sleepovers and school trips away became my personal agony as I fretted about whether she would return even worse than when she left.  On one occasion, the morning after a sleepover she called me from her friend’s bathroom crying and asking me to pick her up immediately as she had woken up with the most gargantuan spot on her nose and felt mortified at having to face her friend’s family over breakfast.   School trips with 4-5 nights away were absolute torture as with little time to herself and the emphasis on non-stop activity, there was no time to spend on her skin.

Dermatologists won’t see children under 16 so we were left with the topical antibiotic for the worst eruptions and the never ending quest for the perfect cleanser.  To say that I became fixated would be an understatement.  Then we discovered the wonders of Micellar water, which cleanses the skin without the need for rinsing and is so gentle that it is perfect for sensitive skins such as hers.  Most of the leading skin care brands have a Micellar water in their range  but our favourite is  Dr Andrew Weil for Origins Mega Mushroom Skin Relief.  At £27.50 it is definitely at the upper end of the price spectrum but it is worth every penny.  It is not only gentle but it also combats any redness, which if you have eczema is extremely beneficial.  There was a real difference in her skin after about one month.

It is a natural misconception that if you have spots you shouldn’t apply moisturiser, but all skin needs to be kept hydrated.  If your skin is overly dry, it will over-compensate by producing more sebum which will lead to more breakouts and this was true of both my teenagers’ experiences but more so with my daughter because of her eczema. The challenge was to find a moisturiser that wouldn’t clog pores and lead to more breakouts. My son simply supplemented his skin care routine with the Cetaphil moisturiser but for my daughter I needed to find something that would treat her eczema but not aggravate her acne.

Odylique is an organic skin care range developed by a lady called Margaret in a quest to make something to treat her own sensitive, dry skin.  The result is a range of products made simply from the finest natural and organic ingredients free from any chemical irritants.  The Repair Lotion is a staunch favourite in our house.  Of all the creams I had tried on my daughter’s skin, this was a life saver.  At its worst her skin was so angry and itchy, with inflamed peeling areas, which combined with the acne was distressing for her and yet this managed to calm her eczema, completely healing the scaly areas, yet not irritate her acne and it did it quickly.  Her eczema has not flared up to that extent since and she has not looked back.  On a daily basis she now moisturises using E45 but always turns to the Repair Lotion at the slightest itch.

  • Spot Treatment

A good skincare routine made all the difference to my teenagers but there is no getting away from the spots and pimples completely.  The flare ups needed to be treated and having something on hand to apply at night to calm any inflammation and reduce redness was an important part of tackling the problem, as well as my nagging them not to pick!   Odylique Spot On Serum is packed with both anti-bacterial and calming ingredients, such as Lavender and Aloe Vera and when applied overnight it really made a difference in terms of reducing the redness and the discomfort of breakouts.

  • Sunscreen

I like many others am guilty of thinking that a good blast of sunshine will clear up spots and can remember frequently sitting in the sun as a 16 yr old praying for a miracle, but the fact is the reverse is true. Apart from promoting increased sweating which will clog pores, the sun dries out skin and makes the appearance of spots more likely.  Nowadays it is unusual for people if not wearing a full sunscreen, not to be wearing a moisturiser with SPF at the very least.

Over the years, I have come to dread the summer as until recently I hadn’t found a sunscreen that didn’t make my daughter’s skin ten times worse and as a redhead going without was not an option for her. Most of the high street brands and even the organic products were too thick and sat on her skin like a layer of lard.   This summer, however, we had a breakthrough with La Roche-Posay and its ultra light 50+ fluid which gave her the right level protection without clogging her skin.  I am not quite sure how we missed it before as I have been a fan of their sun products for a while.

Over the years I have spoken to many skin specialists, read numerous advice posts on the internet and bought lots of products for my teenagers to try, as not surprisingly a large part of finding the right product is down to trial and error.  Ironically, both my teenagers seem to have emerged at the same time again with the worst behind them and I am crossing my fingers that remains the case, particularly for my daughter as she really suffered.  In fact she came home from school at the end of last week and said her friends had commented on how good her skin looked.  For her this was beyond exciting but it was also tinged with sadness as she said it made her realise that it must have been bad before!  Of course she still has flare-ups a couple of days before her period, that’s to be expected but it is nothing in comparison to having it 24/7 for more than 3 years.

Editor’s Note : This is my first-hand advice on treating acne and what worked best for my teens. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions on these products are completely my own.  




