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Acne in Kids: How Can Parents Help?

Acne in Kids: How Can Parents Help?

What is preadolescent acne?

Acne is usually associated with puberty. Because of this, its occurrence may be neglected by parents who believe it is just normal to have acne during puberty. However, parental support is necessary during this potentially difficult period for the preadolescent. Furthermore, statistics show that the prevalence of acne in younger children is increasing1.

Preadolescent acne occurs in children aged 7-12 years old. It is caused by androgen production due to increased adrenal gland activity just before puberty3.

Pre-puberty acne may manifest through different kinds of lesions2. This includes comedones, which form when a pore becomes plugged up. These are not infected or inflamed. Whiteheads are closed comedones, while blackheads are open comedones. These are commonly seen in the T-zones of the face: including the forehead, eyebrows, nose, and lips area.

On the other hand, acne may become inflamed, producing red, painful sores. These sores may be infected with bacteria. These kinds of acne include pustules, papules, nodules, and cysts2.

Pustules are closer to the surface of the skin. They occur when the hair follicle becomes inflamed. Papules form when the wall of the hair follicle becomes irritated. These are set more deeply in the skin. Nodules are larger and more solid bumps set deep in the skin. Cysts are nodules which become filled with pus.

Acne can be found in parts of the body where there are more sebaceous glands, including2:

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Upper back

Effects of puberty acne on self-esteem

Adolescence is when a child starts to develop their own self-image. Kids with acne are more prone to humiliation, which can negatively affect them emotionally and psychologically4. Research has found that individuals with puberty acne have said that their skin makes them feel ugly, humiliated, or self-conscious. These sentiments can cause them to dodge attempting out for sports, getting part-time work, or taking part in a lesson4.

Puberty acne is related to an expanded frequency of anxiety, misery, and suicidal ideation3. Furthermore, teenagers with acne are generally less socially active, shy, and bullied. These can lead to a negative effect on the way others perceive kids with an acne condition4.

Treatment of acne in preadolescents

Treatment of preadolescent acne depends on the severity of acne and the child’s general health. Treatment for children with acne may be generally similar with the adults, with the exception of certain antibiotics3. It is important to treat acne early to prevent it from becoming more severe and develop sequeale of acne scarring that may affect their self esteem.

The following treatments may be considered2:

  • Using over-the-counter facial or body cleansers, creams, and gels
  • Therapies such as injections for cysts or cyst draining
  • Light, laser, light, or chemical peels2
  • Topical or oral prescriptions by a dermatologist

Prescribed topical medicines for acne include adapalene, benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, tretinoin1 or a combination of these. They can be in a cream, gel, lotion, or liquid form.

Tips to help manage acne in preadolescents

Tip# 1: Maintain a clean face2

It is important to keep the face clean. Teach your child to wash their face at least twice a day to prevent oil, dirt, and dead skin cells from accumulating on the skin surface.

You may also tell them to avoid touching their face as this may transfer bacteria from their hands to their face. This may result in irritation and inflammation of skin, leading to pre-puberty acne.

Tip# 2: Choose non-comedogenic products2

Make sure that the products your child uses on their skin do not cause more clogging of the pores. Make it a habit to read the label on the back of the product to be purchased. Look for the term “non-comedogenic”, which means that a product contains ingredients that won’t clog or block the pores on the skin5.

Tip# 3: Eat a healthy diet

Feed your child a healthy diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables. The nutrition from that food will nourish the body, reflecting on the skin. Foods that are rich in vitamin C and beta carotene also helps reduce inflammation6.

Importance of parental support during treatment

Pre-puberty acne is a skin condition that requires the support and care of parents. If you have a child suffering preadolescent acne, you can help him or her by doing the following2:

  • Be aware of the emotional impact having preadolescent acne may have on your child. Talk to them about how they feel about having acne and the treatment they might undergo, and express that you will support them through this.
  • Remind your child not to pop or prick pimples because this might bring about further irritation and scarring.
  • Take the child to the dermatologist to be given the right medication for pre-puberty acne.

If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.

How severe is your acne? Are you likely to get acne scars? Find out through our acne screener, and get connected to a dermatologist.

Please click here to send your questions or concerns. Foods, Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics Act prohibits dispensing of ethical or prescription medicines without prescription. For suspected adverse drug reaction, report to the FDA at www.fda.gov.ph.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


1 Davis, SA, et. al.  Treatment of preadolescent acne in the United States: an analysis of nationally representative data, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23876222/

2 Stanford Children’s Health, Acne in Children, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=acne-in-children-90-P01571

3 Gordon, H. What causes acne in children, Dermnet NZ, Helen Gordon, https://dermnetnz.org/topics/acne-in-children#:~:text=Preadolescent%20acne%20%E2%80%94%207%E2%80%9312%20years,%2C%20nose%2C%20and%20lips).

4 Dunn, Lauren K; O’Neill, Jenna L, Feldman, Steven R, Acne in Adolescents: Quality of Life, Self-Esteem, Mood and Psychological Disorders, https://escholarship.org/uc/item/4hp8n68p

5 Definition from Oxford Languages, https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/

6 Cleveland Clinic, Acne, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12233-acne

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Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel Updated 5 days ago
Fact Checked by Fidelis Tan