Acne in Teens & Preteens

Parent Q&A

Useful tests for food sensitivity causing cystic acne? Aug 7, 2019 (9 responses below)
Teenage acne Jul 1, 2019 (13 responses below)
Skin and hair consult for teenager with acne? Jan 4, 2019 (2 responses below)
Dermatologist for teen with acne? Apr 14, 2018 (11 responses below)
13 YO Teen with acne on back (severe), face Sep 26, 2016 (6 responses below)
  • Our son has severe acne and the medications keep getting ramped up by his dermatologist, but are not having much success (and I am becoming more and more uncomfortable with him having so many antibiotics in his system over a long period of time). I have heard of people having food sensitivities-are there reliable tests for these? Dropping different foods one at a time is difficult at this point given everything else going on. We are on a long wait list for an excellent acne specialist, and that will be happening, so recommendations for people are not as useful at this point. Thanks!!

    My son also suffered from terrible acne and there were two food related changes that brought it under control. The first was to remove dairy products from his diet, which was tough because he loves ice cream and cheese. However, the change in his skin was striking. We also eliminated foods with iodine and in particular, a multi vitamin that contained iodine. If your son takes a multi vitamin, it is a good idea to check it to see if it has iodine, which is  a big trigger for acne. With those two changes and a nightly routine with OTC products, his skin stays relatively clear with occasional light break outs. Best of luck to you. 

    Antibiotics did nothing for my kiddo's acne. We finally decided (with much trepidation) to do Accutane. It was a complete success. We know lots of kids who found great relief & success with Accutane with no side effects. I was very nervous, but it was a game-changer. Sorry if this answer is off-topic, but I know how terrible acne is!

    We struggled with this for our son. We did not want to give him harsh meds for his acne and had been seeking alternatives. Luckily, we found an acne person in Oakland and the foods to reduce/avoid: soy, dairy - milk and cheese, canola oil, shellfish, seaweed/kelp, peanuts/peanut butter and Iodized salt. We have seen a great response to cutting these out. Peanut butter was the most difficult for my son, however, he does eat it every once in awhile. Pizza with cheese is also difficult.  I know that I couldn't live without these two foods!  

  • Teenage acne

    (13 replies)

    Looking for advice and recommendations for my 14 yo daughter with severe acne. OTC treatments have not worked. I wonder if I should take her to a dermatologist or an acne treatment center. Any great experiences with doctors or treatments that you can recommend are much appreciated. We are in the Albany/El Cerrito/Berkeley area, but willing to travel farther if necessary. 

    RE: Teenage acne ()

    Your daughter's pediatrician should be able to recommend a dermatologist. My daughter is a little older and has been very diligent about her skin care, many of her friends who had bad/severe acne admitted to not putting in the time it takes to keep it under control. Neutrogena and Clean and Clear products worked for washing, and hydrating, and light moisturizing twice a day, carry skin wipes to use during the day; do this in addition to topical treatments. A lot of it may be hormonal, that just takes time. Good luck.

    RE: Teenage acne ()

    Dr Curtis Raskin is great. He may be a little far from you as he’s located in Concord but he’s one of the few dermatologists that don’t push any products and focuses on the issue. 

    Also, I do recommend seeing a dr if all other OTC options aren’t working. My mom took me when my acne got really bad and only the Rx stuff worked. 

    RE: Teenage acne ()

    Take her to a dermatologist. I highly recommend Dr. Joseph Chao in Berkeley. He is young and personable and my daughter loves her clear skin.

  • We're looking for someone, an esthetician maybe, who can consult with our teenage girl - despite a clean diet, good exercise and a pretty good skin care regimen (washing 2x day and applying acne lotion), she has bad hormonal breakouts in her t-zone, and her hair, despite expensive haircuts/detanglers/etc is super frizzy all the time.

    She currently uses good products (dermologica, and EWG certified products) and we prefer someone who would also follow that practice of more natural solutions. Someone has also suggested a multi-vitamin to help teen and hair. 

    TIA if you know of anyone who could consult and suggest products to help!

    It sounds like your daughter is setting herself up on a path for a lifetime of healthy skin and hair.

    I do not have an esthetician to recommend - my daughter tried one in Palo Alto years ago and hated the experience so much did not want to return.  The location and practitioner were very good, but my daughter found the experience painful (which extractions are) and did not like being red and puffy for a bit afterward (which is to be expected when treating acne).  She was also uncomfortable in general having someone touching her face for so long (even though she asked for the facial).

    However, the experience did encourage her to try a little harder herself to find products that work for her and rigorously maintain the routine. At 16, she has beautiful, healthy skin and hair.  She found good results using ZapZyts products which are well rated on EWG, but can be hard to find (try online).  For hair, she follows the Curly Girl method and recommended products. If your daughter's hair gets super frizzy, this method will likely work, regardless of whether she has waves, tight curls, or anything in between.  

    With both, less is more which is great for busy teens.  Good luck.

    Rise (pronounced Risa) Gross is amazing, especially with acne. She was explaining why all the over the counter stuff doesn't work. I don't remember why, I just know the results were great. I don't know if she helps with hair though. She owns Trio Skin Care in Concord. 925-609-8746

  • Dermatologist for teen with acne?

    (11 replies)

    Hello, I'm looking for a good dermatologist for my 13 (almost 14) year old daughter who has fairly severe acne. We live in San Francisco so SF would be preferable but we would travel to the East Bay for the right person. Ideally I'd like someone who will not go full blast with medication. I prefer more holistic approaches. That said, she may require medication and I'm definitely open to it so I do want someone who can assess her needs realistically. Thank you for any and all recommendations!

    Hello -- I don't have the name of a good dermatologist, but I'd nevertheless like to offer two pieces of advice:

    (1) We adopted my cousin's granddaughter when she was 12 years old.  Her mother had bad acne starting when she was sixteen (it lasted through her thirties), and I was determined that Casey not suffer the same fate (to which she was genetically predetermined).  So from the time Casey moved in I had her using the Clinique soap + Clinique Clarifying lotion every night, without fail, and Clinique soap every morning.  When Casey hit age 16, I became especially vigilant about warning her not to touch her face with her hands unless they had just been washed.

    As you now, acne is caused by hormones + oily skin. Skin builds up its own oils, or you can apply more there with your oily fingers.  Keeping the skin absolutely clear, morning and night, is paramount.  If my child had acne, I would have her use soup + clarifying lotion three times a day.

    RESULT: Casey is now nearly 19, and has had beautiful, clear skin throughout her adolescence.  On the *rare* occasions when she did get a pimple (on one occasion she got three at a time), we analyzed her behavior, and it had always been a combination of eating chocolate and being lax on her skin care. 

    (2)  My own experience.  I didn't have myself as a mother, and had terrible acne when I was your daughter's age, on my back as well as forehead and neck. After avoiding the "drug solution" for six months with no results, the dermatologist finally gave me a combination of ultraviolet light treatments and medication.  That was what finally did the trick, and by the time I was 15, my acne was mostly behind me, except for the occasional pimple.

    Sometimes drugs are necessary, and this may indeed be the case for your daughter.  I was not harmed by mine.


    We are East Bay Kaiser, so we can't really give you a Dr. recommendation, but my son progressed from topical to Accutane, which I had grave reservations about.  He is doing great. He's down to his last month of medication, and his skin is as clear as can be.  He suffered no mental side effects at all, but a lot of dryness. I just wanted to re-assure you if they talk Accutane. 

    My 14 year old daughter with moderate but persistent acne went to Studio Abasi in Berkeley for facial treatments last year and now has very clear skin.  She had complex acne (multiple kinds) but her skin started to improve after several treatments, and cleared entirely after several months.  We avoided medication which made us both happy.  She went regularly for several months, but now just has an appointment perhaps every 2 months.  She uses their facial products, which are expensive, but a little goes a long way and they are not more expensive than what we were purchasing elsewhere.  The aestheticians work with dietary factors and are very knowledgable.  (My daughter eliminated dairy and reduced her processed sugar intake which has helped enormously.)  One major drawback (in addition to cost):  the treatments are quite painful, especially in the beginning, so your child has to be willing to tolerate that.  My daughter was unhappy enough with her skin that it felt worthwhile for her, and the treatments get progressively less painful.  If Berkeley is too far to travel, they may be able to recommend a place in SF.  My daughter is thrilled with her skin, and actually eats much healthier as a result of her treatment.

