What is Teenage Acne?

What is teenage acne? As your child approaches their preteens, their body starts preparing their body to start puberty. Puberty causes the body to start going through major changes. These changes begin in the hypothalamus region of the brain. Then the hypothalamus starts releasing a hormone, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), that signals the beginning of puberty.

The gonadotropin-releasing hormone begins its journey towards the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is responsible for releasing two hormones, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), that travel to other glands that trigger your child’s body to start making transformations. One of the ugly side effects of puberty can trigger acne, body odor, and hair growth.

Teenage acne can happen at any point but it is more common during puberty. The severity of acne breakouts can range from mild to severe acne. It can cause confidence issues if your teenager has moderate to severe acne. Most acne can be treated with over the counter acne treatments. However, severe breakouts you may need to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.

Continue reading to learn more about teenage acne and the different types that your teenager may see. Keep in mind, acne can affect other areas on the body besides the face.

What Is Teenage Acne?

Acne vulgaris is the medical term used to describe common acne. Hormones are to blame for your symptoms. Androgen hormones trigger your body to increase oil production from the sebaceous gland. The oil is pumped from the gland and travels to the skin surface using hair follicles.

As the oil makes its way to the surface of your skin, it can pick up dirt, dead skin cells and  P. acnes bacteria. This causes your hair follicle to become plugged or blocked. Plugged ducts are called comedo. A comedo can rupture and cause the right environment for P. acnes bacteria to start multiplying. As bacteria takes over the follicle, you will notice that the area will begin to swell and become inflamed. By this time, your teenager probably notices the painful zit.

Whiteheads and Blackheads

Whiteheads are formed when a pore becomes plugged up with oil and dead skin cells. You will likely notice small tiny white pimple that begins forming just underneath the skin.

Blackheads are similar to a white head but the pore remains open and oxidizes with the air. Oxidization causes the sebum pigment to darken. A blackhead is not a sign that your teenager’s skin is dirty or unclean. Never try to scrub a blackhead away. Doing so will only irritate your skin and increase oil production.

Most of the time these blemishes aren’t painful unless they get infected. They can easily be extracted using a special tool called comedone extractor. Always wash your face before trying to extract a whitehead or blackhead. Sanitize the comedone extractor using alcohol to prevent bacteria, dirt, or other debris from invading the follicle.

Comedone Extractor Tools (aff link)

Before you attempt to extract the blemish, we recommend applying a warm washcloth over the area for several minutes to help soften the skin. Then pat dry. Use a downward motion over the pimple and apply gentle pressure as you are pulling up. If you are unable to get it out, it is best to apply acne medication and wait until it is ready. Never use your fingers to squeeze your pimples.


Zits occurs when a pore remains closed and causes an infection in the oil gland. Oil glands are deep below the surface of the skin so it is important that you leave a zit alone until it is ready to pop.

A painful zit should be monitored or if they occur frequently, we suggest making an appointment with a dermatologist to rule out cystic acne, cellulitis, or a boil. These infections are caused by a different bacteria, staph or strep is usually the cause, and they need immediate treatment to avoid permanent scarring.

When you have a zit, you should tell your teenager to continue washing their face, avoid touching it and resist squeezing the pimple. Squeezing the pimple can cause an infection spread and lead potential scaring.

Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is often very painful, inflamed or red, and large bumps under the skin. This type of acne occurs when an oil gland ruptures and bacteria usually multiplies very quickly. Cystic acne causes a major infection deep under the skin.

Sometimes your skin will itch or be red before you are even aware that you have a pimple forming. Take your teen to see a dermatologist in order to properly treat this type of acne.

If you have a painful lesion, you can apply ice for several minutes. Ice will help reduce inflammation.

Acne is common during puberty but it can happen at any point in your life. Many teenagers who suffer from moderate to severe acne, often struggle with their self-esteem, depression, and even bullying. Treating most acne symptoms can be done at home but sometimes you need the help of a dermatologist to help determine what is causing it.

Did you have acne as a teenager? Have your teenagers experienced embarrassing acne?

19 thoughts on “What is Teenage Acne?”

  1. I had acne and I was miserable. The secret to controlling acne is not to let it start in the first place. Never leave the house or go to bed without washing your face. Thanks for posting!

  2. This is a really informative post, I had really bad acne as a teen and hated it – people would always comment on it and no matter what I did, nothing helped. I still get spots now but thankfully not so often, just hormonal ones.

    • I thought I was lucky enough to escape the acne. Mine didn’t hit me until after I had my son. Before that I’d have an occasional whitehead or pimple, now I get painful cystic acne. It’s awful and I hope that teens never have to deal with it.

    • Both my older kids have trouble with teen acne and I have emphasized these tips to help them. I don’t know what is triggering my daughter’s as she is a bit older but I’m sure hormones play a role. I try to get them both to use face wash and creams.

  3. My mom, two of my sisters, and some of my kids all had bad acne as teens and young adults. Thankfully, my kids seemed to deal with it pretty well, but I know it caused some mental as well as physical discomfort.

  4. Thankfully, I had pretty clear skin as a teen, but once I hit my 20’s, I would get cystic acne on my chin once or twice a year. Talk about painful and would last for almost 2 weeks 🙁 I feel for those who have to suffer through bad breakouts, especially during those teen years.

  5. I had the cystic acne when I was in middle school. It’s so terrible that I don’t want to go out of the house when I got it a few times.


Leave a Comment