How can I clear up my acne?

Urgh, acne. Acne is probably one of the most frustrating parts of growing up — in fact almost 85% of Australians will experience bouts of acne during their teenage years. But never fear, there are plenty of things you can do to help soothe your skin and get on with life. 

What is acne?

The most common type of acne teens get is ‘acne vulgaris’ (don’t panic, vulgaris just means most common!). 

  • Cases of acne can be very minor or they can be more extensive and usually show up on the face, neck, shoulders, chest and/or back. 
  • As girls and people who are assigned female at birth tend to go through puberty earlier, they will usually develop acne before boys and those who were assigned male at birth. 
  • Acne and breakouts often increase during menstruation, as this is when hormones are at their peak.
What is the point of acne? Why do we get acne?

Fair question. Acne or pimples occur when the oil glands in our skin become blocked and bacteria is trapped inside. 

During puberty, while your hormones are all over the place, your glands (also known as sebaceous glands) will increase in size and you’ll start to produce a lot more oil (sebum). This increases the chance of your oil glands being filled up, and if the glands become blocked, you get a build-up of oil that eventually leads to a pimple. 

When bacteria gets trapped in the glands and starts multiplying, this is what causes pimples to become red and swell.

Different types of acne bumps and lumps include;

  • Whitehead: a closed, clogged gland that bulges out from the skin
  • Blackhead: a clogged gland that stays open, the top section darkens
  • Pimple: the gland opens up and sebum, bacteria and dead skin cells move under the skin and cause swelling, redness and sometimes a bit of pus on the surface of the skin.
  • Nodules or cysts: clogged pores that become infected, these are usually deep in the skin and feel like hard lumps.
An illustration displaying tips and advice for treating acne on the skin. Acne can be treated by following these tips: don’t pop or squeeze your pimples, avoid making contact with your face where possible, limiting your sugar intake, drinking plenty of water, cleansing, moisturising and exfoliating your skin, keeping your hair clean and off your face, ask your dermatologist for prescription medicine and ask your pharmacist about any OTC treatments.
How to manage acne

It’s important to remember that acne isn’t your fault — it’s controlled by a range of factors that are largely out of your control. We get pimples due to our genes and hormonal changes during puberty, so don’t feel guilty or ashamed about it.

It’s also really common to feel self-conscious about it. If you’re concerned about your acne, here are some simple steps that can help prevent them and reduce their appearance: 


It is recommended that you wash your face twice a day with a cleanser that is specifically designed for acne-prone skin. Just ensure you are gentle, don’t scrub too hard as this can actually cause the acne to get worse.

Change your make-up

If you use make-up, try using products that are labelled ‘noncomedogenic’ or ‘nonacnegenic’ as it is less likely to clog your pores compared to other makeup. It can also be a good idea to minimise the amount you wear. You might even want to try and have make-up free days to give your skin a chance to breathe. 

Always remember to cleanse your skin really well after wearing make-up, and don’t sleep with it on. 

Don’t squeeze!

Squeezing and picking pimples can cause the bacteria to spread and more pimples to develop, so resist the temptation. If you must, try doing it right after you have had a hot shower when your skin is soft and less likely to scar.

Try to relax 

Stress causes hormones to race around the body, which affects your oil levels and for some of us that means we get a pimple. While this is annoying, the plus side is that you can do lots of things to reduce your stress levels, like meditation and exercise, and in turn reduce the chance of getting a stress induced pimple.

Look at your diet 

There is not a lot of scientific evidence showing that diet has an influence over whether or not you will get acne. However if you notice that a particular type of food causes you to break out, it might be a good idea to avoid eating it if it concerns you.

Where to get help
  • Talk to a pharmacist: If you have tried all you can at home and you are still concerned about your pimples or acne, head to your local pharmacist and have a chat with them.
  • If your acne is very severe, talk to a doctor who may be able to refer you to a dermatologist (a skin specialist) who can prescribe medication like retinoids, antibiotics or hormonal agents that can dramatically reduce the severity and number of pimples.
  • Check out our post on going to the doctor on your own if you don’t feel comfortable going with a parent. They will be able to recommend some treatments. 

Need someone to talk to? Free, confidential support is available.

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