  • 13 YO Teen with acne on back (severe), face

    (6 replies)

    Hello:  My son has developed acne on his back and shoulders over the last few months.  His face fares better, but he has breakouts (which I think is normal for a growing teen). We have tried OTC remedies, and some natural ones (purchased at Whole Foods). Nothing seems to be working. I would like to avoid the regimen of antibiotics/other serious RX that my son's pediatrician recommended.  I am looking for recs for someone in the healing arts who can address this with natural remedies  (anyone in the entire Bay Area, North Bay, East Bay, SF) . And I am seeking advice from a parent who has gone through this with their child. I am afraid there might be permanent scarring on his shoulders/back.

    Thank you!

    It's not all natural, but Acne Specialists of Oakland ( use a regimen that doesn't require antibiotics. They use a mixture of dietary/lifestyle interventions and products to help. After years of trying all natural approaches and products without success, this has been a blessing for my family. I’d also look into naturopaths.  Hope this helps!

    I found that when I cut out Gluten my skin cleared up! Sometimes it's something they are consuming. Try cutting out Gluten for two weeks and see if it helps! 

    As someone who suffered tremendously, I recommend going directly to Accutane. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Minocycline for acne for 14yo?

July 2015

My 14 year old son has been prescribed minocycline (100 mg twice a day) for his moderate acne. Also prescribed Retin A topically. The minocycline potential side effects range from annoying to horrific, and of course I have gotten sucked into internet hell, so now I'm extremely hesitant to let him start the antibiotic. If anyone has direct experience with their kid taking this drug, I would love to hear how it went, both from a parent and a kid perspective. My son is really hating his pimples and we want to help him but need some real-life info first. I have no qualms about the Retin A and am hoping that will help significantly, but understand the antibiotic has a completely different mechanism of action to eradicate acne. Thanks for any wisdom. Mom

Both of my teens have had great results using Face Reality in San Leandro. This clinic treats acne without any drugs and will teach your teen how to keep their skin clear forever. Their website explains their approach and why you should not use antibiotics or Retin A (or worse) to treat acne.

They use benzoyl peroxide, much like Proactive, but it is combined with facials, including extractions, and a whole skin care regimen and education. Even teen boys are able to follow it! My son referred several of his friends, and they are all thrilled with the results

I know it's tempting, especially for teens who can certainly be a little lazy, to want to fix the problem with a pill or a cream. But there are healthier, safer, and more effective ways to treat acne. Clear skin mama

My son (also 14) had a reaction to minocycline -- hives. It was pretty nasty & took Prednisone to get rid of it. However, since that didn't work out, we have now gone to even stronger stuff with worse potential side effects (Accutane). So far so good, but I would try the antibiotic & just stay alert for side effects. Debbie

I took tetracycline as a kid (essentially the same thing) and it was completely useless for controlling acne but it did turn my teeth a nice shade if yellow (uggh). Just go straight to accutane and knock it out. I was in my late 20s by the time i could get that and it took two go rounds but was the only thing that helped at all. I still have acne as an older adult but can keep it mostly under control with Topicals.

No sense it prolonging the agony of acne, just take care of it now. Accutane is powerful stuff but it works and aside from dry lips, etc. no issues for me. Have had two perfect kids since then so not to worry. ?? Another acne sufferer

My 14-year-old son was on Minocycline for his acne last year for a few months, was off it again, and recently went back on for a nodular flareup (along with topicals). He's had absolutely no side effects and it definitely helped, and helped to avoid Accutane. I expect him to be off again after a couple of months. Walnut Creek mom

My teen son is washing his face twice a day with baking soda. Whenever he has big-red pimples, he applied little hydrogen peroxide or hydrocortisone cream on the pimples. When his skin gets a little dry in that area, he uses Aveeno Baby Eczema Therapy cream or just baby lotion. Hope this helps! mom

Dermatologist recommending Accutane for 11-year-old

March 2011

After trying antibiotics and retin-A cream for 4 months, with very little result, the dermatologist has just recommended accutane for my 11 y.o daughter who is in 6th grade. I have called our Family Physician to discuss this with him before we begin treatment (Accutane should be starting in May).

Can anyone share their recent experiences with this drug, especially using it at such a young age? Did it work? About how long did it take? Side effect experiences? (Note I did experience untreatable acne as a teen-ager, her dad did not. Her older brother did, but not as much)

Thank you. J.

I took Accutane at exactly your daughter's age: 11 yo (in 1991! sheesh). It worked miracles for me, but I did require further courses of treatment later. From what I recall, my acne was worse for the first 2-3 weeks, and then instantaneously gone. You can request a cortisone/prednizone treatment for the first couple weeks she's on Accutane to deal with the inital increase in breakouts. The dermatologists always told me it was a necessary part of the process to clear the pores - the prednizone pills just helped minimize the cystic swelling.

I finished a six-month course of treatment, and then I had no further breakouts at all until I was 14 or 15. For the next two years, breakouts were minor, and contained with Retin-A and makeup. My cystic acne was back when I was 17, so I did another round of treatment then. One more at age 24, at a lesser dosage. That's held for 6 years (and puberty MUST be over by now, right?), so I hope it was the last. Side effects during the treatment for me included more vulnerability to sunburns and extremely dry, chapped lips. Nothing worked on my lips besides Vaseline & Carmex, so stock up.

There's no lingering side effects. I didn't experience any depression or mood swings beyond what a typical pre-teen goes through. I do have some acne scarring from my teenage years. My husband assures me that it is indistinguishable from my freckles, but I can see it. It would probably be much worse had I not done the Accutane.

Not sure if they still do this since it's been 20 years, but when I was 11, the drug was experimental and my dermatologist tried to insist that I take the monthly preganacy test required of users. (severe, debilitating birth defects are the major side effect if one is to become pregnant while taking Accutane) No way, no how, my mother said. After a couple moths of arguing, I got a special dispensation from pregnancy tests, but still did the monthly blood panels. After the first month, it was no big deal. I'm a champ at giving blood now.

I'm always the one person writing in to say this, but for me, its true: Accutane saved my self-esteem and social skills. Before taking it, I couldn't look anyone in the face, wouldn't go to the pool ever, had maybe two friends. After taking it, I left high school reasonably popular, confident, with an understanding that crippling self-esteem issues do not have to be forever. I know it sounds like a drug testimonial, but Accutane IS a giant pain in the ass and it IS worth every bit of the effort when nothing else works. been there

I would really read the side effects of accutane - here is one list

How hard have you tried topicals?

ProActiv has been working for us, and it really helped to have its' inventor and her staff show us how to use it. Dr. Rodan is in Oakland:

Yes it takes time to use it, but you could use a reward system. My daughter started in middle school and uses it still today, with no harsh side effects. She has used it at summer camp, traveling in Europe and on a 5 week wilderness retreat.

There are other systems that work too. accutane should be a last resort

My 16-year-old son has been taking Accutane (Claravis) for just 4 months now. He tried almost two years of Tetracycline which initially seemed to be working, then not at all. I was very reluctant to have him try the Claravis, but our dermatologist was very supportive. Apparently his acne is a pretty severe case; it's taken 4 months, double-dosing three nights a week to get over the horrible initial flare-up. He had to take a short, low-dose course of Prednisone to bring down the redness after the first 2 months. He now seems to be ''almost around the corner'' as well put by our doctor. None of these drugs has had any negative effect on him; he has a fasting blood draw once per month to keep watch on triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which are so far looking fine.

The only problems he's encountered are severe dryness of his lips, and some dryness also around the cuticles on his hands. This seems a small price to pay for the amazing improvement that is manifesting on his skin surface. I really think now that we waited too long to do this. I feel that a lot of what he was feeling about his appearance was just shoved under the rug, and that he was suffering a lot more than was visible to us, his parents. I say ''Go for it.'' This drug has been used in some form or another since around 1970 I believe. Teenage self-esteem is a hard thing to go without.

Here are a couple of websites you might want to look at:

You are welcome to email me if you think I could help answer any questions about the process my son is going through. elaine

Experience with teens using Accutane for acne?

March 2010

My 16.5 year old son has had pretty bad acne for a couple of years. I have been very resistant to having him use Accutane because it seems like such a dangerous drug with so many potential side effects. He took antibiotics for 6 months about a year ago and that seemed to help some but not that noticeably. His acne is not outrageously bad but it really bothers him and he has been begging me to let him try Accutane.

