back to school teen acne

Our acne expert gives her best tips and tricks for an acne-free school year.

Got zits? You’re not alone. Almost all teens get zits at one time or another. It’s called acne.

Acne tends to flare up when school starts, and by the time Thanksgiving arrives your face could be one hot mess.

Follow these tips and tricks for an acne-free school year:

Avoid the carbs.
This means reduce the sugar, bread, and pasta in your diet, and try to get 1-2 fruits and vegetables every day.

Get more sleep.
Being tired stresses the body, raises your cortisol levels and aggravates acne. At your age, your body needs at least 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Don’t cram (for exams).
Study a little every day to avoid stressing out before your test.

And while you’re studying…
Don’t touch your face. Try putting band-aids on the tips of both index fingers to stop mindless skin picking.

Don’t pick at your acne.
Instead, roll an ice cube over the zit as soon as you notice it. The ice will help bring it to the surface or make it calm down and go away.

But if you must pick, do it the right way.
Make sure the zit is really ready with a white head before attempting to pop it. Read our step-by-step instructions for what we fondly call Bathroom Surgery.

Stick to a good skin care routine.
Make sure to pack products with benzoyl peroxide to keep in your gym locker or take to college with you. Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO) is the most effective ingredient for killing acne bacteria on-site, and if you really want to get serious start on our Teen Acne Kit for a complete, no-brainer home care routine. If you have back acne, also use our specially formulated Clearing Scrub that is strong enough to penetrate the thicker skin of the back and chest, leaving your skin clear from head to toe!

What causes acne?

During puberty, your skin gets oilier. This can cause pimples. There are many myths about what causes acne, but there are really only three main causes:

Plugged oil ducts.

Small whiteheads or blackheads can form when the oil ducts in your skin get plugged with oil and skin cells. They can turn into the hard and bumpy pimples of acne.


The hormones associated with puberty increase oil production, inflammation, and excess skin cell production, all of which lead to acne.  You get a big surge in acne-causing hormones during puberty. Certain hormones, called androgens, trigger the oil glands on the face, back, shoulders, and upper chest to begin producing more oil, which can cause acne in some people. Some girls get more pimples before and during their periods, caused by changes in the levels of hormones.


Acne runs in families. If your mom or dad had severe acne as a teen, there’s a good chance that you’ll get it too.

What makes acne worse?

  • Rushing through or skipping the prescribed home care regimen before school.
  • Going to Chick Fil A or eating sugar after school with friends.
  • Drinking Gatorade during sports.
  • Leaving sweat on your skin for hours after sports practice.

What you can do to clear and prevent your acne

  • Don’t pop, scratch, or pinch your zits. All this does is break open the lining of the oil ducts and make them more red and swollen. This can also cause scars. You cannot pop a pimple flat! Read our tips to break your picking habit.
  • Don’t scrub your skin too hard—it irritates the skin. Other things that can irritate the skin are headbands, hats, chin straps, and other protective pads like football players use.
  • Don’t use greasy makeup or oily hair products. These can block oil ducts and make acne worse.
  • Learn how to handle stress. Sometimes stress and anxiety can cause pimples. Try to keep your stress down by getting enough sleep and having time to relax.
  • Some birth control pills can be useful for treating young women with acne, but only if it’s a birth control with the right ingredients.

How you can treat your acne

There are a few things you can do to help keep those zits under control.

Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide wash, gel or lotion—the most effective acne treatment you can get without a prescription. It helps kill bacteria in the skin, unplug oil ducts, and heal pimples. POREspective carries 3 different strengths of benzoyl peroxide (2.8% up to 10%) without a prescription.

How to use benzoyl peroxide

  • Start slowly—only every other evening with a 2.8% gel. After a week or two, try using it every day if your skin isn’t too red or isn’t peeling.
  • Don’t just spot treat your pimples. Apply a thin layer to the entire area where you usually break out. Always avoid the skin around your eyes–you don’t get acne there.
  • If your acne isn’t any better after 4 to 6 weeks, try a 5 % gel. Use it once a day at first and then try twice a day if it doesn’t irritate your skin.

Final thoughts

  • Be patient. Give each treatment enough time to work. It may take 3 to 6 weeks or longer before you see a change and 12 weeks for maximum improvement.
  • Be committed. Follow your program every day. Don’t stop and start each time your skin changes. Not using it regularly is the most common reason why treatments fail.
  • Follow directions. Not using it correctly can result in treatment failure or troublesome side effects.
  • Don’t overdo it. Too much scrubbing makes skin worse. Too much benzoyl peroxide or topical retinoid creams can make your face red and scaly. Too much oral antibiotic may cause side effects.

Most teens get some acne at some point. You’re not alone, and we’re here to help!

Check out our entire line of acne products just for teens
and get clear, once and for all!