Today’s post is going to be all about how I dealt with my sons teenage acne. I wanted to avoid Accutane and harsh chemicals and was ready to think WAY outside the box in order to do so. Keep in mind, I am NOT a doctor or a medical professional. You should ask a professional before starting any of these treatment options if you don’t feel comfortable with them or have questions. I also think there are a few steps here and there you could skip if you don’t feel comfortable with them and get good results. I think the following steps will get you the BEST results, but you and your teen have to choose what you feel most comfortable with. My son had whiteheads, black heads, active pimples and cystic pimples when we first stared this plan. Really, it was a bit of everything. We tried LOTS of things, but in the end, this is the cheatsheet of what really worked for us. There are tons of variables and every teen will have a different diet, different type of skin and different ability to stick to a routine when it comes to managing teen acne. This is what worked for us. It took quite a while to get it figured out but once we did it was like a lightbulb! Also note that we started this plan last winter (January 2021) and since then my son has fallen off the wagon a bit with the routine and really with teens it’s always good to remember progress over perfection. For the month of August, we are going back to being super diligent again to get back on track for back to school… so it’s a constant work in progress.
Here is the step by step we used and why/how…
Teen acne is so tough since their diets (junk food 24/7!) and their lifestyle (sweaty sports, and not always great with keeping a routine) can really make all the raging hormones even worse. This is what worked for us…
Step 1: Try to eliminate acne causing foods. For us it was SUGAR & DAIRY.
This is probably the most difficult step. Our teen is driving, buying food with friends, eating at friends houses, etc. But for our situation sugar and dairy were two HUGE triggers for acne. A big huge glass of milk and a box of Mike & Ike’s is a healthy snack, right!?!? Haha. This will likely be the most difficult to control, so we had an honest conversation about it with our son and just reminded him that to help the acne clear up it was important to keep sugar and dairy IN MIND at least. Try, try, try to limit it. There are some health professionals that will swear that diet doesn’t matter. That was NOT our experience (or even my own personal experience – dairy ALWAYS makes me break out). Be ready to think outside the box and be ready to try less conventional ways to fight acne.
Step 2: Bring in the professionals, at least once.
After wearing masks for school, sports and work last fall and just the regular teen hormones, my sons face was really struggling come winter. I took him for an extraction facial just to get the bulk of the black heads and whiteheads removed safely. It can be painful, but it heals so quickly. Make sure you ask when scheduling an appt if your skin spa works with teens regularly. I’ve found that some spas do and some don’t. If you are local, we went to Skin Renewal Center and they were great and work with teens a lot. They also wanted to sell us a $1000 teen skincare package. Wow… my plan here won’t cost near that, but the facial was amazing to get a head start on eliminating the acne.
Step 3: Start DIM supplements.
Again, I am NOT a doctor. Talk to a health professional about this step if you don’t feel comfortable – or there are LOTS of great articles if you google it. A woman giving me a facial told me about it when I was asking for tips about teen acne and this arguably was the MOST pivotal step for my son. DIM supplements can usually be found in the women’s health section of a health food store. We bought ours directly from Grand Pearl Spa locally where they recommended it to me initially. We did TWO DIM capsules a day for the first bottle and saw improvements almost right away. It was crazy. Then I bought a second bottle and did one capsule a day for him for about 2 more weeks. My understanding is that this supplement is for short term use. It helps get over the hump of the worst of the acne. Total he took DIM for less than 6 weeks.
Step 4: Get on a skincare routine and stick with it.
This is tough for many teens (mine included) so there was lots of parental involvement in this one. Basically me chasing my son around with skincare every night or constantly reminding him. But it was worth it. I will lay out my favorites and you can decide what works best for you, but I will say that high quality products make a huge difference here. I go for safe ingredients and don’t mind spending a little extra than drug-store prices because I believe it truly makes a difference AND because it’s worth the investment. Accutane is super expensive and potentially dangerous and treating acne scars as an adult is also super expensive. This is an investment that’s worth it.
– Wash with cleanser with salicylic acid which is for preventing/treating acne. We like this one.
– Moisturize with a high quality moisturizer that doesn’t have fragrances or ingredients that could possibly contain hormone disrupters. Dryness can increase the number and severity of breakouts since dry skin can become cracked and let in more bacteria. Teens often think DRY skin equals clear skin, but it’s just not true. Healthy skin equals clear skin. We like this one.
– Wash with cleanser with salicylic acid again.
Alternating nights: Treat with a BHA/AHA serum. This helps exfoliate the skin while you sleep and clears up existing breakouts while working to combat new breakouts. We like this one, this one is similar too.
Step 5: Incorporate microneedling into your skincare routine.
At home microneedling can be super affordable and effective with both clearing up acne, working to heal existing acne and over the long term minimizing hyperpigmentation from acne scars. It’s something I’ve used myself on acne and my son has seen tremendous improvement from doing it regularly as well. Microneedling is simply spurring on the healing process of the skin by making minuscule holes in the skin which prompt the skin to “repair.” I personally use it every time I feel a breakout coming on to avoid the pimple all together and then after any breakouts to heal quicker. I use a GloPro, but my son has used this cheaper option from Amazon that works great too. I replace my GloPro head once a year, for the Amazon option, I would replace it every 6 months, especially with regular use. ALWAYS disinfect the micro needler after use, the GloPro comes with a small bottle you will with alcohol to spray it down. Otherwise buy a small spray bottle and fill it with alcohol. Sanitary use of the microneedler is key!
Step 6: Incorporate a quality and powerful mask once a week.
Masks can be super effective at clearing out tough acne, keeping it away and helping to heal the skin over the long term. There are 3 that my son has used and that I highly recommend. I will list them in ascending order to how strong they are. Some of these might be too strong at first if there is a lot of active acne but as the acne clears up these are great for continuing to keep the acne away and clearing up any lingering acne. This charcoal mask is great for the whole face, or just spot treating trouble areas or breakouts. I regularly use it on the areas where I break out most (chin and lower cheeks, for me and the t-zone for my son). These peel pads are super easy for teens to use and quite strong. I love that they are so conveniently packaged. This mask is super strong and both my son and I use it to treat the whole face, it stings at first but goes away and may cause redness the first few times you use it. Start with 7-10 minutes if you or your teen is sensitive to it and work up to 20 minutes or so.