Please let me know if you have experience with your teenager using this drug. Did it help? Did the teen experience side effects? We have not yet seen a dermatologist. Our pediatrician said he didn't think the drug was that dangerous. Thanks for your feedback. Worried Mom

I thought Accutane had been taken off the market. See I know a girl who was an athlete and it does something to joints or ligaments. She fell while running ALL the time. Read the article - the lawsuits are huge and serious, and Roche has lost them all. Peggy

Please see a dermatologist before trying Accutane. This is not something a pediatrician can handle. My 16 year old daughter has been dealing with acne for several years. Her acne is moderate and currently in control. What does she do? 1) washes her face twice a day with Proactive; 2) takes an antibiotic for 2 months and then takes a break until she feels it's getting out of control again; 3) applies a topical gel(Differin and another stronger than Differin)in the morning; 4) applies Proactive's face mask on blemishes at night and sleeps with it. Proactive recently came out with a clear mask you can wear during the day. Haven't tried it yet, but the regular mask reduces redness and helps blemishes heal. It's a rigorous routine but worth it in the end. Acne can damage a kid's self esteem and with work, it can be managed. Good luck. Fellow Acne Mom

Over the last decade, I have worked with about 10 adolescents who used Accutane and experienced moderate to severe depression, increases in aggressiveness and suicidal thoughts and feelings, with no prior history of these difficulties. These problems tended to lift fairly quickly (from a few days to a few weeks) after cessation of Accutane. Michael Y. Simon, MFT

Dear Worried Mom: My son begged me to used Accutane. His acne too, in my opinion, was not that bad, but he didn't want to go through High school with any acne. A dermatologist we saw advised us that it was okay, but I had severe misgivings. Luckily, we found a great treatment, not very well known. It is called levulan blue light treatment....a photosensitizing agent is applied to your child's skin, and they sit under the blue light lamp for about 30 minutes. They cannot go out in the sun for that day, so we did it on a saturday. Unfortunately, we had to pay out of pocket for this. In my opinion, I think dermatologists push accutane so much, because it is covered in most insurances. I think accutance should only be used for Severe acne, as a very last resort. It worked very well for my son. It didn't clear up every single drop of acne, but it worked well enough for him to stop begging us for accutance. If you have any more questions, feel free to contact me. Michele

My daughter's experience with Accutane was different than the other posters so I thought I'd give you the benefit of a different opinion. My daughter had serious acne starting in 6th grade. Her father and I both had acne as teens and residual physical scarring. After consistent treatment with a dermotologist, and using various antibiotics, which worked for a time and then stopped working, by 8th grade the dermotologist suggested Accutane. After two years of antibiotics and other topical agents, her acne was getting cystic. So, after consulting with her pediatrician, she started on Accutane. I was aware of the depression side affect so I watched carefully for it. She had blood work done monthly because Accutane can affect the liver. She was on Accutane for six months. No side effects, other than dry lips and flaky skin. It completely cleared her skin. Statistically, in 70% of patients the acne does not reoccur. Would do it again.

Our daughter used accutane, for over a year, from ages 12-13. We have very severe cystic acne in our family-- the kind that scars the face and back deeply-- and tried everything possible before we went this route. My daughter had no history of, or tendency toward depression, and those who take it must get their cholesterol checked every month (as well as take a pregnancy test). Our daughter's dermatologist never treated accutane lightly; we understood it was a serious yet necessary drug, in this case. This meant that our daughter needed to see the dermatologist every month for follow-up check-ups and if anything was amiss, they let us know (One month her cholesterol was high, and the dermatologist slowed her intake to every other day for a month. When it went back to normal, she resumed her regular daily dose until the trematment was over).

It did all it promised to do, although our daughter had to take two 5 month courses (instead of the usual one), because of the severity. A year later and all is well. We are so grateful for accutane (and I wish that it had been an option for me). Again- it should be taken only with medical supervision, but many people who dimiss it (or say, ''just wash your face; this will help'') may not understand what it means to truly have this kind of acne, and the miraculous effect accutane can have on it.

- a mom who would make the choice again

My son's acne was really affecting his self-esteem (he is 15). We tried dealing with it through his pediatrician, but it was months and months of trying creams that were doing nothing. Luckily, he had a skin irritation from swimming all summer that necessitated us seeing a dermatologist. Again, he went for months trying the creams again. Finally, the dermatologist offered him antibiotics. Several of the options were scary, but we chose the least scary one: Tetracycline. He's had wonderful results with this drug, with no side effects. I don't know what antibiotics you were using, but I urge you to take your son to a dermatologist. These doctors know what they are looking at; not so with a GP. Elaine

Before you go the Accutane route I would strongly recommend you check out Face Reality Acne and Skincare Clinic in San Leandro. My daughter (now 21) had always had relatively clear skin until spring 2006 when she developed major breakouts that started to scar her skin (and impact her self esteem.) High school is trying enough without the added stress of acne. We tried ProActive (which only worked for about 2 months) then I took her to a dermatologist who put her on an antibiotic and RetinA cream regime for 8 weeks that resulted in over drying her skin and clogging her pores. Next, the dermatologist recommended Accutane. I, too, wanted to research alternatives before going down this potentially dangerous path. My daughter's major concern was to get clear before she started college that fall.

From the initial phone call to the consultation, treatment and follow- up Face Reality Acne Clinic provided a professional and very personalized approach towards my daughter's acne problem. It took about three months for her to get clear, but she started showing significant improvement in the first few weeks. The program required an acne treatment ($75) every two weeks (I'm not sure if the price has changed) and the consistent use of several products every morning and evening. The cost of the products was reasonable ($120 for a 3-4 month supply.) As her skin adapted they needed to introduce another product here and there, but it was still very reasonable, but more importantly, it worked.

The Face Reality staff also encouraged communication between visits. If my daughter was concerned about how her skin was reacting or whether she was doing her routine properly, she felt comfortable enough to call. She was always able to speak to someone knowledgeable or get a prompt call back. They are professional, kind and completely approachable to teens, who can be super sensitive to their acne issues at this age.

My daughter has remained clear and still continues with her simple skincare routine. In 2007 my then 17 year-old son started going to the clinic. He, too, had great results and remains clear (99% of the time) despite a less than healthy diet and stress related to being a college sophomore. For more info you can visit their website It's a great resource of information. Good luck! Relieved Acne Mom

Experience treating cystic acne?

Nov 2009

Has anyone had experience treating cystic acne?? My daughter has been diagnosed with it and it seems to be a difficult form of acne to treat. It sounds like each case is very individual. Am wondering what experiences people have had with it in terms of treatment, alternative therapies and/or nutrition? We are being told to treat it initially with antibiotics and then eventually accutane. Any recommendations, advice and/or I would just like to hear what others have been through. Also, we've found a dermatologist at Oakland Kaiser (Dr. Reisman) who we really like but if you have a referral to another dermatologist who has treated it successfully, I would appreciate hearing about it!

I started getting cystic acne in 1987 (age 13). I went through the usual antibiotics, they didn't help much. I did start Accutane in 1990 but had to stop 1 week in because it SEVERELY dried my skin (corners of mouth were cracking making eating painful). All along the dermatologists kept recommending to wash ALOT, and use alcohol and peroxide based cleansers. I wish I knew more at the time and had gone through with Accutane, even if it meant sitting around the house all summer as the temporary effect were miserable. People who did use Accutane had great results. I'm still susceptible to cystic acne today. Here are my observations from 22 years: 1. Need to reduce stress. Stress is a primary trigger. 2. Diet is second. Avoid lots of sugar. 3. Wash your hands with soap, not your face, to prevent transfer. Washing your face can be too drying. 4. Avoid greasy foods, it's getting it on your lips and face that is the issue, not the consumption zack

I suffered from cystic acne starting when I was 16 and getting really bad in my late 20s. When I was young, it was treated with antibiotics and topicals (because I only had one really bad cyst), but as I got older it just got worse and worse and antibiotics did nothing for me. I finally decided to go forward with accutane treatment when I was 29 and it worked wonders!! I actually wish I'd done it sooner so that I wouldn't have as many scars. Accutane is a serious drug with side effects like severe dry skin, constant chapped lips, and occasional headaches. But other than that I was really happy with my decision. Nothing else will cure this type of acne - nothing!

