Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States — especially among adolescents. Most kids deal with pimples at some point, but for those with moderate to severe acne, the condition can have serious physical and psychological effects. Along with potentially permanent scarring, kids with acne may feel self-conscious, embarrassed or depressed.

Acne is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the skin that usually begins in puberty. Hormonal changes cause the skin to produce more oil, which mixes with dead skin cells to clog the hair follicles or pores in the skin. Blocked pores allow bacteria on the skin to multiply, resulting in acne.

Other factors may include:

  • Genetics: Children of parents who had acne may be more likely to develop it.
  • Medications: Several medications, such as steroids, may cause acne.
  • Menstruation: Hormonal changes associated with menstruation can make skin more prone to acne.
  • Stress: Stress seems to make acne worse for some kids.

Signs & Symptoms of Childhood Acne

Acne usually affects the face, chest, shoulders, neck or upper back. Some kids have only mild acne, or it comes and goes; others have severe acne most of the time. The most common types of acne include:

  • Pimples: Small red bumps (papules) that may become swollen and filled with pus.
  • Blackheads: Plugged open pores that look like black spots.
  • Whiteheads: Closed plugged pores that look like white bumps.
  • Nodules: Large, solid and sometimes tender lumps that form under the skin’s surface.
  • Cysts: Pus-filled lumps beneath the skin that may be painful.

Acne Treatment Options

Mercy Kids primary care physicians and dermatologists treat all types of acne with a variety of therapies designed to improve appearance and minimize scarring. 

We start by examining your child’s skin and determining what may be contributing to the problem. Then, we’ll develop a treatment plan based on your child’s age and overall health, the type and severity of acne, and treatment options and preferences.

  • Topical medications: Topical medications are applied directly to the skin. For mild acne, over-the-counter medications that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide may help get acne under control. Retinoid creams or gels can help keep pores clear. If over-the counter remedies are not effective, your physician may prescribe stronger topical treatments. Follow the directions for use exactly to get the most effective results and prevent skin irritation.
  • Oral medications: Antibiotics and other medications taken by mouth can help fight acne from the inside out. These are often used in combination with topical treatments. Some oral medications may cause side effects, so be sure to discuss these with your doctor.

Acne doesn’t disappear overnight. It can take time to clear up completely, and ongoing treatment may be needed to prevent future flare-ups. We’ll make sure your child understands how to care for their skin in the meantime. For example, many kids don’t know that scrubbing skin or picking at pimples can make the condition worse and lead to scarring.

Mercy Kids physicians know that acne can be challenging. We’ll put your child on the path to clearer skin with expert care and compassion.

Mercy Kids

At Mercy Kids, we care for children from birth through adolescence, through anything childhood brings. Learn more about our children's care services.

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