While it's often thought of as a teenage rite of passage, acne can start as early as elementary school. If your child is dealing with acne, it's important to understand what causes it, how to properly care for their skin, and what treatment options are available.
With the help of board-certified dermatologist Sandra Lee, MD (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) we're taking a closer look at how to treat acne in kids.
Article Quick Links
- 01.What causes acne in kids?
- 02.Is acne in kids normal?
- 03.Why do children get acne?
- 04.How to treat your child’s acne
What causes acne in kids?
No matter how old you are, the way acne develops is essentially the same (learn more about that here). In a nutshell, acne happens when pores become clogged with dead skin cells and sebum. These clogged pores are known as comedones — commonly referred to as blackheads and whiteheads.
Sometimes, bacteria called C. acnes spreads inside the comedone, leading to an immune response. This results in inflammatory pimples. Not every child or teen who experiences a breakout will have inflammatory acne, but all inflammatory acne begins as non-inflammatory comedones.
Is acne in kids normal?
Certain changes in our modern way of life have led to an increase in the prevalence of acne in younger children. While a pimple here and there is typically no cause for concern in a child, chronic or severe acne should be checked out with a pediatrician, who may recommend seeing a dermatologist.
Why do children get acne?
According to Dr. Lee, some kids develop acne at a very young age due to a combination of factors. Here’s a breakdown:
- Genetics. If a parent or sibling had acne (especially at a young age), it is more likely that a child will also develop the condition.
- Hormones. During puberty, the body begins to produce more androgens (male hormones), which can cause the oil glands in the skin to become overactive. This leads to an increase in sebum (oil) production, which can clog pores and create acne.
- Stress. This can cause the body to produce more androgens, leading to an increase in sebum production and the formation of acne.
- Hygiene. Not washing the face or hair regularly can contribute to the development of acne in children.
How to treat your child’s acne
Dr. Lee says that starting your child on an over-the-counter acne skincare regimen is the best place to start when you see a pimple or two popping up on your child or teen. Here are some of her tips to help kids care for their acne-prone skin:
- Encourage your child to wash their face twice a day with a gentle, exfoliating cleanser. Try: SLMD Salicylic Acid Cleanser.
- Remind them not to pick or pop pimples, as this can lead to scarring.
- Advise your child to avoid touching their face, as the oils and bacteria on their hands can contribute to the development of acne.
- Help your child select non-comedogenic skin care products, which are less likely to clog the pores.
- Remind your child to use sunscreen daily to protect their skin from UV rays, which can make acne worse. Try: SLMD Dual Defender.
Should you see a dermatologist if your child has acne?
As we mentioned earlier, occasional pimples and mild acne typically respond well to an acne regimen that includes ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. If your tween is experiencing regular breakouts, look for a complete kit like SLMD Acne System.
If your child’s acne is severe or not responding to over the counter treatments, it’s time to pay a visit to the pediatrician. A doctor can rule out any medical concerns, and refer you to a dermatologist if need be.
Depending on your child’s case, a dermatologist may prescribe a topical retinoid, antibiotics, or a combination of medication.
Dr. Lee's Last Word
Though acne typically develops in teens due to surging hormones, it’s not unusual to see a pimple or two — even a case of chronic acne — in younger children. We treat this essentially the same way we treat teen and adult acne. I always encourage parents to show empathy and to teach kids to create healthy skin habits early.