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Is Acne Treatment for Teens Different from Acne Treatment for Adults?

Dr. Nancy Shannon

Medically reviewed by Dr. Nancy Shannon, MD, PhD on June 9, 2021

Though acne can be experienced by people of all ages, its effects are often felt most acutely among teenagers. Just as young people are forming their self image and settling into their new bodies, acne strikes. It’s no surprise, then, that many teens find themselves on the hunt for acne treatments sooner or later.

No matter what age you are, sorting through all of the different acne treatments can be overwhelming, and determining which ones are right for you might seem next to impossible. It’s natural to have lots of questions at this stage, and one of the most common is whether teens and adults require different treatments for acne breakouts. Here what you need to know: 

Causes of Acne in Adults and Teens

Acne can occur to anyone at any age, but certain periods of life can cause the body to behave in such a way that makes acne more likely. For teenagers, it’s puberty. Sex hormones, start increasing in the body during puberty, causing many of the changes commonly associated with it, including the development of male and female reproductive systems. Increases in androgen levels lead to sebum production — sebum is the mixture of fats produced within your pores that can sometimes pool up on the skin and make it appear oily. Both male and female bodies produce androgens, but androgens are more dominant in men. Since large quantities of sebum can clog pores and cause acne, puberty is often the first time that people start to experience significant acne breakouts.

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As the body ages, the effects of the large androgen spikes during puberty start to wear off and sebum production naturally decreases, causing acne incidence to taper off over time. Even so, androgen fluctuations can still cause breakouts in adults. For example, women may find that the upticks in the body’s androgen levels around the menstrual cycle can cause acne to appear, and the same is true for pregnancy and menopause. 

Even though acne in both teens and adults can be heavily impacted by hormone levels, it’s not the only factor at play. Genetics, stress, skin occlusion, and dietary sensitivities can put people of all ages at risk of acne breakouts. 

Impact of Acne on Teens

Regardless of the cause, acne can have significantly different impacts on people depending on their age. One study found that teenagers who suffered from severe acne were two and a half times as likely to suffer from suicidal thoughts as those with little to no acne. A person’s teenage years are crucial for the development of their self-image, so breakouts of acne are especially unwelcome during adolescence. 

On the plus side, teenage skin is constantly regenerating and strengthening itself, meaning that the acne you experience at a young age may not necessarily result in long-term consequences such as acne scars

One of the strongest acne treatments, isotretinoin (also known by the brand name Accutane), is commonly prescribed to young people suffering from severe cases of acne. Recent studies have shown that isotretinoin can have positive effects in adults as well when administered in smaller doses. However, most people do not wind up needing isotretinoin and find that their acne can be effectively treated with a combination of topical and other oral medications.

Acne Treatments for Both Adults and Teens

Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid remain the two most popular over-the-counter treatments for fighting acne, and they are equally effective in both teens and adults. There are other options as well and these treatments are generally suitable for people of all ages.  All patients should bear in mind that many popular acne treatments can cause the skin to dry as a side effect. Because acne treatments can be drying, patients (adult or teenagers) generally need to combine their regimens with moisturizing with non-comedogenic creams (means does not clog pores).

No matter what age you are, there’s a good treatment out there for you — finding it, though, is easier said than done. Get in touch with a member of our medical team here at Nurx today to learn more about what is the best treatment for you. 


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