If your child is a teen, chances are they have some acne. Whether you call them pimples, zits or blemishes, nobody wants them, but they’re part of growing up.

About eight in 10 teens have acne. It usually appears between the ages of 12 and 17. No teen is the same. Some might be lucky and only get a few pimples, others might get more than a few and still others get big bumps that hurt and cover their faces. While your child might be embarrassed by their pimples, learning about acne and taking some simple steps can help them feel better about their skin.

Acne appears when hair follicles, or pores on the skin, clog up. Pores contain sebaceous glands (oil glands) that make sebum (oil) to moisten the skin. Sometimes when pores have too much oil, dead skin cells or bacteria, it can lead to acne including white heads, black heads, red bumps (pimples), bumps filled with pus (pustules) and inflamed large nodules (cysts). As your child grows up, their hormones change and stimulate oil glands to be overactive – and too much oil clogs the pores leading to acne.

If you had acne as a teen, it’s likely your child will have acne. Recent studies have shown eating milk chocolate might also aggravate acne. Luckily, for most, acne gets better when someone reaches their 20s.

Here are some simple messages to share with your child to help keep acne away:

  • Wash the face twice a day with warm water and a mild soap or cleanser to prevent oil buildup leading to clogged pores.
  • Don’t scrub your face. Scrubbing can actually irritate the skin causing more acne.
  • If you wear makeup, moisturizer or sunscreen, make sure they’re “oil-free,” “non-comedogenic” or “non-acnegenic”, and take time to remove all the products on your face before bed each night.
  • If you have long hair, wash it regularly and keep it away from your face.
  • Wash your face after exercise.
  • Don’t pick or squeeze your pimples.

If these tips don’t prevent acne and they get pimples anyway, try over-the-counter products available at retail stores. Products with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid usually work well. If that still doesn’t help, you may need to take your child to see a dermatologist for acne.

Acne treatment usually includes topical antibiotics, topical retinoids or oral antibiotics. For severe and scarring acne, isotretinoin is very effective. Because there are many effective treatment options available, there’s no reason your child has to live with acne that’s severe and embarrassing.

Dr. Wei Wei Huang is a Mercy Clinic dermatologist on staff with Mercy Children’s Hospital St. Louis.

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