Acne is a common problem among teenagers and often leaves them self-conscious. Your teenager may try all possible home remedies to get rid of the annoying acne or at least make them insignificant. But can we get rid of teenage pimples naturally? Is it safe?
In this MomJunction post, we tell you what could possibly cause acne and list 11 ways to manage the problem at home.
What Causes Acne In Teenagers?
An increase in the levels of hormones during teenage years causes the sebaceous glands (oil glands within the skin) to produce more sebum (oil). The oil clumps with the dead skin cells and other debris, blocking the hair follicles, and leading to acne (1).
Acne may not cause serious problems. When left untouched, the pimples or zits will fall off without leaving a scar. However, blocked follicles can get painfully inflamed, and in some situations, may get infected. It can lead to discomfort and may also make the acne more prominent.
In the next section, we tell you about the methods that may help eliminate pimples or zits naturally.
11 Ways To Manage Teen Acne At Home
The following remedies may help reduce the intensity of teenage acne. The solutions may not provide a complete cure from acne in teenagers but are still worth a try
1. Wash the face with an oil-free face wash
Buy an oil-free face wash and clean the face twice a day, once in the morning and once in the night. Use only a small quantity to clean the face without scrubbing the skin. Pat dry the skin with a towel instead of wiping it clean. You can pick a face wash that has an exfoliating feature to help remove the layer of dead skin on the surface. Less dead skin and dead cell debris may reduce the chances of clogged follicles.
Face washes with a compound called benzoyl peroxide, which kills the harmful bacteria on the skin and unclogs the oil ducts, can be used for acne. Benzoyl peroxide cleansers can be bought over the counter, without a prescription (2). Pick a face wash that contains 5% benzoyl peroxide and use it only once a day for a week. After a week, use it twice a day for up to four or six weeks to attain relief from acne.
2. Consider zinc products
Oral consumption of zinc may provide relief from acne. However, if the teen is eating a healthy diet, then they may not need zinc supplementation because it is found in a variety of foods, including wheat germ, oatmeal, sesame seeds, poultry products, seafood, and meat (7).
A study found that those with acne may have low levels of vitamin A and E in their body (8). Adequate intake of these vitamins may reduce acne and improve the skin condition. But the American Academy of Pediatrics states that vitamin A supplements “could be not only unnecessary but dangerous as well” (1). The academy says that you must speak to a pediatrician if you consider providing vitamin supplements to your teen.
A safe and healthy source of vitamin A for a teen is fruits and vegetables. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the following foods are good sources of vitamins A and E in the diet (9) (10).
Dietary sources of vitamin A:
- Leafy green vegetables; spinach and broccoli
- Yellow and orange vegetables: pumpkin, squash, carrots and sweet potatoes
- Red bell pepper
- Fish oils
Dietary sources of vitamin E:
- Oils from seeds and legumes; sunflower, safflower, wheat germ, and soybean oil
- Nuts such as almonds, peanut
- Green leafy vegetables; beet greens, collard greens, and asparagus
- Fruits like avocado and mango
- Red bell pepper
A diet with adequate vitamins A and E may help reduce the intensity of acne and lead to clearer skin.
4. Honey and cinnamon face mask
Research suggests that a combination of honey and cinnamon powder can work against acne-causing bacteria (11). Certain natural compounds in these food items may act against the proliferation of Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis, the bacteria associated with the formation of acne.
Your teen can consider using a honey and cinnamon mask once or twice a week. Here is how you can prepare the face mask:
- Mix one teaspoon of cinnamon powder with one tablespoon of honey.
- Wash the face, pat it dry, and apply the mixture evenly on the face.
- Leave it for 20 minutes and wash it off.
5. Omega-3 fatty acids
A healthy dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the intensity of moderate and severe acne in teens (12). Omega-3 fatty acids might reduce the production of inflammatory compounds in the body and the overproduction of skin cells. This could, eventually, minimize the chances of an acne breakout.
Some healthy sources of dietary omega-3 fatty acids are fish, flax seeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts, tofu, and soybean oil.
