The Regimen

How to Preempt Preteen Acne

Preteen girl with acne on soft yellow background


Acne has often been seen as a rite of passage for teenagers. But in recent years, what was once fuel for teen angst is now ushering children toward that particular brand of anxiety earlier and earlier. Twelve is no longer as the lower end of the age range in terms of acne presentation. Children as young as seven are now showing up at the dermatologist’s office for acne treatment.


A report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) confirmed that acne is becoming more common in preteens. The research involved 1,277 children and found more than 40% of those aged seven to nine had acne, and more than three-quarters of those aged 10 to 12 had acne. 


“I’ve definitely seen a shift,” said Dr. Latanya T. Benjamin, a dermatologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. “It’s not uncommon for a 7- or 9-year-old to walk in with the first signs of acne.”


What’s causing the earlier appearance of acne? Dr. Lawrence Eichenfield, lead author of the AAP report and a pediatric dermatologist at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, believes that the reason may be that, on average, puberty is beginning earlier than in past generations.


The changes in hormones increase the activity of sebaceous glands, which means more oil secretion. Oil mixes with dead skin cells, clogging pores, trapping bacteria, and initiating breakouts. Stress and genetics can also be factors.  


Fortunately, most preteen acne is mild and easily treated with a simple, pared-down regimen used consistently. More severe acne in early years can be a sign of things to come, so you definitely want to get it under control as early as possible to avoid it developing into cystic acne or scarring. However, even mild acne that is picked at, or otherwise allowed to become inflamed, can result in scarring or hyperpigmentation, so proper care in early years is crucial for healthy skin later.  


Don’t wait for acne to appear before teaching your child good skin care habits.


Beginning around age nine, help your child develop good habits by washing nightly using a mild facial cleanser. Cleansing Milk or Green Tea Antioxidant Cleanser are gentle choices for young skin.


At the first sign of pimples, switch to a cleanser formulated to control acne. Benzoyl peroxide, the gold standard for acne treatment, kills acne bacteria and flushes pores. BP 3% Acne Wash is a good starting point for skin new to acne treatments.


For dark skin tones prone to hyperpigmentation or sensitive skin, use Mandelic Acid 3-In-1 Wash. This gentle acid kills acne bacteria and suppresses the pigmentation that can result from inflammation.


Consider adding a toner to keep surface debris from building up and blocking pores.

Daily Repair Pads are formulated with mandelic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid to clear pores while hydrating and protecting pH balance. The single-use, pre-moistened, textured pads make sticking to a skin care routine super simple for preteens.


For quick control of more aggressive breakouts, keep 10% BP Gel Medication on hand and use as needed to flush out pores and peel away impactions.



Quick Tips for Preteens 

Start early. Developing good skin care habits before the signs of the first breakout will help avoid future breakouts and the scarring that can occur when acne gets inflamed.


Be consistent. It takes 30 days for pimples to form and come to the surface, so while the skin may look clear on the surface, the next crop of pimples is already forming underneath. Keeping pores free of dead skin cells and sebum is critical for avoiding impactions.


Don't spot treat. Spot treating individual pimples leaves bacteria brewing in the surrounding areas. Apply products to the entire face to prevent future breakouts. 


Hands off. Teach your child not to pick at pimples. Picking drives the pimple deeper, spreads bacteria, and leads to scarring.


Ice is nice! Speed healing of a pimple by rubbing ice over the area for two to three minutes before applying toner, or as needed. The ice will help reduce inflammation and enhance product absorption to optimize results.


Use sunscreen. Despite what many people think, sun doesn’t make acne better. UV exposure creates inflammation that can make acne worse and cause dark marks to be left behind once the pimples clear. Those marks are known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.


Beware of sweaty hats. If you notice pimples along the hairline, it could be from hats, helmets, or headbands, especially if worn during active play. Keep these items clean and wash after wearing them.


See a dermatologist. If your preteen shows signs of more severe acne, don’t hesitate to visit a dermatologist. 


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