Acne in Boys

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.

Causes

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.

Treatment

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. Acne is more common in boys than in girls because boys produce more androgens. Their acne also tends to be more severe. It might at least be comforting for boys to know that there is less peer pressure for them to have perfect skin..

Shaving

Many young men with acne are not sure about how to shave. "Wet" or "dry" shaving probably doesn't make that much of a difference – but you should be extra careful not to cut your skin. Pimples and inflammation can get worse if you fiddle with your skin too much.
Skin care products should also be used in moderation – even if you're eager to do something about your acne. Switching skin care products and topical medications too often is not only needlessly expensive, it can also irritate the skin and make acne worse.

Living with acne

Puberty is a difficult phase. It's easy to feel insecure and overly critical about yourself and how you look. Some boys with acne feel unattractive and are even 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.

Using things like make-up to feel more confident in public can be difficult for boys. But no one will notice minor cosmetic touch-ups and it can help to hide the most noticeable pimples.

Some teenagers also comb their hair across their forehead, or wear brimmed hats or large sunglasses.

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: www.panthermedia.net
The images of people on our website are used solely for illustration purposes. The people shown are models.

Updated on December 17, 2019
Next planned update: 2021

Authors/Publishers:

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

How we keep you informed

Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter or newsfeed. You can find all of our films online on YouTube.