You have to go through a lot to get it now because some politician's son supposedly got depressed while on it and a bunch of teenage girls messed up and got pregnant. Don't believe the negative hype, though. Accutane seriously changed my life! I am now 33 and have beautiful skin other than some leftover scars. Jessica

Dr. Rudd in Berkeley (not part of Kaiser) is a brilliant guy for acne problems. But in tandem with medical care, may I suggest you have your daughter avoid all dairy for a week and see what happens? When I was a teen, especially, my skin would only get huge cystic spots when I ate a lot of dairy, and as soon as I stopped, my face would clear up fast. I would try that before accutane (which DOES work wonders, despite the concerns about depression, etc.). Good luck! Been there

I have problems with cystic acne that didn't arrive until my late twenties. It was really painful and hugely affected my quality of life. Differin (a less irritating form of Retin-A) has worked amazingly for me. It made my acne worse for the first 2 weeks as my dermatologist had warned me. However, after that, I have had a huge improvement. I also started out on oral antibiotics, but they upset my stomach and the alternatives were more expensive than I was willing to pay. I have a number of friends who swear by Accutane and say that it cured their acne long term. It wasn't an option for me since i wanted to get pregnant, but for a teenage girl, it will probably be fantastic. Kate

I've been down the dermatologist route with cystic acne. Generally, we start with topicals (retin-A, clindamyacin, and a couple others), move on to oral antibiotics, and then if that doesn't work, on to accutane. My advice is definitely do the accutane if they recommend it.

I'm sure you'll hear plenty of negative feedback on Accutane. You have to manage the side effects, and the extra testing each month is annoying. (Every month, they will want your daughter to do a blood test and a pregnancy test to make sure she's on track and of course, not pregnant.) But it was the only thing that worked for me. If your daughter is anything like I was as a teenager, you'll be noticing the acne affect her confidence, self-image, and friendships. It can be really crippling to face your peers if you're the only one with that kind of acne. Taking the accutane was the only thing that restored my ability to look people in the eye and feel somewhat confident about myself.

I did courses of accutane when I was 12, 17, and 27. It may not be a permanent fix for your daughter, especially depending on her age, but it helped me through 5 years of puberty, and then 10 years into adulthood before I had to take it again. I can't imagine where I would be if I'd had to deal with the acne all this time. Side effects for me included severaly dry skin, cracked lips, and being more thristy than usual. You have to wear sunscreen because sunburns can be bad. But all of that was worth it in my book.

I have an NP at Kaiser Oakland now: Claire Wing. I really like her because she talks to me like I'm an equal decision-maker in treating my skin. Most important though is that you have a dermatologist who is willing to make adjustments in treatment. Like you said, it is very individual. If Dr. Reisman sees your daughter fairly frequently and is willing to tinker with the medicines she is using to find the right combo, then he's a good fit. jessica

It took me almost 20 years to figure out that my cystic acne was the result of eating foods with a high iodine content. I eliminated all fish from my diet. Hard to do because sushi was my favorite food - but, it is also loaded with iodine; the fish, the kelp, the soy sauce. I made a list of *all foods* that are high in iodine and never eat them because if I do, the result is a breakout of cystic acne. It is a sacrifice, but the payoff is beautiful skin. Such a relief after YEARS of terrible acne. - finally, acne free.

I had /have cystic acne, with a severe occurenece as a teen and smaller recurrences during and after my pregnancies. One of my brothers also had severe case, and my father, even worse. I went through standard antibotics as a teen,and although my face has a few scars,it is mostly ok.But my back that is so severely scarred, I never wear anything with a low back or without sleeves(including bathing suits),even today.

When it was clear my daughter inherited the condition, we took her to the dermatologist, who after 6 months of entry-level options, put her on accutane at age 13. When she started treatment,she had already gotten 4 or 5 terrible cystic breakouts, ones that infect close to a square inch, deep under the skin's surface and are not only painful but definitely leave scars. Plus she had over 50 blackheads on her back (despite VERY careful attention to washing and topicals).I'm hear to tell you that accutane is a lifesaver. She went through two courses of it,which the dermatologist said was quite unusual, but she finished the treatment with a TOTALLY clear back. You have no idea how big it was for her to buy a dress with an open back for the 8th grade dance. Not only has it been a huge boost for her self confidence as a teen, but I know that avoiding lifelong scars will benefit her forever.

Some of the earlier posts suggest that washing one's face or certain dietary restrictions are somehow the key. Honestly,these people have no idea what it really means to carry this gene! Going on accutane should not be a casual decision, but one that should definitely be made and monitored by a doctor.... but severe, cystic acne is not the same thing as getting a few zits.(My son has had a bit of regular teen acne, which he has treated with topicals. It is NOT the same thing as cystic acne!!To suggest that washing up or removing dairy will take care of problem just doesn't understand the nature of the problem). Accutane is carefully regulated; not only did my daughter take a pregnancy test each month, but they also checked her cholesterol levels and adjusted intake levels when needed.

I truly believe that kids should not have to suffer from lifelong scars in today's world.If everything else is ok with your child medically speaking (and she doesn't have a predisposition toward depression),and she has a severe problem, then she should absolutely seek this treatment. - been there and relived it

Green, natural acne treatment?

Dec 2008

My young teen has mild acne but it is a source of some stress. Seeking effective treatments that are less toxic to her & the planet. The website doesn't seem to have anything recent but hopefully there are ideas out there. Thanks! teen girl's mom Keys soaps might be a solution. I like the island rx soap and the extra healing serum ( not sure of the name, little roll on bottle). I'm a former clairol/clearasil early 40s type who had her skin dried too much by proactive (even when just targeting the acne area). I can't guarantee this works for teen skin, but testimonials indicate it does. And the ingredients run toward rosemary and carrot seed oils in terms of 'toxicity.' They one an award for best non chemical sunscreen--a product I also like. happy with keys

The best esthetician that I know of in our area is Kathy Stephens. She only uses green, non toxic products and has worked wonders for both of my kids throughout their teen years. She's very gentle and gets great results. I always consult her (for both myself and my kids) instead of a dermatologist. She is in El Cerrito and her phone number is: 510-232-0641. Long Time Satisfied Client

I've had pretty good luck with Neem soap - Thera-Neem is my favorite. You can also take Neem internally. clearer every day

I don't know if it is green or not but my daughter has had great success at Face Reality in San Leandro. I am a big fan of their procedures and products. It is expensive because you pay for the visits and you buy their products. They look at your daughter's skin, do some extractions and change up to stronger products as the skin adjusts. It does get pricy,since the products change as the skin changes, but I feel it is so much better than the trade off of other options we tried before. And if I consider how much I spent on dr. visits,the lastest advertised or recommended acne products,antibiotics and Acutane which didn't work, or didn't work for very long, I wish I had just given Face Reality a try years ago. Not to mention that I have nagging worries about the Acutane. My daughter is away at college now and calls them when she needs product. She recently contacted them to get a stronger moisturizer since the cold climate is drying her skin too much. Her skin is looki! ng good with the continued use of their products. Check out their website. If you have any questions, I'll be happy to talk with you. cynthia

16-year-old wants to try Accutane

Oct 2008

My son is 16 and wants to try Accutane for his acne. His dermatologist thinks that it is okay to use. I am really concerned, but my son really wants his acne to clear up. He has been on the antibiotic minocycline and also using Retin-A for the past two months, and it is not really working well. I am interested in other parents experiences, worries and opinions about accutane, especially parents of boys. thanks. M

My son took Accutane when he was around 16 and it worked beautifully in clearing up his acne. My only regret was that he didn't start it sooner. I believe that his insurance required that he be on an antibiotic for one year before Accutane could be prescribed, and that was a long year. However, if he's already seeing a dermatologist, maybe that rule doesn't apply. To take Accutane, monthly blood samples are required so the doctor can keep make sure that there are no negative effects. Well worth it. Anonymous

ProActive works well for my daughter. Also Dr. Rodan is in Oakland and sees patients, I believe she has sold her interest in ProActive and has a new formulation. What is really great about Dr. Rodan is her specific instructions in using topicals. Generally when ProActive fails it comes back to ''user error'' for my daughter. Before you go up the ladder with pharmaceuticals please consider reviewing all possible details of self care. Also has your son ever been tested for allergies? Low level allergies can aggravate skin conditions. It is often not something the dermatologist will acknowledge or pursue. mom

My daughter did Accutane and had none of the mythic side effects. She had to be (even more) careful about the sun, but the results were almost life changing. I grew up with a brother who battled acne well into his late 20s when the only treatment was tetracycline, and that wasn't very effective.