  1. April 4, 2017 / 2:36 pm

    I’m glad to hear that your kids’ acne problems have improved. I love your product choices. I have a mild acne problem as a child and Cetaphil products were just amazing! It worked well on my dry skin. I pair my Cetaphil cleanser with an Argan oil based toner that leaves my skin feeling moisturized. I usually just apply moisturizers midday when I feel that my skin is getting dryer. I don’t usually wear makeup, but I use a good sunscreen when I’m out and about to avoid skin pigmentations. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jo
      April 4, 2017 / 7:20 pm

      You clearly have your skin care regime sorted and I hope that by introducing my teens to it early it will become second nature to them. Thanks for your comment.

  2. November 9, 2016 / 10:12 am

    Thank you for sharing this! My son is going through a terrible time at the moment and we’ve tried various things from the doctor, but we’ve not tried many different products yet, so this is all very helpful advice. Like you, I (sadly) have my own experience to share with my son – and products I have been prescribed or recommended for him to try.
    I really felt for your daughter going through this at such a young age. My daughter is 10 now and still at the very start of puberty. I’m resigned to her getting acne – as both my husband and I suffered badly – but at least it should be a bit later.
    I didn’t know dermatologists wouldn’t see under 16s! My son is 15 and saw the dermatologist a couple of weeks ago.

    • Jo
      November 9, 2016 / 10:26 pm

      Sadly I think genes have a large part to play but equally I think it makes you more on top of the scenario and in my case for sure I was determined that my kids would not feel like I did. There is the inclination to let it go and put it down to hormones, but as parents you know if you can’t bear it your kids certainly can’t and they need your help. There is no need for anyone to suffer nowadays, there is help available if you demand it and sometimes you need to. Good luck with the dermatologist, I am sure it will make a huge difference. x

  3. September 30, 2016 / 9:48 pm

    It must have been really hard for both your daughters to go through that, school is tough enough without having to deal with acne. It sounds like you explored all options for how to help them, and sometimes you do just need to purchase the expensive products. I would never have thought to go to the doctors for acne. I remember I had a it quite bad around my nose, and it never seemed to go away, but one day it just did. Let’s hope the acne is behind you for a while at least. Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

    • Jo
      September 30, 2016 / 11:24 pm

      I think it all disappears with time as the hormones settle but sometimes that is just not quick enough. #fortheloveofBLOG

  4. September 27, 2016 / 6:20 pm

    What fantastic tips! Thank you so much for sharing, my eldest is 12 and I can see his skin beginning to change. I’ll definitely find this useful.
    Thanks for linking to #pocolo.

    • Jo
      September 27, 2016 / 10:46 pm

      Oh thank you and glad you found it useful. #pocolo

  5. Kaye
    September 25, 2016 / 6:43 am

    I’ve always used Cetaphil and found it fantastic. I have super sensitive skin (as do my children) so hate chemicalised products! Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Kaye xo

    • Jo
      September 25, 2016 / 11:39 am

      Yes it’s a wonderful product and so reasonably priced too. Thanks for commenting Kaye. #MarvMondays

  6. September 24, 2016 / 11:58 pm

    Great and helpful advice. I was very lucky and never suffered with acne, but can imagine that it is an annoying and upsetting problem when it occurs. #MarvMondays

    • Jo
      September 25, 2016 / 11:39 am

      I dare say there are worse problems to contend with but as you say it is upsetting. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.#MarvMondays

  7. September 22, 2016 / 9:52 pm

    Brilliant and informative post, I suffered with acne as a teen and unfortunately continue to suffer with adult acne today- I have found ways to keep it at bay but it does still flare up. I’m glad you’ve found something thats worked for your family. Thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink x

    • Jo
      September 23, 2016 / 9:40 am

      I am sorry to hear that, as I said I found having it as an adult worse than when i was a teenager even though the actual acne was probably not as severe , it’s more the mental aspect of having it at an older age that is tough. I am glad you have things that work for you.#bigpinklink

  8. September 21, 2016 / 11:33 pm

    What a thorough post – glad you found something for each of them that worked as there’s nothing worse than a flare up when you least need it. Thanks for linking to #PoCoLo

    • Jo
      September 22, 2016 / 3:25 pm

      And that is the edited version – the first draft was even longer. Thanks for commenting Stephanie. #PoCoLo

  9. September 21, 2016 / 5:29 pm

    This post takes me back as I had terrible Acne as a teenager and was so very self-conscious. There weren’t many treatments around then and I can remember being too embarrassed to talk about it. My own daughter is now 10 and I plan to be all over the skincare. This is a useful read. It also doesn’t help that they become soap dodgers at this age too! I have introduced cleanser, toner and moisturiser ! #PoCoLo

