Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic


Acne is a normal part of teenage development, however it is still surrounded by many myths.

What is Acne?

The medical term for “pimples” is acne or acne vulgaris.

Acne is a normal part of teenage development and most teens have some type of acne. It is not from being dirty or eating greasy foods. Acne is the result of increased production of your body’s natural oils. This can result in clogged pores called “whiteheads” or “blackheads.” Excess body oil allows for normal skin bacteria to reproduce and cause skin redness. Clogged pores can develop into pimples, nodules and cysts.

Who Should You Talk to About Your Acne?

Your general pediatrician is an excellent resource for helping you manage your acne. Talk with him/her about any concerns you have.

Sometimes acne is severe. Your pediatrician may suggest you see a specialist such as an adolescent medicine doctor or a pediatric dermatologist.

When Should I Talk to a Doctor?

If your acne becomes bothersome or if routine face washing is not relieving your acne, talk to your doctor. Prescription acne treatments work well when used correctly.

It’s important to note, most acne medications can take weeks or months to work. Daily medication use and routine skin hygiene is key to treating and preventing acne outbreaks.

Acne Treatment

You should wash your face two times per day, every day, in the morning and at night. Use a gentle cleanser or soap to wash your face. You do not need to scrub with a washcloth or use acne scrubs or exfoliating products. These can cause skin dryness or redness. Make sure to only apply skin lotions and sunscreen that say “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog your pores”.

There are medications available to help manage and prevent acne. Medications come in creams you apply to your skin or pills you swallow. Most of these medications require a prescription from your doctor.

The most common topical acne medications include benzoyl peroxide, retinoids and antibiotics. The most common oral acne medications are antibiotics, oral contraceptives and isotretinoin.

Acne Myths

MYTH: Eating greasy food makes acne worse. 

TRUTH: This is not entirely true. Eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water and getting the recommended hours of sleep will help your body feel and look its best.

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MYTH: Poor hygiene is the only cause of acne.

TRUTH: Acne is not due to dirt; but washing your face daily is important in acne prevention and treatment.

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MYTH: You can get acne from contact with someone who has it.

TRUTH: No, it is not contagious.

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MYTH: Sun exposure and tanning can clear up acne.

TRUTH: Tanning, indoor or outdoor, has no effect on acne. Remember, it is important to wear sunscreen when you are spending time outdoors.

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Our adolescent medicine team has special training to meet the unique needs of teens. We're here to help guide you and answer any questions you might have.

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