Acne is caused by everything from genetics and makeup to changes in hormones. 

As a teenager, your family history and hormone changes due to puberty create the perfect conditions for acne to thrive. As a result, as many as 93% of teens are affected by acne.

Teen acne is caused by your skin producing excess oil and dead skin cells clogging your pores, which can lead to acne. Some teens may also experience more severe acne, often called cystic acne, which gives you persistent, deep, and painful pimples.

While acne can be annoying, the good news is it’s relatively easy to treat. If you’re experiencing mild acne, many creams, gels, and cleansers to help get rid of acne are available. If you’re experiencing more severe or persistent acne, you may need prescription acne treatment (which can easily be gotten online with an online doctor’s consultation).

Continue reading to learn more about why teens get acne, how to prevent it, how to treat it, and how to say, “Bye, bye acne, hello clear skin!”

female teen group

Causes of Acne: Why Do Teens Get Acne?

Teen acne is usually called acne vulgaris (meaning “common acne”), which shows up on the face and upper body (including the neck, back, chest, and shoulders).

Teen Hormones

Hormonal activation of the sebaceous (oil) glands, which produce sebum that helps keep your skin and hair moisturized, often causes teen acne. But when you’re a teenager, your hormones are all over the place, and your skin can produce excess oil. This, combined with not shedding or exfoliating dead skin cells, can clog your pores, leaving room for bacteria to grow and cause irritation and create acne lesions or zits.


You can do everything right and still have acne breakouts because of genetics. Blame your parents. If they had acne, there’s a good chance you’ll have it too.

If an immediate relative (sister, mom, aunt) has PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), there is a chance that you may also develop the condition in your lifetime. PCOS can lead to acne because it causes the ovaries to overproduce hormones called androgens, which stimulate your skin’s oil production.


What’s another reason why teens get acne? Because being a teenager is stressful! Stress can worsen acne by raising cortisol levels (the hormone that causes your fight or flight response). Oil glands in your skin react to increases in cortisol levels and produce more oil.

TL;DR: Stress can trigger acne and/or worsen your existing acne.

Makeup and hair products

Finding the right makeup, skincare, and hair products for your needs is an art. Sometimes the products we use and love don’t love us in return. If you wear makeup, makeup products and brushes can spread acne-causing bacteria, dead skin cells, and oil over your face. If we use cleansers too often to thoroughly remove makeup, this can worsen acne by taking away oil and then the body puts back MORE oil, causing acne.

Hair products can also cause acne by spreading oil or residue on your skin, leading to clogged pores and small bumps on your forehead and wherever the hair touches.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) = Period Problems

Changes in hormone levels due to menstruation can also lead to breakouts. If you menstruate, your hormone levels change at different times of the month. For example, you might breakout right before your period due to higher progesterone levels.

These PMS pimples tend to be red, inflamed, or swollen (and painful sometimes). However, they tend to clear up as your cycle ends.

Like teen acne, hormonal acne is due to the overproduction of your skin’s natural oils.

girl picking skin

Picking at your skin

If you already have acne, you know what it’s like to have skin irritation, and it can be tempting to pick at or squeeze pimples. Unfortunately, touching your skin or picking at your skin can make acne worse!

Picking at your acne can irritate your skin even more. Germs and bacteria from your hands can transfer to your face and get stuck in your pores, causing more problems. What’s worse is that you interrupt your skin’s natural healing process when you pick at your pimples, and that means you could end up with acne scarring.

Do not squeeze and pop your pimples. This results in more ooze going into the skin, causing more irritation, taking longer to heal.

How to Prevent Acne?

Now that we know the answer to “why do teens get acne?” Let’s talk about preventing acne.

Clean your face

One of the easiest ways to treat current acne breakouts and prevent new ones is to wash your face regularly with a gentle cleanser twice a day. Then, rinse with warm water and pat dry. Do NOT wash your face more than twice a day, otherwise you strip the oil and the body makes MORE oil, making acne worse.

It’s also important to wash your hair regularly. If you have oily hair, then wash at least every other day. If you use oily hair products, wipe them off your face so the excess oil doesn’t clog your pores.

Purchase acne treatments

While washing your face twice a day is the beginning of treating acne, it might not solve your acne woes on its own.

You may need to look for products like cleansers, creams, and/or treatments containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. If you want products with natural ingredients, look for products with aloe vera, azelaic acid gel, green tea extract, tea tree oil, and zinc.

If that still isn’t helping, you may need to reach out to your doctor or the expert doctors at Pandia Health to get prescription acne medication. These medications are typically either a retinoid like Differin Gel 0.1%, which prevents hair follicles from becoming clogged, makes pores smaller, makes the body produce less oil, or antibiotics that work by killing excess bacteria on your skin and decreasing inflammation.

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Non-comedogenic hair and makeup products

You may have already tried washing your face and using products with active ingredients that help treat acne, but you’re still getting pimples. It may be time to look more closely at the other products you use on your skin.

Products that don’t clog pores are called “non-comedogenic.” These products won’t clog pores, since they allow your skin to breathe and remain hydrated, which helps prevent breakouts.

What is The Best Treatment for Teenage Acne?

Acne in your teenage years usually clears up as you age, and you’ll experience less acne over time. Also, as your hormones level out, you may have less oily skin, and acne tends to go away.

The best acne treatments may require a prescription. There are many prescription acne medications that your doctor can prescribe for you, both topical and oral, to help treat your acne, like retinoids and antibiotics. Want to find the best acne treatment for you? Look no further than Pandia Health. We now offer online acne treatment, bringing the doctor to you with telehealth services, so you can get prescription acne treatment delivered to you with no trips to the doctor’s office!

Just fill out our quick health survey, and our expert doctors will evaluate photos of your problem areas for only $35. Then, they can help you find the right treatment for you. Your insurance might cover your acne medications, or you can pay as low as $30 per month for medication without insurance (but cost depends on what you choose).

Reach out to your doctor or Pandia Health if you’re ready to say, “Bye-bye acne, hello clear skin!”

Birth control pills, patches, ring

On top of all its other benefits, birth control pill, patches, and rings have the added positive side effect of being pretty good at controlling acne. Of course, not all birth control options are created equal, but some are more effective at preventing pregnancy and give you the added benefit of avoiding breakouts.

The best birth control for acne is the oral combined contraceptive pill. While the FDA has approved 3 specific oral contraceptives to treat hormonal acne, research has shown that all combined birth control pills help treat acne.

If you notice that your acne changes with your menstrual cycle, then you might be a good candidate for birth control to help treat your acne.
If you’re not currently on birth control but think it might be a good option for you, be sure to talk to your doctor or the experts at Pandia Health about your options.

Want to find the best birth control for acne?

Sign up for Pandia Health and our expert birth control doctors will find the best acne treatment for you.

  • Starting at $7 per pack or FREE with insurance (cancel anytime)*
  • FREE delivery and FREE goodies
  • Expert care by expert birth control doctors
  • With or without a prescription, we can help you!

*Pricing may vary based on medication

Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or changing acne treatment.