teen applying facial cream

Acne, a skin condition that causes pimples, can flare when the pores on the skin’s surface become clogged. Pimples, or “zits,” can appear as whiteheads, blackheads, or red, inflamed sections on the skin. Since hormonal changes can cause oily skin, it is common for teenagers to suffer from acne, and they often eagerly search for effective treatments. To help with the management of acne, Emily Clark, PA-C, Department of Dermatology at UPMC, answers some frequently asked questions about acne treatments for teenagers.

Q: Is Acne Treatment for Your Back and Chest Different Than Treatment for the Face?

A: Not really. Over-the-counter medications or wipes with salicylic acid, sulfur, or benzoyl peroxide may be effective for acne on your face, back, chest, or arms. If the over-the-counter treatments are ineffective, your doctor can prescribe different types of medications such as topical retinoids, and oral or topical antibiotics.

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Q: Is There a Certain Type of Makeup That is Better for My Skin?

A: Look for products labeled noncomedogenic. They are created from a formula that will not clog your pores. Also, be sure to remove all makeup at night, and wash your face twice a day with a mild soap that won’t dry out your skin. Avoid scrubbing or washing too much as it can cause irritation.

Q: Can Birth Control Pills Clear Up My Skin?

A: Since oral contraceptives regulate your hormones, they may have an effect on your skin. Sometimes they can help, but in some cases they can actually make acne worse. You may have to try a few different options before finding a one that may work for you. Talk to your doctor, gynecologist, or dermatologist, and be sure to tell him or her that you are looking for something that may help your acne.

Q: I Heard That Certain Foods can Affect My Skin. Which Foods Should I Avoid? Can I Eat Something That Will Improve My Acne?

A: Doctors have not found that greasy foods or chocolate cause acne, like some say. You can still enjoy these foods, but like all sugars and fats, they should be consumed in moderation for overall health. There isn’t a particular food you can eat as a quick way to clear up acne, but a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins A, E, and C in addition to water is a good way to promote healthy skin.

Q: Is Sitting in the Sun a Good Way to Clear Up Acne?

A: It is always important to exercise caution when you’re in the sun since too much exposure can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Sometimes being in the sun for a short period of time may seem to help but, generally, it just camouflages the acne. If you are going to sit in the sun, remember to use a sunscreen or lotion with an SPF of at least 30, and reapply often.

Q: Can Exercising Make My Acne Go Away?

A: Exercise is an important component for overall health and well-being, and for some, working out can help minimize acne. Be sure to wash your skin before and after exercising, focusing on areas that are prone to acne. Never exercise with makeup on because the products combined with sweat can clog your pores.

Although these tips can be helpful, Emily cautions that no one acne treatment is right for everyone, and you should consult your doctor or dermatologist.

“Finding an acne treatment that works for you may require trying several alternatives because everyone’s skin is different,” she says. “You can start by exercising, eating right, and cleansing with gentle products to work toward attaining healthy looking skin.”

About Dermatology

The UPMC Department of Dermatology diagnoses, treats, and manages numerous hair, skin, and nail conditions and diseases. We care for common and uncommon conditions, and our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is a comprehensive dermatologic laser facility, offering a full range of cosmetic services and procedures. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Find a dermatology provider near you.