If my son had severe acne and wanted to use Accutane & the Dermatologist recommended it or was willing to prescribe it I would go for it, with or without insurance paying for it. I know kids who have used it for more mild acne, and I think that was a bit much.

Why not be known for some other feature?

I don't have a son, but my daughter had to use Accutane to get rid of persistent acne that nothing else worked on.

It is even more odious for girls as there is the whole pregnancy/birth control element to deal with monthly, but it was worth it. She took the Accutane for 6 to 7 months and her skin is perfect.

You do need to be on the lookout for some of the emotional issues that can be side effects, but I think most people take it and do fine.

If nothing else is working, I would definitely try it. There's nothing else like it; it works for the vast majority of people taking it, and it will eliminate the issue. anonymous

Please consider a high doses/day of Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)-- a very popular remedy for acne in Europe. Not a multi B vitamin but strait on B5 only. As I understand it, your body only uses what it needs and discards the rest so you can't take too much. It acts as a oil production blocker -- the kind that clogs pours (sp?) on your face -- thereby eliminating many of the infected pours (pimples). For my kids, I started with 500 mg in the am and one in the pm. After 2 weeks one child's face started clearing; after 2 weeks with the second child I've had to go up to 1000mg in the am and 1000mg in the pm for longer. The first child only takes it now if she really starts breaking out (she used to cover her cheeks with her hands all the time -- she felt that ugly! It broke my heart). She also uses products from Benefit in between. The second child has always have more oily skin and hair, so I think she just needs more. But she's never had to cover her face or keep her head down because she thought she was ugly. It's been amazing for my kids and I've even turned it on to adults who have suffered all their lives with bad acne (also gone the accutane way) and have had great results.

This remedy originally came from a friend's pediatrician who explained that if more dermatologist recommended this remedy, they might lose a lot of business. I try not to be so cynical, but you might not get buy in from your doctor if he or she hasn't seen results given to him or her from your local drug rep. Good luck. A Mom with Kids with Acne in Berkeley

Help for 11-year-old's acne

May 2008

I'm seeking a dermatologist that specializes in acne for my 11 year old daughter. What products have people had luck with or found did not work? She is even starting to have break outs on her back now. Her father had fairly bad acne, so I would like to get some professional advice for her now before any scarring occurs. Worried Mom


I'm sorry your about your daughter's acne. My girl started breaking out and I researched this topic. The only 3 proven treatments are:

* Benzoyl peroxide with antibiotics, (Benzamycin)

She is almost acne free 1 to 2 pimples and months. You have to use this product twice and day. Start should start to see clearing in a week and every day it gets better and better. Also, I use a little tea tree oil - very effective. Please, don't waste your money or time. Get the Benzamycin immediately. You don't need to see a Dermatologist your regular doctor can prescribe this medicine for you. My daughter is very happy about her skin now and thanks me all the time. Good Luck,

Additional info... * Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives), for example, Retin-A, Differin, Tazorac, treat blackheads and whiteheads, the first lesions of acne. The most common side effect is irritation. (I don't recommend this)

* Antibiotics, either topically applied to the skin (clindamycin, erythromycin), or taken orally (tetracycline and its derivatives) control surface bacteria which aggravate and often foster acne. Antibiotics are more effective when combined with benzoyl peroxide or retinoids) JC

Has your teen used Accuntane? Is it safe?

April 2008

Anyone had a teenager on this drug to treat severe acne? Both of my daughters (15, 17) have been advised by a dermatologist to use this for 5-7months. My main concern is what if it causes birth defects in FUTURE pregnancies when they decidde to have children 10, 15 years from now?

My daughter spent 7 months on Accutane last year. I don't believe it has any impact on future pregnancies from reading the binder of info you must read and sign off on before your daughters will be allowed to take it. (government requirement) I would warn you though, that the drug is very impactful on mood. Depression is one of the risks and while for her, it never was at the clinical level, she just experienced the stress and pressure of teen life much more intensely than she did in the year before or the year since. (And this year really has had more of that stress!) The drug just seems to sap them of their ability to bounce back from adversity. It might be good to have some of your treatment months fall in the summer when they have less pressure to cope with. We did Sept to April and it made for a pretty lousy year. Ann

I took Accutane for six months or so when I was 18 (in 1990). I had my first child at 23 (1995) and my second at 26 (1998). They were/are both perfectly healthy and have shown no signs of any exposure to anything toxic. The Accutane was more effective than any other medication, although by the time I was in my early 30s I needed a second course, which I finished last year. Worked for me

Something to consider: Accutane can trigger attacks of depression in those predisposed to it (at least it did with me, in a very big way, after both courses of treatment I had). Accutane Survivor

Teen son's presistent acne - worried about scarring

April 2006

My teenaged son has developed acne and it is very persistent. I am concerned about scarring, and he simply hates it. What have other parents/teens found that works? Also, does anyone recommend a dermatologist and/or an aesthetician in Oakland who is good with teenaged boys? Thank you! Concerned Mom

Both my teen sons(age 17 and 14) have acne and both are treated by a local dermatologist. We all go to Dr. Warren Dotz and think he's terrific. Older son had cystic acne that showed up in his hairline. I was so worried it would scar his face. He went through two rounds of accutane with no side effects other than dry skin and lips. Both boys now use various topical creams - tazorac which empties the pores, and clindamycin a topical antibiotic. Younger son is doing well with topicals. I am strong beleiver in help from a great dermatologist. You have to be diligent with the medicines and go to the doc regularly but it really pays off with nice skin. I hate to think what would have happened to my oldest without this help. It's a tender age to have this happen to their skin and helping them out with good dermatology care is such a great thing to do. Good luck, Happy Faces

Proactiv has helped both my daughter and my son with their acne problems. It works rather miraculously. My daughter tried many things first, which didn't work. When my son started getting some acne, he started on it early and so far it has prevented the acne from progressing at all. You can look for it online:

I also recently heard of a prescription skin cream called Differin that can be gotten from a dermatologist. We haven't had any personal experience with it, but I know an aesthetician with beautiful, flawless skin who said this cream cured her acne when nothing else did. I hope this helps. Anonymous

I highly recommend Amina at Face Magic (Pomona at Solano in Albany. She's wonderful with teens. anon

My son also had a problem with acne. At first he tried various brands of drug store products (cleanser, astringent, exfoliant, antibiotic), which didn't work very well. He moved on to ProActiv which also didn't work well, even through he followed the instructions to the letter and stayed with it for almost a year (at great expense). Finally, we spoke with his regular pediatrician about his acne, and she prescribed a prescription antibiotic and retin-a to use with his regular cleanser. His acne cleared up within 2 months and, although he has an occasional pimple, his skin has been virtually clear for over 2 years. And our health insurance covers the medications above our co-pay. Good luck. Acne Mom

Murad makes a acne treatment that I buy for every kid with acne that is close to me. It really works. You can get these products at beauty centers, there is one in el cerrito plaza and one on solano next to Peets. Warning they are expensive. spot to spot

Your teens primary care provider (physician or nurse practitioner) will be able to help. There are a number of very effective topical preparations available. Acne is really hard for teens. Make an appointment for him to be evaluated ASAP! NP Mom

Tetracycline for 16-year-old's acne?

