Acne Tips for Girls

How is acne different in girls and young women?

Acne lesions first start to appear during puberty as hormone levels rise. Puberty typically starts at a younger age in girls than boys, so girls often start to develop acne at a younger age than boys. See Acne in teenagers. Girls must also contend with the hormonal swings of menstruation, so acne may flare at certain times during the menstrual cycle.

Girls differ from boys in their response to acne. Because girls are more likely to use acne skin care products, they are often more receptive to using various over-the-counter acne treatments that can offer relief for mild cases of acne.

What acne treatments are available for girls and young women?

The goal of acne treatment is to kill bacteria, remove dead skin cells, and lower sebum production. The dermatologist will choose a treatment based on the severity of the acne, which could be mild, moderate or severe.

Many cases of mild acne can be treated with over-the-counter medications (benzoyl peroxide). However, your dermatologist may recommend something stronger to avoid prolonging the acne and the risk of scarring. Stronger medications include topical or oral antibiotics, prescription-strength topical retinoids, or both.

Your doctor will recommend an acne treatment plan based on several factors, including: 

  • The severity of the acne
  • The presence of acne scars
  • The response to past acne treatments
  • Other medical condition

See more information on Topical Retinoids and other Acne Medication.

What should you know about skincare products and acne? 

In choosing cosmetics and skin cleansers, girls have many acne-fighting products to choose from. To kill P. acnes and other acne-causing bacteria, find a gentle cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, or salicylic acid. See the prevention section below for tips on using a cleanser properly.

When shopping for makeup, hair products, moisturizers, and other cosmetics, avoid greasy formulations that could clog pores and worsen your acne. Choose products labeled noncomedogenic or non-acnegenic, as these are less likely to block your pores. Today, you can find acne-medicated makeup and spot treatments, which conceal and heal your lesions at the same time. 

What can girls do to prevent acne? 

  • Cleanse your skin twice a day with a mild soap; avoid scrubbing hard with a washcloth—it won’t help the acne go away and it may worsen the condition by irritating the skin.
  • Choose oil-free cosmetics, preferably those labeled noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic. Remove makeup at the end of the day to prevent clogged pores.
  • Teens tend to get acne in the T-zone of the face (chin, nose, and forehead), so use an oil-free moisturizer if possible, and use less moisturizer in those areas.
  • Keep hair products away from the face, and if your hair is long enough to touch your face, keep it clean to keep oil away.
  • Wash your face gently after working around oily substances (such as in a hot kitchen or gas station) and after exercising.
  • Don’t touch your face, because the oil and bacteria from your hands can worsen your acne.
  • Avoid the temptation to pick at or squeeze your pimples or zits—this can irritate them and cause scarring.
  • If you are using an acne medication, give it time to work. Your skin may look worse before it looks better, and it may be 6-8 weeks before you see improvement. If you don’t see results after two months, talk to your dermatologist about switching acne treatments or adjusting your dosage.
  • The sooner you treat your acne, the easier it will be to bring it under control. Virtually any case of acne is treatable, and it’s much easier to eliminate lesions in the early stages, which keeps them from growing and prevents scarring.


©2013 Vivacare. Last updated March 19, 2013.

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