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What you need to know

Whether you're a teenager experiencing your first bout of acne, a parent looking to help keep your child’s breakouts at bay or an adult struggling to maintain clear skin, finding the right proper skincare for you is essential. In many cases, a simple regimen that addresses the root causes of acne, helps minimize post-acne marks and promotes overall skin health is the ideal first step for getting acne-prone skin back on track. However, if at-home efforts need an extra boost or you're experiencing severe acne, it’s best to see a dermatologist who can recommend additional products or treatments that can help restore clear skin at any age.

Acne facts and statistics

The most important thing to know about acne is that you're not alone. From teenaged boys and girls to adult men and women, acne is a widespread skin concern at many ages, and virtually everyone experiences acne blemishes at some point in their lives.

  • Acne affects more than 50 million Americans, making it the most common skin condition in the United States.
  • Approximately 85% of people between 12 and 24 years of age experience acne.
  • Up to 15% of adult women struggle with acne.
  • More than 5.1 million people sought medical treatment for acne in 2013.

The acne basics

Regardless of age, acne occurs when a pore becomes clogged with dead skin cells and excess oil, in turn trapping bacteria inside. This environment allows the bacteria to multiply quickly, which leads to the redness and inflammation associated with acne.2 Hormonal fluctuations are believed to play a role as well, which is why teenagers may first experience acne with the onset of puberty3 and many women experience acne blemishes at certain times of their monthly cycle.4

Acne is unlikely to improve on its own, which is why it’s important to address the underlying causes of acne blemishes with the proper skincare products. In addition to helping to clear your complexion, the right acne treatment can improve your self-esteem and help prevent long-lasting post-acne marks as well.5

Anti-acne skincare essentials

There’s no difference between acne treatment for teens and adult acne treatment, and any effective at-home skincare regimen will include several essential components. Since excess oil and clogged pores are an underlying cause of acne at any age, a gentle cleanser that works to dissolve dirt and oil without stripping your skin of its natural moisture is beneficial. In addition, if your face wash features an acne-fighting ingredient, like benzoyl peroxide, it can also help clear acne blemishes and help prevent new breakouts.6 Other ingredients, such as hydrating hyaluronic acid and soothing niacinamide, can help keep acne-prone skin feeling comfortable as well.

Along with proper cleansing, acne-prone skin can benefit from extra moisture as well—especially if you’re using anti-acne treatments that may cause dryness. A non-comedogenic moisturizer (which won’t clog pores) can help hydrate dry skin. (Remember, the skin naturally produces more oil in response to dryness, and this can lead to clogged pores and further breakouts,7 essentially creating an “acne cycle.”) And in the morning, be sure to use a moisturizer with SPF of at least 30 to help protect your skin from UV rays.

An at-home anti-acne skincare regimen can be effective on its own or as a complement to other treatments recommended by your dermatologist. If you don't see an improvement in your skin in six to eight weeks,8 it’s best to see a dermatologist who can suggest additional ways to help get your acne under control.

Acne blemishes can leave post-acne marks and uneven skin tone once healed. A gentle yet effective skin-resurfacing serum that works to refine your skin’s texture can help. A product that contains retinol can promote skin-cell turnover to help reduce the appearance of post-acne marks and create a smoother skin texture.9

Acne treatment for teens

No anti-acne skincare regimen will work if it stays in the bottle. The key to clear skin is sticking to your skincare regimen, which can be a challenge for teens, especially if you don't see results right away. However, it can take six to eight weeks to see an improvement,10 so it’s important to continue using anti-acne products to achieve the results you want.

When looking for a solution, try to choose a simple, yet effective regimen. This can make it easier for teens to commit to daily use.11 In general, look for a benzoyl peroxide cleanser to help minimize acne and a non-comedogenic moisturizer to help keep your skin hydrated – and try to find one with beneficial ingredients, such as ceramides, which can help restore your skin’s natural barrier.

Adult acne treatment

Adult acne causes are generally the same as the ones that lead to teenage breakouts, although menopause, stress and side effects of other medications can play a role as well.12 Adult-onset acne can also come along with additional challenges, as your skin tends to become drier with age, which may lead to more irritation while using topical acne treatments.13 This is why moisturizer is an essential part of your skincare routine, especially when it comes to adult acne treatment.

In addition to acne blemishes, age-related skin changes may also be of concern. A skin-resurfacing retinol serum can gently, but effectively help reduce the appearance of pores, promote more even skin tone, refine your skin to improve texture and improve the appearance of post-acne marks. Skin with acne has also been associated with lower levels of ceramides that play a key role in your skin’s protective barrier,14 so skincare products formulated with these lipids may be beneficial as well.

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