Sept 2005

My 16 year old just started taking tetracycline for acne. It is the first few days, she has been upset anyway, and I am so worried about how she will manage any adverse reactions at school. She started over the weekend, but I think the next two weeks will be crucial. Can anyone tell of their experience using this drug? It is the first level of meds suggested by Dr. Walker, after trying topical agents. anon

I presented a talk on acne after doing quite a bit of research on the topic. Use of antibiotics has had mixed results. The latest published info: long-term ( 1 year) use of antibiotics predisposed women to a much higher risk of breast cancer in one large study. Some other methods to help deal with acne include a superlative diet with lots of fresh whole foods, adequate protein, essential fatty acids, and 1/4-1/2 cup of lactofermented foods (cleanse the liver and colon; recommended by Dr. Tom Cowan, MD). As acne has been called ''skin diabetes,'' avoiding all sugars (even fake ones) can help. Grains and milk products can raise insulin-like growth factor-1, which raises both androgens and insulin, plus stimulates sebum and keratin. Special foods to use will be high in real vitamin A (eggs, organ meats, shell and other fish), vitamins C and E, plus the minerals selenium and zinc (the ''ACESZs''). I would add folate, niacinamide and chromium rich foods too. Supplements that have helpful include 1 tsp Swedish Bitters at bedtime (more cleansing) and internal and external use of beta sitisterol, the latter being a plant phytonutrient that naturally lowers the provocative androgen contributing to most acne. Other topicals that have a high success rate are tea tree oil (5% solution is as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide), aloe vera juice, and bee propolis extract. Exposure to UVB can decrease acne, but our season at 38 degrees N ended in September for obtaining this from the sun. Look forward to it in May, however. Nori Hudson

Tetracycline works extremely well against acne, and I can't remember experiencing any side effects other than increased sun sensitivity. The problem is that there are obvious drawbacks to taking antibiotics for an extended period of time ... but as soon you stop taking the tetracycline, the acne comes back. So I'd suggest getting some opinions from other dermatologists. Personally, I've had wonderful results from Neutrogena's home microdermabrasion kit ... but if your daughter has cystic acne or rosacea, I wouldn't recommend it. -- Long-time acne fighter

I took tetracycline for acne for several years, beginning in my late teens. I used it in combination with Retin-A and Cleocin (both topical agents). While this combination didn't completely clear up my acne, it did help considerably. Has your daughter discontinued the use of the topicals? I haven't heard of giving just an antibiotic and nothing else, but I'm sure it depends on the severity of the condition. I wish her luck. I know how difficult it is to have problematic skin. Anon

28 years ago, I started taking tetracycline for acne and continued for about 4 years with no side effects then or now. It cleared my skin quite a bit, but later prescriptions worked better. Please email me if you have questions. Best regards, emrosen

Yikes! I had to respond to your post and share my experience, which was NOT positive. I took tetracycline for acne for almost 2 years in college. Unfortunately, it didn't do much for my acne at all. But it wraught havoc on the rest of my body, and I am still paying for it 15 years later. Tetracycline is a VERY STRONG ANTIBIOTIC, and taking antibiotics of any kind (even milder ones) for more than 2 weeks or so, can be very harmful on your body in several ways. In the process of killing harmful bacteria, it also kills the good bacteria your body needs to digest food, fight off colds, flus and other illnesses, fight off yeast infections, and pretty much everything your organs need to do to keep you healthy. Taking antibiotics for extended periods of time, such as for acne, does not allow your body to replenish its good bacteria (as it would do after a normal course of antibiotics, say, for an infection). It leaves your body extremely weakened and susceptible to all kinds of things.

My personal experience was that the tetracycline did not help to clear up my acne - but I was young and desperate and hated having acne, and I kept hoping it would work and help it go away. As a result of the tetracycline, I got ulcers in my esophagus because the antibiotics had eaten into my esophagus. The Physician's Desk Reference says that tetracycline has to be taken with a lot of food or milk (not something my dermatologist told me) and that it CAN cause ulcers (again, not something the dermatologist told me). Needless to say, I was so surprised, and extremely miserable from the experience, and it took several months for the ulcers to heal (ouch). Needless to say, I stopped the tetracycline, and eventually the acne went away on its own (more on that in a minute).

As a result of having been on antibiotics for so long, I had no good bacteria to fight yeast, and therefore got yeast infections about every 2-3 months the whole time I was on it (and later - I still struggle with them occasionally when my yeast gets out of whack). I went travelling in Europe, and caught parasites because my body had no way to fight them off since all my good bacteria was gone. The parasites went undiagnosed for too long (the medical system... don't get me started) and as a result I ended up with ulcerative colitis in my large intestine. That lasted 3 years and took a LOT of work to clear up - I've been clear for over 5 years, thank God.

All this to say a few things: I am not at all saying that all this will happen to your child. But what I am saying is that there are long-term reprecussions to long-term use of antibiotics, especially such strong ones as tetracycline. If your child's skin does not respond to antibiotics at all after a month, I would take her off them as they are clearly not helping. Give your child acidophilus daily the whole time she is on the antibiotics, to help replenish her good bacteria. And try to help her cut down her sweets and bready things - so that she doesn't get an overgrowth of yeast in her system. Yogurt is great for good bacteria intake.

If I had it to do all over again with what I know now - and I have learned a lot as the result of all I've experienced health-wise - I would go see an allergist or alternative practitioner to be tested for allergies to foods, because I am pretty sure that the reason my body had acne in college was (1) because I was eating WAY too much dairy and my body didn't like it, and (2) because my hormones were out of balance and having a hard time being processed by my liver (this is actually something I am working on now with an alternative practitioner with great results). Maybe my hormones eventually got balanced and that is why the acne went away, or maybe I eat less dairy and cut out caffeine - who knows. But I do know that the tetracycline sure didn't help with the acne.

Also, the longer you use an antibiotic, the weaker it gets and the less effective it is on your body. I am pretty convinced that after having used it for so long, it wouldn't do anything to kill bacteria in my body if I ever had an infection that required antibiotics. Ultimately, you want to ''save'' use of antibiotics for life-threatening illnesses, so that they will actually work if you really need them

I would be happy to talk to you more about this if you have questions. As you can probably tell, it is something I feel really strongly about. Feel free to email and I will give you my number. And I would be happy to recommend some great people who might be able to help with a non-medical approach to your daughter's acne. galadam

I took tetracycline for acne when I was a teen. It was moderately effective in reducing acne, but my acne was never especially bad. I'm not sure what side effects you are worried about, but I didn't have any of them.

However, one day, several months after after starting the drug, I started itching intensely all over my body. It wasn't pleasant, but neither was it excruciating--maybe comparable to the chicken pox. Apparently it was an allergic reaction. Following the dermatogist's recommendation, I discontinued tetracycline, took a benadryl or something similar, and I was fine in less than a day. I think he put me on a sulfa drug like Keflex next.

I hope this isn't alarming, because I didn't think it was big deal then or now, and I would put my child on tetracycline for acne if the dermatologist were to recommend it.

i took tetracycline for acne and had a hard time committing to the eating restrictions (take around, not with, food; no milk, which i drank at the time). but the worst problem was the yeast infections. i don't mean to be gross, but i was thirteen and didn't know why i was ''peeing cottage cheese'' -- it literally flowed and looked like wet toilet paper clumps. for this reason alone, i would definitely not recommend. why kill all the body's natural flora? anon

Non-medical solution to teen's acne?

Oct 2004

Please advise re skin care products for a teen girl with frequent break-outs, and many red spots (from picked-open pimples). We are not interested in a ''medical'' solution. A friend's child had severe mental side-effects from Retin-A, and this is not uncommon. Proactive web reviews indicate severe burning and skin cracking as a side-effect. Have you or your teen found any products that work? Anon

I have a good friend named Gillian Christie who markets a line of all natural, botanically based skin care products by a Swiss company called Arbonne. She reports many posaitve outcomes with her products. More info at larry

I have now had two children (teens) who have benefitted from skin care/products offered by Katherine Leverette, an esthetician who operates Solutions Center (510-893-7546). The Center is near Laney College in Oakland. For years, we have referred to her as ''the Acne Queen.'' She uses natural products, explains a lot about skin care, and is a total, delightful character. Ilene

Believe it or not, we have found head & shoulders shampoo to work quite effectively. My family uses it all the time when they start breaking out. Just wash your face with it. Worth a try.

This to the parent who seeks products for their child's acne. There is absolutely no product that will work if the young person ''picks at'' his/her skin. The number one factor in whether small blackheads become pimples is contact with the hands. Bacteria and irritation are going to win every time. Please help your kid train him/herself to NEVER touch the skin on the face except when washing. How I wish I'd been told this before I endured Phisohex, Clearasil, Retin -A treatments, sunlamps, tetracycline, chocolate-deprivation. A dermatologist taught me this and my skin cleared up perfectly from that day forward. Good luck. Kathe

Birth Control Pills for Acne?

