Which Acne Treatments for Teens Can Aggravate Pimples?

Being a teen can come with a lot of great new experiences and even some newfound freedom. But one of the not-so-great things that also comes along with being a teenager is acne. Acne is one of the most common skin conditions that teens face, so it’s no wonder that there are tons of products out there claiming to help clear your skin. In theory, many of the common ingredients found in most acne treatments should work, but what actually ends up happening is that they only make acne worse by overcorrecting dry or oily skin. To help you sort the bad from the good, here are some of the most common acne ingredients for teens that can aggravate pimples. We’ve also included some gentler and more effective ingredients you can try as alternatives.

Benzoyl Peroxide

When you pick up nearly any common drug store acne treatment, chances are that you’ll see benzoyl peroxide listed as one of the main ingredients. That’s because it dries out your skin by eliminating your body’s natural oils. Although excess oil production can contribute to acne, when you use a harsh ingredient like benzoyl peroxide, it can actually dry out your skin too much. Then, your skin reacts by producing even more oil, which then causes more acne, and so on. In short, although this ingredient might seem to be working at first, it may aggravate your skin even more in the long run. (Citizens for Health) As a gentler alternative, look for an acne treatment that contains willow bark, which is a natural source of salicylic acid. Unlike benzoyl peroxide, which just dries out the skin, salicylic acid is an anti-inflammatory. It works by healing inflamed pores, which is what causes the redness and soreness that are characteristic of acne blemishes. The P.R.E.P. everyday clear acne treatment contains willow bark and salicylic acid. (University of Maryland Medical Center)


Found in many acne spot treatments, alcohol is another ingredient that can cause extreme dryness and aggravate pimples. Like benzoyl peroxide, alcohol dries up the oil in the skin, which can produce short-term results but can lead to long-term skincare problems. Keep in mind that a good teen acne treatment will take some time to work, so even though it can be tempting to reach for the harshest ingredients that claim to deliver instant results, this isn’t healthy for your skin. Instead, choose a gentler product that’s safe for everyday use and remember to be patient with your skin.

Vegetable Oil & Soybean Oil

Many acne treatments for teens tend to contain ingredients that both dry and moisturize the skin. While this can definitely be helpful when trying to balance oil production and acne, it can be problematic if the moisturizing ingredients in your skincare products are also clogging your pores. Just like when you eat them, vegetable oils can be thick and greasy, which is never a good combination for your pores. Look for alternative ingredients such as chamomile and lavender oils which can be gentler and lighter alternatives. The P.R.E.P. everyday clear acne treatment contains an abundance of natural oils including geranium, lavender, willow bark and chamomile making it tough on acne yet gentle on your skin. (Livestrong)

Mineral Oil

Although mineral oil is quite common in all types of cosmetic and skincare products, it can be another hidden acne aggravating ingredient. Mineral oil is actually derived from petroleum, which could potentially even contain cancer-causing agents. While it was once thought to block pollutants from reaching your pores, mineral oil actually creates a seal on the outer layer of skin, which can not only clog your pores, but can also prevent your skin from self-regulating. So although you don’t necessarily want extra oil production, you also don’t want to inhibit your body from continuing its natural self-healing process. Again, choosing other oils like chamomile, lavender, or jojoba oils can offer a more effective moisturizing alternative. (Livestrong)

The Bottom Line

Finding the best acne treatments for teens really doesn’t have to be time-consuming and overwhelming (hint: try out our P.R.E.P. Zit Kit!) Just remember to always check the list of ingredients on acne treatment product labels before you put them on your skin to make sure you’re not going to further aggravate the condition. Knowing which harsh ingredients to avoid and which to look for as alternatives can be the first step in choosing a great acne cleanser that can leave your skin looking and feeling fresh and clean. Being patient and allowing your gentle acne treatment enough time to work is also key to maintaining clear, healthy skin.   Stay healthy,