Acne in Girls

At some point just about all young people get pimples. Some have only a few that clear up pretty quickly, while others are not so lucky and develop persistent and clearly visible acne. This can be very embarrassing – especially at an age when appearance is so important for many teenagers. But there are some things that you can do to help make acne go away. And after some time, it will usually go away on its own.


Acne is mainly caused by the large amounts of hormones the body produces during puberty. The skin is mostly affected by the male sex hormones, called androgens. Production of these hormones increases during puberty in both boys and girls. One of the things they do is to cause the skin to produce more oil.

The oil secreted by the skin is called sebum and is produced by the sebaceous glands. When too much oil is made too quickly and the skin hardens, the sebum is not released from the skin. It collects in the sebaceous gland, forming a blackhead. This can turn into an acne pimple and become infected if bacteria start to multiply there.

Acne is most likely to break out on parts of the body that have more sebaceous glands, like the face, chest, back and shoulders. Acne often clears up once people reach their early twenties and the body has fully matured. Nobody knows exactly why some teenagers get acne while others don't.

Besides hormones, genetic factors and the immune system are also involved. One thing is clear: If you have acne, it is not your fault. Acne is not caused by poor diet or hygiene. And it's not contagious, either.


There are a lot of different types of treatments available to treat acne, including soaps, ointments and lotions, oral medications, and UV light and laser therapies. Many of these treatments are available without a prescription in drugstores, pharmacies or on the internet. There are major advertising campaigns behind some of these products, and their claims are often unrealistic.

Some treatments have been proven to be effective while others have not. It is difficult to predict whether a particular treatment will work for you or not. Many of them take a few weeks or months to start working. It might take a while to find a treatment that is right for you.

Patience is the key to a successful treatment. Switching treatments and trying out new ones all the time won't help. But seeing a doctor at an early stage may be worth your while. A dermatologist can help treat the acne and care for your skin the right way to avoid scarring.

Skin care

If you have acne, you don't need to wash more. On the contrary, washing your skin too much can irritate it and make acne worse. The same is true for squeezing pimples and blackheads. Any skin creams you use should contain as little oil as possible so that they do not clog your pores even more. Gel-based products that can make it easier for the skin to release sebum are best.

Diet and sunlight

Some people think that certain foods like chocolate, meat or dairy products are bad for your skin. But research has not yet found any link between diet and acne. Some people think that sunlight can help improve acne. But others suspect the exact opposite effect. Only one thing is sure about sunlight and your skin: Staying out in the sun for too long will definitely harm your skin.

Treatment with hormones

Many birth control pills contain the female sex hormones estrogen and progestogen. These combined contraceptive pills can help to clear up your skin. Because these hormones also have side effects, birth control pills are only prescribed to treat acne if other options have not worked. Then they are a good solution for girls who had been planning on using birth control pills for contraception anyway.

Scientific research has shown that most birth control pills are effective in treating acne. Some pills that are prescribed specifically for acne may be a little more effective than others – but the differences are not as great as advertising may suggest.

For moderate and severe acne, the pill is often combined with medication to be applied to the skin. Some prescription drugs called retinoids can be harmful to an unborn child. This is why girls and women may only take them if they are not pregnant and are using a very reliable birth control method.

Living with acne

Friends or family might say something about your pimples without intending to be unkind, but it can still hurt. It's often harder than it seems to keep those kinds of remarks from shaking your confidence. Girls in particular dream of having a perfect appearance and a flawless complexion – even though they may realize that that is only part of the world of movies and advertising.

Puberty is a difficult phase. It's easy to feel insecure and overly critical about yourself and how you look. Girls who have acne often feel unattractive and even feel ashamed of their pimples. If their acne gets worse, they might keep to themselves and not go out with friends, or not feel like going to school or work.

In everyday life, make-up designed to cover acne can make things easier. It's important to choose products that do not clog up your oil glands. Some girls grow bangs and style their hair so it falls into their face. Little tricks like these can help you feel more confident when you go out in public.

Having acne is not difficult for everybody though. Some teenagers do feel very self-conscious and unhappy, but others don't feel too bothered by their pimples or can at least find a way to cope with them and stay confident. They usually learn that their looks don't have that much of an impact on finding friends and having fun.

Support and advice

Support from friends and family can be a big help for people who don't feel very confident around others. Many people realize they can cope with their acne better if they have stable friendships or can find a steady boyfriend or girlfriend. And even though some people might think that having acne is an especially tough nut to crack, there are plenty of people who know that beauty is not only skin deep.

It's important to know that acne can be treated. But that can only happen if you can muster up the courage to go see a doctor. Your dermatologist can also give advice on where to turn if your acne is becoming a major problem. Teenagers can also get free and anonymous help by calling special hotlines where they can discuss their problems.

You can find detailed information on the causes of acne and various treatments on our website.

Photos: Panthermedia:
The images of people on our website are used solely for illustration purposes. The people shown are models.

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Updated on December 17, 2019

Next planned update: 2021


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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