Dermatology (Skin Care)

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How Long Does Acne Last?

My son is 15, and he started breaking out when he was 12. He wants to know when this is going to end. What do I tell him?
– Cyndee

No one knows exactly how long acne will last for each person. Many people find that their acne improves as they become older and that it has almost disappeared by the time they enter their twenties. Others have acne well into their adult years.

The good news is that acne can be treated — and breakouts can sometimes be prevented. Prevention involves taking good care of the skin. Your son should wash his face twice a day (and after building up a sweat) with a mild soap and lukewarm water. Make sure he washes it gently; teens sometimes scrub too hard in an attempt to get rid of acne. This can irritate the skin and actually make acne worse.

Sunscreen, moisturizers, and makeup should be labeled "oil free," "noncomedogenic," or "nonacnegenic." Hair and hair styling products should be kept away from the face, and hair should be shampooed daily.

Your son should try not to touch his face and should avoid wearing tight-fitting hats or clothing over the acne-affected area. If good hygiene isn't helping with breakouts, your son can try an over-the-counter acne cream or gel. Be sure he follows the directions carefully and does not use it more than is recommended.

If his acne still doesn't improve, he may need some extra help from the family doctor or a dermatologist. A doctor can recommend the best treatment for him and also give lots of useful tips on dealing with acne.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: April 2012

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