June 2003

I am looking for someone who can give me an education regarding the benefits and side effects of taking Triphasil -28, a low dose birth control pill, for control of acne. My daughter was given these at the Berkeley Health Clinic, without my knowledge, after she and I had briefly discussed how these were offered as an possibility for controlling her skin problems (which in my opinion could be much worse, but her face was broken out much of the month). When she originally brought it up I said that I thought that hormone control for acne might be effective, but seemed very intrusive for the body and I said I did not want her to do it. However, Arianna went to the clinic and the pills were prescribed, according to the clinic doctor and Arianna, when we talked about it, both for acne and to control menstrual irregularity, which she apparently has been experiencing since joining the BHS crew team. I tend to stay away from most medical treatments for my children, and would like to know how to discuss the pros and cons with my daughter, and to better understand any long-term consequences of this. The clinic doctor said that as far as they were concerned, there was no danger in low dosage birth control pills, either immediate or long-term. Also, if anyone knows the regulations regarding treatment of minors without parental consent, I would also be interested in understanding that better. The clinic apparently supports kids with any kind of need for sexual activity without contacting parents, which I actual would agree with; but since this was another kind of treatment I wonder where the parent fits in. Has anyone had experiences of this kind? I want to support my daughter to make informed decisions, and realize she may not always agree with me. Thanks.

RE: Birth Control Pills and Acne

1. I prefer Dr. Katie Rodan MD, 510 763-2662 and her Proactiv system. 1-800- 950-4695. Properly applied - use enough and every day, follow directions it works wonders. We found that we do not use enough to be on the monthly delivery. We get shipments once or twice a year. We do see Dr. Rodan once or twice a year also, though our insurance covers the visit. Proactiv is over the counter.

2. There is a lot of free literature in the library and on the internet to treat this naturally, though I do not know the best direction for this. Cleaning the face with non-allergic, non irritating cleaners is always important no matter what method you choose.

3. Hormones and no danger? Read the insert on the prescription. There are many current trials on hormones that have not been completed. The ones on hormones for older women have had results so negative that they were discontinued. Once I was asked to sign a release from a doctor for PUVA treatment, which many people use. The doctor was assuring me that there were ''no dangers''. I then asked why he wanted me to sign a release? I took out my pen and notebook and started to draft a statement that the doctor would assume any and all damages that may be incurred using PUVA, and he asked what I was writing. I told him, that I would sign his release if he would sign mine. My appointment ended really fast. Everyone's definition of ''danger'' might not be the same.

4. Do you really want to train your kid to take a pill every day if there are effective alternatives? If this is a last resort because she has difficulty being consistant with topical treatments, will she remember to take a pill?

5.Your teen needs to really understand the Birth Control Pills do not protect against HIV. Teens are one of the fastest growing HIV positive age groups.

6. I have dealt with the Dr. - patient thing too. My sense is you are responsible legally for her decisions until 18, and you remain her mother forever. Before our next doctor's visit, I will leave it up to my daughter to tell me if she wants me to remain with her. We ususally split the time with her ped, but she is not always comfortable alone. teen mom

I highly recommend the Acne Clinic in Walnut Creek. This place offers a safe non-medical alternative to clearing up acne and staying away from birth control pills when not needed.I went to them for my daughter with GREAT results. stefani

What meds have worked for your teen?

June 2003

Though there have been many previous postings about acne, I am wondering if anyone out there has found help! We have been to a Dermatologist and have been following a prescribed course of antibiotics, topical solutions etc. all to no real success. I have ordered the Proactiv line of products and am considering the use of birth control pills which have been suggested by the dermatologist. My daughter is feeling very desperate and I want to do whatever I can to try to help her. What has worked for others? concerned mom

Make an appointment to see Dr. Katie Rodan MD, 510 763-2662 , she is in Oakland and takes many insurance carriers. You can call to see if she takes your insurance. ProActiv is her line and she has had very few failures. It might not work if the steps are not followed properly, One of her assistants can review how your daughter uses the system and help her make adjustments. We were doing one thing wrong and when we corrected that - boom it works perfectly. Sometimes in person instruction is better than an product insert. teen mom

We went through every antibiotic and every topical alternative for our son (who was 15 at the time). He had cystic acne, with intense red areas, swelling--it was a very difficult time. We finally bit the bullet and put him on accutane. I know how controversial it is, but it is the only thing that worked. And months after finishing the course of treatment, he remains acne free.

There are so many safeguards now that we decided that it was worth the slight risk involved to save him from further emotional trauma and physical scarring. Dermatologists must be certified in order to prescribe it, and your child has to have regular lab tests. Everyone I've spoken with who has a child who has used it, or who has used it him or herself (it's amazing how many people I know who have used it or knows someone who has) swears by it.

I'm so happy and relieved that my son looks like himself again, and is no longer embarrassed or disfigured by acne. It's worth looking into for your daughter. Best of luck to her. (Please feel free to email me if you have questions.) Norma

The main advice I have about acne treatment is that not everything works for everybody, and it's certainly worth it to experiment with ''natural'', non-medical treatments before going the drug route. However, everyone reacts differently to every treatment, and if your child is already getting physical scars (not to mention the emotional ones) from severe acne, you might want to explore Accutane. Actually, if you are already being seen by a dermatologist, and various antibiotics haven't worked, the doctor will usually suggest Accutane. As controversial as that drug is, it is actually a cure for acne in most patients. It has been a miracle drug for my teenage daughter, even though I am uncomfortable with medication that isn't absolutely necessary.

Acne is a ''hot'' topic for me, having suffered my whole life with severe acne that has been resistant to all meds and treatments, both Western and alternative. The only thing that worked for me was in 1966 (!) when I took a high-dose estrogen birth control pill that cleared up my skin but caused terrible side effects (migraines, huge weight gain, edema,depression) that forced me to quit. I am in my 50's and still have acne flare-ups, plus my face is badly scarred.

People who have never experienced severe acne may not realize that not only does it cause emotional distress, but it is also quite painful to have huge infected cysts all over one's face, back, chest, and arms. No, it is not a life threatening condition, but it sure makes day-to-day life tough, especially for sensitive teens. Please don't let people give you a hard time if you decide to go with something as heavy-duty as Accutane.

When my daughter developed acne when she was about 12, we tried Proactiv first, which worked great after about 3 weeks. After about 7 months, though, even with diligent use, the products didn't work anymore. The pediatrician prescribed a topical cream, which worked for awhile, too. Then came the dermatologist, and a series of topicals and antibiotics which all worked for awhile, then lost effectiveness. Her skin scars easily, and she already had several purple ''pits'' on her face. I finally gave my OK to Accutane, and although she still has scars (that will supposedly fade with time), she has perfectly clear skin now. Those of you who have suffered from true, severe acne know what a miracle that is.

Whatever you try from the advice you receive from this list or from the archives, remember that any treatment usually takes at least 3 weeks to work.

To the concerned mom who's dealing with her daughter's acne - my advice is to keep trying. My son went through treatments with clearasil, benzoyl peroxide, minocylin, tetracycline,benzamycin gel, and retin-a - none of which made a dent for long. What I didn't realize is that cystic acne can get very bad very fast, so while we were ditzing around with these remedies, he was getting worse. He is now on accutane (the generic version) for three months now (the full course is 5-6 months), and his skin is almost completely clear, except for some scarring. It is a scary drug and I wouldn't recommend it if your daughter is already prone to depression or unable to talk about her feelings. It has been (rarely) linked to suicidal feelings. I monitor my son's mood closely (this just means that I pay attention, not that I interrogate him...)and he's required to get monthly or bimonthly blood tests. It is also a very expensive drug, although covered by most health plans. The good news is that it works when nothing else does. I wish you luck in your search. Anna

Re: the Proactiv system, my wife purchased it, both for her self and our younger son (now 21!!). It works well for my wife, but not so much for my son-- the difference is (no surprise) that you need to be pretty disciplined in your usage-- our son runs around so much (college student, active social life w/ erratic hours), that he doesn't use it appropriately and doesn't get the same results. Hope that helps... Jim W.

Dear Concerned Mom: I don't know whether techniques useful for males are also helpful for females, but if they are, then you should know that my sixteen-year-old son has just begun using an over-the-counter twice-daily wash on the strong recommendation of the parents of one of his younger friends, who claim (and their son's face apparently proves) does wonders: Clean & Clear( Continuous Control( acne cleanser by Johnson & Johnson.

ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES. The unique ingredient is benzoyl peroxide, which is neither hydrogen peroxide nor any another other kind of peroxide. As I understand it, no other product contains this particular kind of bleach, and, in using the facial wash twice a day, a small amount of bensoyl peroxide remains within the skin pores, which inhibits the development of acne, whose growth depends in part on bacteria. The benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria, so no acne can develope.

NOTES: Because
- acne developes over approximately three months (or so I'm told), it takes about ninety days for the twice-daily wash to show its full effects: perfectly clear skin
- the active ingredient is a kind of bleach, it's recommended that anyone using it sleep on white pillow cases; while normally my son enjoys deeply colored flannel bed fittings, he has no problem whatsoever using white pillow cases -- at least for the summer!

Please also note that, while our very good friends highly recommend this cleanser, our own son has just begun using it, so we cannot personally attest to its effectiveness. Nevertheless, on seeing how well it has worked with our friend's son, we are eager to spend the summer testing it. If you decide to do so as well, our best wishes on your daughter's success! Anonymous

Nov 2001

My daughter, 12, has recently started to get acne. What meds (over the counter or prescription) have your found that worked? Thanks

My daughter uses Clean and Clear compulsively and it keeps her face in good shape. I have to buy her TUBES and TUBES of the stuff -- for her backpack, locker, gym bag, volleyball bag, etc., but something is working. Maybe it's just washing her face often. Barbara

My daughter is using Bezamycin gel (it's actually a cream) which works great. It is a brand name prescription medication however and it's VERY expensive (like around $90/jar) so it's only practical if your health insurance pays for it. However, if they don't, I've discovered that it contains 2 active ingredients; one is over-the counter (about $3 a tube) and the other is a generic prescription (so a lot cheaper). (What a scam those drug companies have got going!) I can't remember the names of the two active ingredients, but any pharmacist can tell you. Claire

My daughter's acne responded well to Proactiv. This is a kit with several parts that must be used daily for decent results, so your child must be motivated. The best price we found was through WonderfulBuys on the web. You can join a club where they will ship the stuff to you every 2 or 4 months, and you get free shipping that way. Here's their e-mail address, or you can just go search the website ( proactiv club Good luck! Dawn

In reply to the mother asking about acne medication: my daughter has used ProActiv for the last two years with good results. I can't recall offhand their website address but if you search for it, you'll find it. It's relatively economical especially in comparison to prescription medication, about $50.00 for a 60-day supply of treatments. I think their start-up pack is the facewash, lotion and spot treatment. It may take a month or so to see results, depending on your daughter's case. In this case, anyways, you can believe the infomercial hype. Karen

Both of my kids have had acne and have been treated by a dermatologist over a period of 3 years. Many of the prescription topical applications and oral medications worked in varying degrees and for varying periods of time. I have learned that the combination of medications in relation to the specific kinds of acne present make a difference. Also, sometimes the acne becomes resistant to the medication. Unless your child's acne responds to over the counter benzoyl peroxide, I recommend you find a dermatologist (who hopefully is covered by your health plan).

My older son ultimately took Accutane, and I wish he had begun it much sooner. None of the other treatments helped very much and those that did help stopped working after a while. He finished his 5 month course of Accutane last March, and his skin has been clear since then. By the way, he had relatively few side effects - slightly raised cholosterol level and dry lips.

Other medications that have been helpful are oral Minocyclin, Bactrim (though my son turned out to be allergic to it), topical Tazorac and Xerac AC, topical Benziclin.

My son started developing a few pimples around 12 1/2. The following year they were more frequent and lasted longer, but would eventually go away. When he was 14, the pimples seemed more intransigent. I took him to see a dermatologist, Dr. Greta Clarke on Milvia Street. She prescribed two creams, to be applied on alternate nights. The first cream, BenzaClin (clindamycin-benzoyl peroxide gel) is stored in the refrigerator. The second cream is Differin (adapalene). They didn't seem to work at first, but after a month his skin completely cleared up. He continues to use the creams to forestall new pimples and there appear to be no side effects, although I have not researched the toxicity of these drugs. We're very happy with the results of this regime. I only wish I had taken him to the dermatologist earlier, but it's hard to tell if acne is a problem that will go away or if it will get worse. Good luck.

I have found that an easy and cheap acne treatment is to dab Hydrogen Peroxide on your pimples after cleaning your face with gentle cleanser. Do this preferably at night.

My son developed pretty severe acne so after trying all the over the counter products we went to his physician and ended up over a period of many months going through all the progressively stronger prescription medications for acne up to the maximum allowable dosage for Acutane, which is pretty scary stuff. He had to go off Acutane eventually because they can only prescribe it for a certain period of time, then you have to wait 6 months or so before they can represcribe it. After the Acutane, he tried Proactiv and that's when his skin finally cleared up completely and has been clear now for probably a year without any follow-up care. Wish we had tried Proactiv first!!

I have had great luck with an infomercial product called Proactiv Solution ( ).

It has helped my teenage daughter's acne tremendously and is also great on adult acne. Em (7/00)

Accutane and Depression

Does anyone have teenagers that have used the presciption drug for acne called Accutane? I recall reading somewhere that it has been known to cause serious depression and even suicide with teenagers. I have a friend who has a daughter that began using it and caused serious depression soon after. Anyone with information on how to reverse the side effects would be greatly appreciated...

To the person who wanted info about teens and Accutane: My daughter took Accutane for the entire treatment last summer and early fall(about 16-20 weeks). She was fine while taking it, and it really cleared up her skin. I was very concerned about possible depression because I have a lot of it in my family, but the doctor assured me that this side effect was rare. So far, she's been okay except for the usual ups and downs of adolescence.

Regarding Accutane and Depression:

I do not know of depression associated with Accutane. You can look up information on most drugs, their uses and any warnings on line or through a physicians desk reference (PDR) which should be in most libraries.

Counseling is obvious as a suggestion because there may be deeper reasons which the Accutane only sparked.

HOWEVER, regarding reversal of depression caused by a nutritional imbalance or drug reactions, there are some nutritional approaches as well. In her book, The Diet Cure, Julia Ross, who runs a large drug, alchohol and diet addiction recovery program in Marin, outlines the uses of amino acids her clinic uses (suplements found at most whole food/nutrition stores.) and which ones work to offer support for each set of problems (depression being one). This is also a great reference for those dealing with issues of diet (and dieting) related mood swings, obsessions, cravings, and mal-nutrition (often a part of female teenage eating patterns). She also addresses hormonal shifts, food allergies, etc. which could be at the root of the acne problems. I would investigate the nutritional side of the issue immediately. While I was using them for allergy reactions, the few amino acids supplements I've tried worked almost immediately. Bettina

In 1998, there was a Medscape warning about accutane ( isolated reports of depression, psychosis and rarely suicidal thoughts and actions. FDA and the drug manufacturer are strengthening this label warning, even though it is difficult to identify the exact cause of these problems. Such problems could already be more common among the patient populations likely to be on the drug. However, because some patients who reported depression also reported that the depression subsided when they stopped taking the drug and came back when they resumed taking it, the agency and the manufacturer felt the strengthened labeling was warranted as a precautionary measure. My understanding is that this possible side effect needs to be balanced with the depression involved for teenagers with severe acne. Sherry

More info here: - Accutane

March 2004

There have been postings in the past regarding taking the prescription drug ''Accutane'' or isotretinoin for acne. Saw this article regarding a new national registry for all users of this drug because of the severe danger the drug poses during pregnancy. The article also chronicles other specifics about the treatment that people should be aware of.


Natural Remedies for Acne

I would appreciate recommendations of natural or less-toxic approaches to a mild case of adolescent pimples. I've checked the digest, and was surprised to see this hasn't come up on the teen list! Thanks.


I have worked with a number of parents who introduced their teens to Super Blue Green Algae (Aphanizomenon flos aquae) and have had great results. One man told me that his back acne cleared after one week.

I have had a good experience treating acne with a Chinese Herbologist in San Francisco who is a skin specialist. Her name is Prof. Jialing Yu, and her office number is 415-337-0308. Both my 14-year-old neice and I have been very happy with her treatments. She gives Chinese herbs which are all natural. The treatment is on the expensive side, though, so may be overkill for a mild case. But if you are wary of Accutane or antibiotics, which you would probably get at a Western dermatologist, this seems to be a safer approach.