6. Tea tree oil
Research suggests that tea tree oil may reduce the severity of acne among those with mild to moderate acne (13). Tea tree oil is an essential oil and comes from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, or the tea tree (not related to tea). A study found that the application of 5% topical tea tree oil can help reduce the intensity of acne (14). Tea tree oil may work slowly, and some experts state that it may require three months of use to show visible results (15).
Diluting tea tree oil with water at home may be risky since high or uncontrolled quantities of the oil may cause skin problems. For instance, some people may develop dermatitis rash or skin irritation on contact with tea tree oil (16).
Therefore, it is safer to use tea tree oil-based gels and face wash available over the counter since they are likely to contain a measured and safe quantity of tea tree oil.
7. Green tea
Some studies observed that topical application of gels or creams with green tea extract tends to reduce the amount of sebum produced by the sebaceous glands (17) (18). This is due to the presence of a group of compounds called polyphenols in green tea.
Polyphenols act on the oils in the sebum to reduce their quantity. It is not known whether green tea can work in the case of severe acne and if it is always effective. However, research shows that green tea may be helpful in cases of mild to moderate acne.
Green tea is quite readily available and worth a try. You can steep green tea in hot water as you would when you make it for drinking. Let the tea cool and then apply it to the affected area with a cotton ball. Pat dry with a towel. You can try it once a day.
8. Avoid dairy
Milk may expose a teen to hormones and other compounds that may exacerbate teenage acne (19). Health experts do acknowledge that dairy products can cause acne in some individuals (20). Besides the likely presence of hormones, it is not known how and why dairy may cause acne.
However, experts at the University of Southern California say, “Most dermatologists don’t believe food can affect conditions like acne, but if the patient swears it, then we always say if you believe that, then just avoid it.” (21).
Avoid dairy for a month or more and observe if there is any difference. If you notice the acne diminishing and the skin improving without dairy in the diet, then your child can permanently stay away from dairy products.
9. Low glycemic diet
Glycemic index tells how quickly or slowly the blood sugar rises after consumption of a food item. Glycemic load tells you how high the blood sugar can go to after consuming a serving of the food item (22) (23). The American Academy of Dermatology states that a low-glycemic diet may reduce the number of acne breakouts (24).
The foods that usually have high GI and GL are the ones with added sugar. For example, soda, fruit juices with added sugar, confectionery, fried and sugary desserts, and other sugary products have a high GI. Some other foods that may cause the blood sugar to rise quickly are white bread, puffed rice, and potato chips.
Despite the academy’s recommendation, it is not known if avoiding foods with a high glycemic rating can relieve acne for sure. An elaborate study found no link between glycemic index and acne (25).
Nevertheless, foods with a high glycemic rating are mostly unhealthy (soda, fried fast food, sugary cereal) and should be avoided. Minimizing their serving size and increasing the servings of high-fiber whole grain, fruits, and vegetables is worth a try for reducing teenage acne.
10. Manage stress
Emotional and mental stress does not cause acne but may aggravate existing acne (26) (27). Research suggests that the sebaceous glands may be affected by the corticotropin-releasing hormone, a stress hormone in the body (28). The hormone could lead to excess sebum production, thus increasing the likelihood of acne.
Minimizing emotional stress is essential for teenagers, considering that they also go through several physical changes at this age. Having acne may add to the stress, as they become conscious of their appearance. Spending time with family and talking to the parents about what is stressing them out can be relaxing. Another way to beat stress is to stay physically active.
Exercise can cause the adrenal glands to produce fewer hormones that trigger acne flare-ups (29). Regular exercise can also bring down the levels of stress hormones that could cause acne (30). Exercise has a positive impact on a teenager’s overall health and is worth a try for controlling acne.
Remember, always consult a doctor before allowing the teen to have nutrient supplements. Also, if the teen shows no improvement in their acne despite the use of home remedies, then take them to a doctor.
Acne may be a cause of concern for the teenager, but it is often a normal part of growing up. Most adults have had to deal with acne during their teenage years. The severity of acne tends to decrease eventually, as the child moves towards the end of their teenage years. Care, a good diet, and a healthy lifestyle and attitude can help the teenager face teenage acne.