    • Jo
      September 21, 2016 / 8:29 pm

      Nicky that is exactly what spurred me on, I knew how awful I felt and back then the options were few so I was adamant that I would take control of it as soon as possible. As you say it makes it worse because “washing” is so uncool, despite the success with my daughter in particular I still have to nag! #PoCoLo

  10. Kirsty - Winnettes
    September 19, 2016 / 8:36 pm

    I really struggled as a teen and as you say I still get a break out the week before my period. Over the years I have developed better make up skills to hide this. My one dessert island product would coconut oil. I read an article online about a year ago that said oil helps balance your skin and because you are adding oil your skin doesn’t make anymore than it needs as it isn’t being stripped away. I have used various other oils to great effect but some used to irritate my eyes coconut oil is the only one that doesn’t. I use the same stuff I use for cooking I just decant it into a little pot that I have in the bathroom.

    • Jo
      September 19, 2016 / 10:38 pm

      Yes I have read the same thing as well about oil helping to balance the skin but I have not heard about using coconut oil, that is fascinating. Thanks for sharing that piece of wisdom and I am so glad you have found something that works for you. #bigpinklink

  11. September 19, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    Oh this is such a useful post – I too struggled with acne in my 30s – mortifying doesn’t cover it but it does make you realise how a teen must really feel – I stopped going out but antibiotics from my doctor really helped. We really struggle with my oldest’s skin because she is constantly having to use all types of make up for photo shoots but we have finally settled on dermalogica for her – their clear start range and it’s been wonderful. they do some excellent wipes that she can remove make-up after a shoot immediately without letting it sit on her skin for any longer than it needs to. I’m glad you found a solution too. I may be coming back to this post once my so hits that stage1 #BigPinkLink

    • Jo
      September 19, 2016 / 3:37 pm

      It must be so important for your daughter to keep her skin clean. I love the dermalogica range for myself and think my eldest may end up going back to the clear start range at some point – useful to know they have wipes too. Thanks for commenting and sharing your experiences. #bigpinklink

  12. September 19, 2016 / 12:18 pm

    Hi Jo, teenage acne should be taken seriously. My two were lucky and suffered nothing more than the occasional minor breakout, I know that my daughter would be mortified if her skin got any worse than that. My son uses a medicated face wash, but my daughter prefers to use coconut oil to clean her face (she tried medicated washes and found them too harsh for her skin). Sunscreen is a must over here. I keep telling them that if they don’t use it they’ll end up looking like the old lady down the road. As cruel as that may sound, it seems to have worked!

    I hope that your two have pasted the worst of it and that from now they only get the occasion tiny spot!


    • Jo
      September 19, 2016 / 10:46 pm

      Hi Debbie, you are the second person to mention about the wonders of coconut oil, apparently the oil prevents the skin producing any more. So glad yours escaped that episode and that good old scare tactics are working on the sunscreen application. Thanks for commenting. #BigPinkLink

  13. September 19, 2016 / 11:45 am

    I’ve just been to the dr with daughter 2. This post is so interesting and helpful. I shall use it as a reference. Thank you so much for sharing all the info. Alison x

    • Jo
      September 19, 2016 / 2:55 pm

      Oh good I am glad, I know I spent so long reading other people’s experiences of what had worked for them I felt I should share ours too in the hope someone else might benefit. Good luck. x

  14. September 16, 2016 / 12:56 pm

    It’s really good to read that you have managed to find something that helps. We are still in the middle of it! Topical antibiotics have had a limited effect but it seems to wear off? We have also found that moisturising is important. Believe it or not – coconut oil applied at night seems to reduce the production of oil and seems to help. At least it’s natural. Great, informative post.

    • Jo
      September 16, 2016 / 1:38 pm

      Glad you found it helpful. It really is so much about finding what works on an individual level and that takes time and alot of money I found. I am just crossing my fingers it’s a solution that will continue to work. Topical antibiotics take about 6 weeks to take effect but you are right they do seem to wear off and we found we had to have a break from it and not use it everyday. Also you have to remember to clean the skin in the morning as it dries out the skin in sunlight. It’s never ending isn’t it?

  15. September 15, 2016 / 1:02 pm

    Pleased that you found something for each of them. Years ago I would have said short burst’s of sun is very good for acne, but things have changed so much ! Neals Yard do good creams and potions too, and all are natural. I hope what you’re children are using keeps working.

    • Jo
      September 16, 2016 / 9:52 am

      It must be a generational thing because I swore by bursts of sun too! Haven’t looked into Neals Yard before will bear it in mind for the next time. Thanks Laurie.

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