Dermatologist for teen with acne?

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!

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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.

Hello, First, I'm sorry that your daughter is experiencing acne.  My 15-year-old daughter does as well and it's more than a skin health and cosmetic issue, it goes to the heart of self-confidence and self-esteem, particularly at this age.

Second, I'm sorry I do not have a dermatologist to recommend.  However, I would like to share with you what is working for my daughter.  Her acne started around age 11 and quickly became physically painful as well as embarrassing for her.  Given her young age, I tried many approaches in an effort to avoid medication.  What ended up working for her is a product called "ZapZyt".  I used to get it at Walgreen, but now get it on Amazon.  It's highly rated by EWG Skin Deep if you follow their research on least toxic products.  She uses the wash 2x/day, the scrub every other day, and the treatment gel every night.  Caution: the treatment gel will bleach most fabrics.  We changed my daughter's bedding to all white.  It's important to use consistently to keep the acne under control.  Now that My daughter is older and wearing make-up, she also uses Neutrogena Skin Clearing Complexion Perfector with salicylic acid during the day as well.  The products with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can be very drying.  When needed, she uses the Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer.  If you choose to try these products, I suggest you help her with them, including applying the treatment gel for her, the first few times she uses them.  It's important to use enough, but not too much, and keep out of the eyes and mouth.

One last thing to mention: before her 8th grade graduation, I took my daughter for a facial by a person well trained and experienced in dealing with acne (SkinSpirit in Palo Alto - we live on the Peninsula).  While the aesthetician did a fantastic job extracting pimples and clearing blackheads, my sensitive daughter hated the experience.  Her skin was red and sore for a day or two (an acne facial is somewhat painful, not pleasant), but much clearer after that.  If your daughter could tolerate the experience, I suggest a good facial to kick start getting the acne under control and occasionally thereafter for maintenance.

Good luck to you both.  I hope you find a solution that works well for your daughter.

Hi - I know you are looking for SF if possible but check out Acne Specialists of Oakland website - see link below.  My son had terrible acne when is was 15/16.  He was using the strongest facial washes and spot treatments we could purchase over the counter. These of course dried his skin out, and the acne continued only slightly diminished.  Acne Specialists of Oakland stopped this bad cycle and got him to clear skin in about 4 months.  They did a full eval for him, and while they did 3-4 acne facials for him and gave him gentler face wash etc, the thing that helped more than anything else was the diet changes they suggested.  It was pretty dramatic.  Once my son stopped eating dairy, his skin started to clear up.  So we stopped the appointments as he didn't need them.  He is now 21 and enjoys clear skin unless he lapses and eats a cheese pizza or something like that and then he gets a bad episode of blemishes. Good luck.

I highly recommend Amy Earnest in Oakland/Piedmont area. She is an aesthetician and specializes in problem skin. My daughter has very sensitive skin and the products the dermatologist prescribed were too harsh. Amy takes a wholistic approach: looking at diet, makeup, hair products, sunscreen, etc. Her clients receive "treatments" bi-weekly in the beginning and she fine-tunes the skin regime depending on how the results are progressing. The products she uses are not that expensive at all and she also carries a line of makeup. She has weekend appointments too. We have been very happy with the results! 

Both of my daughters see Dr. David MacGregor (or his physician assistants Leslie Bowler and Christina Tucker). My oldest has severe, cystic acne and the youngest has moderate acne. Within two months of following their "regime", they both have beautiful skin. Some time between 13 and 15, hormones really kick in and you often need medication to get things under control. Don't be surprised if they recommend a topical antibiotic, Retin A and birth control pills. Having clear skin is important for a person's self esteem. Good luck!

Highly highly recommend these wonderful ladies!

They have a line of gentle products and will look at lifestyle, products, food, etc. Monthly facials with extractions may help greatly too. As someone who suffered with acne and became depressed and more introverted, I applaud you for helping your daughter through. All the best!

I second the shout out for Studio Abasi. Cleared up my son's SEVERE acne after bimonthly facials and using their products religiously. No medication required. She will need to cut out dairy and commit to using their products and coming in for the facials. They are about $85 if I recall. 

Hi- Dr. William Ting in San Ramon is fantastic-highly recommend. Biz called California Dermatology. He's very flexible in how he works with teens. That said, my 16 year old was put on doxycycline (50 mg) and that's all he does (boys!) and his skin is 80% better with that alone so you might consider. I think it's really important to make significant progress so that you can minimize long term scarring.


My teen had pretty bad acne and his pediatrician recommended starting with Benzoyl Peroxide 5% which you can get over the counter or on Amazon for practically nothing. But our main problem was getting him to apply it regularly. I can't overstate how much that played in to his acne - he really blew it off and was not committed at all to a regular regimen and did not respond to nagging. But the turning point was the girlfriend. This is probably not relevant for teen girls but I wanted to throw it out there for the parents of teen boys. Suddenly he was interested in showering every day, applying the acne cream religiously, and just generally paying attention to overall hygiene.  His acne cleared up dramatically!  This cream does dry out the skin, so I got him some "Moisturizer for Men" from Clinique which works well. You can also dial it back from 5% to 2.5% on the Benzoyl Peroxide which is what he's using now. I hope this is useful!