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Many teens get pimples. Most cases can be handled without a prescription. 

But some cases of teen acne do need to be seen by a doctor. How can you tell the difference between mild teen acne and something more serious that would benefit from a doctor's help?

Teen Acne Symptoms: 5 Signs to See the Doctor

  1. The acne is severe. A dermatologist can help get this under control.
  2. Over-the-counter treatments aren’t clearing up the acne. If a couple of months of over-the-counter (nonprescription) treatment, such as those containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or lactic acid, haven’t helped, it’s time to see an expert.
  3. The acne appeared after starting a medication. Some medications for anxiety, depression, and other conditions can result in acne or similar symptoms. A doctor can come up with a substitute. 
  4. Scarring. Get treatment before more damage is done. Once the acne is under control, dermatologists have treatments for the acne scars.
  5. Acne is affecting self-esteem. Having clearer skin could ease embarrassment and self-consciousness related to acne.

Teen Acne: Seeing the Doctor

Which doctor should you see? You can start by seeing a pediatrician or the family doctor. Or you could go right to a dermatologist.

The doctor will probably want some information from you, such as:

  • When the acne started
  • Has the acne remained more or less constant or worsened?
  • What treatments you’ve tried and how well they’ve worked
  • Whether the acne is affecting self-image or social behavior

You should also bring a list of any medications or supplements that you're taking. 

Be prepared to ask some questions, too. Good questions include:

  • Can the acne be managed with over-the-counter treatments? What do you recommend?
  • Will any changes in behavior help prevent or clear acne?
  • What’s the best way to cleanse and take care of skin?
  • What can be done to make acne scars less likely?
  • Can you recommend a type of makeup for covering up acne?

If the doctor recommends a prescription cream or acne medicine, you should ask:

  • What is the name of this medicine and why are you recommending it?
  • What are the side effects?
  • How should this medicine be used?
  • How long will it be needed?
  • How soon should we expect results from this treatment?
  • When should we schedule a follow-up appointment?