This article is to support you if your teenager is struggling with acne (what teenager isn’t?) At San Diego Acne Clinic we work with families all the time and we have seen how the emotional toll of acne can weigh on parents as they navigate different treatment options… Options like putting your teenager on heavy antibiotics that you know will wreck their gut. Or putting them on some harsh topical that makes them sunburn like crazy when they are out playing their sports. And does any mom ever want to put her 13 year old daughter on hormonal birth control just for acne?? No mom wants to face these options, but when your kid’s confidence and self esteem are suffering due to acne, you feel their pain with them and you know that you can’t just sit back and do nothing. That’s not an option either. So you’ve gone to the derm, maybe even got a second opinion with their childhood doctor, and you seem to be left with no usable information on diet or root causes; you only have these prescription options ranging from toxic to downright scary. Maybe you’ve even tried these medications because you didn’t know what else to do. Maybe it worked for a while but you KNOW this isn’t healthy for them and you are concerned about the long term effects on their health. Maybe the medication didn’t even work and your kid is spiraling because he feels hopeless and you feel powerless because this is not your expertise- what do you do?
At the clinic we love to treat teenagers and have learned a few key things to help you help them. I hope this article provides you both with clarity and hope, because acne sucks and you both deserve sustainable solutions that improve your child’s health, not jeopardize it. The 3 pillars of treating teenage breakouts are: diet, motivation, and an easy skincare regimen.
Diet plays a MAJOR role in teenage acne. Mainly it’s sugar and dairy consumption. If you have a teen with acne and he/she has younger siblings, it’s very likely that they will get it too (acne is genetic) so it’s wise to eliminate dairy milk from the household starting now. Oat milk is the best alternative, just avoid soy as this has hormonal side effects. Dairy milk (even if it’s organic) has a high amount of insulin-like growth factor hormone as well as arachidonic acid (an omega 6 that is inflammatory). These two chemicals affect acne in a dramatic way by acting on the same hormone receptors that are already going crazy during puberty. On a trigger scale of 1-10, dairy is a 10. It needs to be eliminated in your teen’s diet as much as possible. The challenge is when they aren’t at home.. It’s very hard for them to say no to pizza and avoid cheese, but if they are actively breaking out, they need to.
Here’s where motivation comes into play!
PRO TIP: Use the “puppy technique”. Basically, it’s much easier to commit to something if it’s temporary, but the benefits will be so noticeable that it turns into the necessary motivation to keep the habit going.
If you are on the fence about getting a pet, and the salesman at the pet store allows you to borrow the puppy for a weekend, you are way more likely to keep the little guy. So here’s what you say to your teen when you’re asking them to give up milk and cheese: “This is not permanent, it’s only for 2 weeks. You can do ANYTHING for 2 weeks”. (Set a calendar date to revisit this, and if they slip up, reset the 2 weeks.). Within those 2 weeks, the inflammation will have subsided so dramatically that when they go back to eating milk and cheese, which is inevitable, they will literally see the flare up the next day (it happens that fast with dairy). From there you can discuss what matters most to them and you both will have an educated sense of what their dairy threshold is. They may be able to have a string cheese here and there, but having 2 slices of pizza was way too much. Knowing is everything, and this exercise gives them a chance to have some control.
With diet, it’s also important to limit sugar and make sure they know to stay hydrated. A hydroflask is a great investment because they just need to drink 3 of those per day. With sugar, it’s important to educate them on nutrition labels so they can see how much sugar they are really eating (sugar is insidious and hides in their favorite snacks). If your kid has a sweet tooth, make sure to stock the house with apples, berries, and oranges (low-glycemic fruits) and have them eat those as snacks, while guiding them to skip packaged foods. Other GREAT snacks are macadamia nuts (no peanuts), beef jerky, and gluten free crackers. We also highly recommended swapping oatmeal for cereal and following a low-glycemic shopping list (the whole family will benefit from that, and here is the link to reference). There is more in-depth acne diet for teens information on our site here!
PRO TIP: If your teen’s acne is heavily concentrated on their forehead this is typically from too much sugar in the diet.
Next big topic is what products they’re using. You simply must check their products for pore-cloggers or nothing will work and they will stay discouraged. That list is here for you. This is a cool exercise to do together, as it makes them feel like they are part of their own solution. To make things simple and fool-proof, we HIGHLY recommend you only use the CLEARSTEM CLEAR kit or Face Reality skincare products from a certified professional. For girls Priia mineral makeup is the best choice and will always be 100% acne safe (priia.com). An acne-safe hair conditioner is here and a safe body wash/shampoo is here. If they are using the CLEARSTEM Clear Kit, their routine is very simple and thus more likely to happen. Included is a gentle scrub, an acne-dissolving serum, and a stem cell repair serum for scars. We recommend the Face Reality Ultimate SPF 28 in addition to this kit. Using this playbook of products will make your lives so much easier and you will see noticeable results in less than a week- talk about motivation to keep going!
It is natural for the acne cycle to ebb and flow, and everyone’s skin and lifestyle are different. The thing that matters most is what products we are using and what foods we are not eating.
We highly suggest eating liver as it provides a super dose of vitamin A and actually helps our own liver flush out toxins faster.
If your teen is willing to try liver that’s awesome, but if not you can get liver supplements and digestive enzymes to help minimize internal toxicity.
If your teen plays sports, have them rinse off their face right after practice.
They can literally stick their head in the water fountain for 5 seconds just to rinse off the sweat so it doesn’t cause blackheads. This is a major help for athletes! More in depth tips like these are included in our “Ditch Your Acne Course” (here!) so if you still find yourselves struggling we highly recommend that you get the course and listen together.
The information included in the course is invaluable and is all the information that you’ll never get a regular doctor appointment.
We go over digestion, gut health, hormones, in-depth tips on crafting a skincare regimen, along with how to evaluate vitamins and supplements (those can trigger acne too). This course is the equivalent of meeting a nutritionist, a gut health specialist, and an acne expert all at once; the information is valuable for the entire family and could have a profound impact on your family’s health in addition to helping clear your child’s skin.
When you are both ready, please enjoy $20 off $100 at clearstemskincare.com to be used on any products your teen needs. YOURTEEN20
PRO TIP: follow us on IG for live Q&As, serious acne advice, and more pro tips!
Danielle Gronich, “The Acne Guru”
CEO CLEARSTEM Skincare
Owner San Diego Acne Clinic