Zits Happen

Acne (zits) is common in teenagers due to changing hormones.  Most people grow out of having acne, but in the meantime, there are things you can do to help get it under control! Remember: Never pick at your acneor pop zits, it can cause scarring and infection. 

  1. Wash face with a gentle non-soap cleanser (e.g. Cetaphil™, Aveeno™, or Basis™).  Do not use a washcloth or scrub, just use your hands.
  2. Apply medicine only after face is completely dry.  For gels and creams, spread a “mini chocolate chip” sized amount into a thin layer all over the areas of your face that you get acne. Using too much may irritate your skin.
  3.  Apply moisturizer all over your face and upper chest.  Use a mild, oil-free, noncomodogenic moisturizer with SPF15 in it (e.g. Cetaphil™ or Oil of Olay™). 
  4. In the shower, use benzoyl peroxide bar soap (e.g. Panoxyl™) with body exfoliation towel (e.g. Bass™ or Salux Cloth™) to wash all over the areas on your body where you get acne (chest, back, etc.)  Be sure to rinse completely to avoid bleaching towels.
  5. Take your oral prescription medicine as directed by your doctor


It can take up to 8 weeks before your acne will improve with medicine.  Acne can sometimes get worse before it gets better as the medicine helps “clean out” your pores. 

Helpful Tips

  • Acne creams can make your skin red, dry, irritated, and even peel.  These side effects usually go away as your skin gets used to the medicine.  In the meantime, use your medicine every other day or every third day and then more frequently as your sensitivity improves.  Call you doctor if the sensitivity is severe or doesn’t get better.

  • Only wear makeup labeled as oil-free or noncomodogenic (doesn’t clog your pores). 

  • Discuss with your doctor before using any other over the counter acne scrubs, astringents, etc. These medicines can interfere with the ones prescribed by your doctor, or can make acne worse.

  • Be sure to apply extra sunscreen  (SPF > 15) if you are going to be in the sun.  Some medicines can make you vulnerable to a severe sunburn, even if you don’t normally burn.

  • Call your doctor with any new or concerning side effects, such as lightheadedness, dizziness, severe diarrhea, or rash. 

  • Some teens may benefit from the birth control pill to treat their acne, especially those who tend to break out before their period.  Talk your doctor to see if this might be an option for you.