Skincare tips & advice
A Daily Skincare Routine for Teens With Acne-Prone Skin
Teenagers who suffer from oily skin, occasional acne breakouts, or severe acne know the frustrations that these common teen issues can cause. The good news is that implementing a daily skincare routine can help prevent new acne pimples, help keep acne breakouts under control, and help remove excess oil. The key is creating a daily regimen and sticking with it. Here, we’re sharing some key facts about teenage acne and the essential steps to follow in your daytime and nighttime routine for clearer-looking skin.
What You Need to Know
Acne vulgaris, a chronic acne involving mainly the face, chest, and shoulders, is common in teens. Acne is often a result of changing hormones that cause the sebaceous glands (oil glands) in the pores to create extra sebum, an oil that lubricates your hair and skin. This excess oil, combined with dead skin cells, dirt and bacteria, can become trapped in the pores causing swelling and redness, leading to acne2.
Common teen skin issues2:
- Whiteheads. When pores clog up and close, but bulge out from the skin.
- Blackheads. When pores clog up, but stay open and the surfaces darken.
- Pimples. When pores trap oil, bacteria and dead skin cells, causing small, red bumps. (The body's reaction to bacteria can sometimes cause pus-filled tops to form on the bump.)
- Cysts. When pores clog deep within the skin, causing inflammatory reactions that lead to large and often painful lumps.
Understanding Teenage Acne
What causes acne in teens?
As children grow and hormone levels rise, the teenage body reacts to change—and so does the skin. And while there are many factors that can influence acne (like pore-clogging cosmetics, genetics, and stress), teenage acne is often the result of hormonal changes.
How does puberty affect teenage acne ?
Acne usually shows up during puberty when hormones known as androgens trigger increased sebum (oil) production in the pores. This, in turn, can cause clogged pores. When pores become clogged with excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria, it can result in various types of acne breakouts, such as whiteheads, blackheads, or acne pimples (papules or pustules). These acne breakouts tend to appear in places that have the most sebaceous (oil) glands, such as the face, chest, forehead, shoulders, and upper back.
How is teenage acne treated?
Teenage acne often resolves on its own once these hormonal changes have settled down, although this isn’t always the case for everyone. While teenage acne can sometimes be managed at home with over-the-counter acne treatments, more severe types of acne (such as nodules or cysts) need to be treated by a dermatologist. It’s also important to consult a doctor or dermatologist before using benzoyl peroxide skincare for “tweens” (ages 12 or younger).
Building a Skincare Routine for Teens With Acne-Prone Skin
For teens dealing with acne, we recommend a simple skincare routine that focuses on the basics: a cleanser, acne treatment gel, moisturizer, and sunscreen (for daytime). Basic skincare for teenagers with acne can help teens keep their skin clear without placing additional stress or demands on their busy schedules. Read on to discover the key steps to follow in a daytime and nighttime routine for teens with acne-prone skin.
Daytime Routine for Teenage Acne
Step 1: Cleanse
When choosing a face wash, look for a gentle yet effective acne cleanser that contains beneficial ingredients like hyaluronic acid , niacinamide , and ceramides . CeraVe’s acne cleansers are formulated with these ingredients and do not disrupt the skin’s natural moisture barrier.
If your teenage acne is comedonal (whiteheads and blackheads), try using a cleanser with salicylic acid, like CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser with 2% salicylic acid. This gel-to-foam face wash is formulated to help clear acne, reduce blackheads, and improve the appearance of pores.
Or, if you’re dealing with acne pimples, try a foaming face wash for teens that contains benzoyl peroxide. As one of the most common and effective ingredients for treating acne , benzoyl peroxide works by reducing a type of acne-causing bacteria known as P. acnes.CeraVe’s benzoyl peroxide cleansers are formulated to help clear acne pimples and help prevent newacne breakouts from forming.Our Acne Foaming Cream Cleanserwith 4%benzoyl peroxide can be used daily to help treat and manage acne on the face, without dryness or flaking. Or, if you’re looking for an acne cleanser that can be used to help treat more severe acne on the face and body, try CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Wash.This acne cleanser features 10% benzoyl peroxide, the maximum strength available without a prescription.
Step 2: Moisturize and Help Protect
When you're a teen with oily or acne-prone skin, using a moisturizer may seem counterintuitive. However, moisturizers are a core step in any skincare routine. Applying a CeraVe moisturizer after cleansing can help keep acne-prone skin properly hydrated, lock in moisture, and help maintain the skin’s protective barrier. Moisturizers can also help address dryness or flaking from topical acne treatments. This is important for teens with acne since dry, irritated skin can lead to increased oil production, which may trigger further acne breakouts.
