My Teen’s Skin Is Making Them Miserable

Acne and spots can make life a misery for your teen. While you can’t magic them away for good, there are things you can do to help your teen get the right treatment to reduce their spots and their stresses…

We all know that puberty is a turbulent and emotional time for all teenagers and that the onset of acne can make life for teens even more difficult. It can knock their confidence and can really affect their mood and relationships. Most of us probably had spots or acne during our own teenage years and can remember the feelings of upset and frustration only too well. At a time when our appearance was more important to us than ever, it felt cruel and unfair to have our skin become a constant source of distress. This worry has only intensified for teens today, due to social media and the increased pressure to look a certain kind of way.

As parents, we want to protect our children and remove any source of pain. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for acne, but there are ways to treat it and minimise its visibility. Here are a few steps you can take to help your teen:

Be Honest

Your teenager is most likely feeling upset, unattractive and worried that their spots are caused by something that they might have done. Explain that acne and spots are caused by hormones that stimulate the sebaceous glands and cause oily skin which is more prone to breakouts. Remind them that they have no control over their hormones and that, in time, puberty will pass and so will their pimples, but that it won’t happen overnight. Reinforce your support by telling them that you can understand why they’re feeling upset and that you will help them to figure out a treatment plan. 

Encourage A Daily Cleansing Routine

Help them to establish a daily routine using a gentle facial wash to instil an awareness of the importance of removing make-up and keeping pores clean. Explain to your teen that while daily washing won’t erase acne, it will help to unblock pores and reduce the number of spots. You could take them out shopping and choose a facial wash together to reinforce the message that you’re in this fight together.

Discourage Picking

Squeezing, scraping or picking at spots is common as your teen’s frustrations boil over and they try to visibly ‘remove’ the spots. This only serves to increase their anguish when they’re left with enraged spots and redness. Explain to them that although picking their spots may give them a brief sense of satisfaction, it can lead to scarring and even infection, making the original problem even worse. Encourage your teen to use a tactic to distract themselves when the urge to pick gets too much. This could be the application of a face mask, painting their nails or playing a game on their phone to keep their hands busy and away from their face.

Apply Make-up

Many teens are pretty savvy with make-up these days, thanks to the millions of YouTube tutorials online, but some of them struggle to match their foundation correctly or overuse foundations and concealers which can actually emphasise spots. You could gently offer to take your teen to have their skin properly colour-matched (you can have this done at many beauty counters or some pharmacies). If they’re unsure of how to apply make-up to cover their spots, show them how to do it or watch a few tutorials online to learn together.  

Seek Treatment 

For milder breakouts, you can talk to your pharmacist to get recommendations on over-the-counter gels and creams that are designed to treat moderate spots. Be aware that these treatments will take weeks, maybe months, to have a noticeable effect – you should make sure your teen is mindful of this and realises that any treatment for spots is not instantly effective. 

If your teen is suffering from more serious breakouts or acne, take them to their GP to discuss a treatment plan. Your doctor will most likely prescribe a stronger medication to tackle the problem. You can help your teen by reminding them to apply or take these medications at regular intervals every day as many teens are likely to forget or simply skip applications, especially if they’re starting to see a noticeable improvement to their skin. Again, these medications will take time and it’s important to complete the treatment as directed by the doctor. They can also be harsher on your teen’s skin than over-the-counter treatments (many can cause dryness and sensitivity) so be sure to keep an eye on any side-effects during the course and ask your doctor if you have any concerns.

Listen To Your Teen

Try not to minimise or brush off your teen’s pain by saying things like, ‘It’s just puberty and it’ll pass’. It’s perfectly normal for your teen to feel angry and frustrated so try to emphasise when they’re venting their anger. Most teens will also feel a degree of embarrassment and may even start avoiding social situations because of their skin. Try to offer reassurance where you can and don’t push them into doing anything they don’t feel comfortable doing.

If your teen is getting to the point where their skin is affecting their day-to-day life or their mood is extremely low, they may be depressed. Try to talk to them about how they’re feeling or encourage them to talk to another trusted adult, such as a family member or friend, or a helpline. You may need to take your teen to a doctor to discuss their mood if you’re becoming concerned about their mental health. They may need additional mental health support or medication to help them through their treatment plan. 

More Help

For your teen:


Childline: 0800 1111

For you:

More information on acne causes and treatments:



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