For daytime, we recommend using a non-comedogenic moisturizer that includes sunscreen in its formula. While many teens mistakenly think sun exposure is a good treatment for acne, it can actually cause sun damage and increase the risk for skin cancer later in life. In some cases, it may also lead to increased oil production and make acne worse. Therefore, it’s essential to apply moisturizer with broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) as the last step in your morning routine (and reapply as needed throughout the day).
One great option for teens with acne-prone skin is CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion. This lightweight daytime moisturizer with broad-spectrum SPF 30sunscreen moisturizes and nourishes your skin while helping to absorb and reflect the sun’s damaging rays.
Note: Remember to apply (and reapply) sunscreen products as directed on the label, in addition to following other protective measures—such as wearing protective clothing (like wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and long-sleeved shirts) and seeking shade during peak hours.
Nighttime Routine for Teenage Acne
Step 1: Cleanse again
In the evening, wash your face again with a gentle cleanser. If your acne-prone skin is feeling dry, it may be helpful to use a hydrating face wash in the evening, such as CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser. This face wash with ceramides and hyaluronic acid gently cleanses and refreshes the skin without over-stripping it or disrupting the skin’s protective barrier.
CeraVe Tip: It’s important to remember that acne cannot be “washed away,” and vigorous scrubbing can actually cause skin irritation and potentially make matters worse. Teens with acne-prone skin should stick to the instructions on the label and gently cleanse using their fingertips and lukewarm (not hot) water.
Step 2: Apply an acne treatment or serum
After cleansing, teens can apply a topical acne treatment like CeraVe Acne Control Gel. This hydrating acne treatment gel with 2% salicylic acid helps clear acne and offers gentle exfoliation with lactic acid and glycolic acid. When using an acne treatment, don’t forget to pay attention to your skin: sometimes using multiple treatments can increase unwanted side effects like dryness.
Step 3: Use a lightweight nighttime moisturizer
Next, apply a nighttime moisturizer that’s suitable for acne-prone skin, such as CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion. This ultra-lightweight and non-comedogenic night cream delivers a stream of moisture through the night. It’s also formulated with beneficial ingredients, including ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide. Note: Remember to look for moisturizers without sunscreen for nighttime.
Teen Skincare Tips for Acne
Managing teenage acne doesn’t need to feel overwhelming. With the right skincare routine, a few simple tips, and a bit of patience, it’s possible to achieve a clearer-looking complexion. Here are a few skincare tips to keep in mind:
Don’t overuse acne treatments: For teens with acne, it can be tempting to over-apply acne treatments. However, this can dry out the skin and potentially cause skin irritation or even more breakouts.
Avoid scratching, picking, or popping pimples: This can spread pore-clogging oils and bacteria to your face (which can trigger more acne breakouts). Picking at acne blemishes can also cause skin injury, which may lead to swelling or possible scarring.
Practice self-care and reduce stress: Studies show that feeling stressed out can worsen acne breakouts.3 Try practicing stress-reducing techniques and make time for self-care.
Note: It’s best to seek the help of a board-certified dermatologist if your skin concerns are still not under control after several weeks of implementing a teenage acne routine or if you are experiencing additional symptoms. A dermatologist can also address any concerns you may have and recommend the best skincare routine for your acne-prone skin.
For help choosing the right skincare products for your specific skin type and skin concerns, use our Find My Skincare Solution tool.
Gollnick HP, Zouboulis CC. “Not all acne is acne vulgaris.” Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2014 Apr 25;111(17):301-12. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2014.0301. PMID: 24828100; PMCID: PMC4098044.
“Skin Conditions By the Numbers.” American Academy of Dermatology Association, 2023.
Zari S, Alrahmani D. “The association between stress and acne among female medical students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.” Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017 Dec 5;10:503-506. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S148499. PMID: 29255370; PMCID: PMC5722010.
More Skincare Tips & Advice
Skincare tips & adviceHow to Choose a Facial Cleanser for Dry Skin
Skincare tips & adviceFacial Cleanser for Men: Choose the Cleanser for Your Skin Type
Skincare tips & adviceSelecting the Best Cleanser for Sensitive Skin
Skincare tips & adviceWhat’s the Ideal Cleanser for Your Skin Type?
Skincare tips & adviceChoosing and Using the Best Products for Your Oily Skin
Skincare tips & adviceCeraVe Dry Skin Tips: Is My Skin Dry or Dehydrated?
Skincare tips & adviceWhat Type of Skin Do I Have?
Skincare tips & adviceUnderstanding Your Skin: Why Is My Face So Oily?
Stay Informed On All Things Skincare
Sign up to receive information about new products, skincare routines, tips, and special offers.*