7 Common Teen Skin Conditions

March 6, 2019

A group of young adults with teen skin conditions

If you’ve come into your teen’s room lately and found them obsessing over their skin in front of the mirror, you may be tempted to look at the situation as just one more drama-filled teen moment. However, teens may actually be tempted to hide serious skin health issues out of embarrassment, so it’s important that parents keep an eye on changes in teens’ skin health and help them to determine when it’s time to visit the dermatologist. In this blog, we’ll discuss seven of the most common teen skin conditions, their warning signs, and some treatment options.

1 – Acne

By far the most common teens skin condition, acne is a highly treatable skin condition that can be managed well in partnership with your dermatologist. Acne occurs when the pores in the skin become clogged. During the pubescent years, larger amounts of sebum, the oil that keeps skin moisturized, is produced. This production causes pores to clog, trapping numerous dead skin cells that stick together within the pores. This creates pimples. Anyone can develop pimples, especially during the teen years when the high production of sebum oil is common. When the common skin bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (p. acnes) are present within the clogged pores, the result is redness, swelling, and inflammation that goes deep into the skin, causing acne cysts and nodules.


Acne can appear anywhere on the body, but it is most common on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, upper arms, and buttocks. Teens who suffer from acne may have:

  • Blackheads – open clogged pore
  • Whiteheads – closed clogged pore
  • Papules – small red bumps
  • Pustules – papules that have pus in their tips
  • Cysts – painful, pus-filled lumps
  • Nodules – hard, painful lumps

Treatment Options

If improving your teen’s daily skin-care routine doesn’t help, you may want to visit a dermatologist for more advanced acne treatments. Some of the many treatment options available to address acne include:

  • Topical antibacterial ointments
  • Topical treatments that reduce oil production
  • Antibiotics to reduce the numbers of p. acnes bacteria
  • Hormone therapies (typically only for women with acne)
  • Isotretinoin for severe cases (requires medical supervision)
  • Laser and light therapies
  • Chemical peels
  • Professional acne removal

2 – Eczema & Dermatitis

Eczema is actually an umbrella term for rashes, itching, swelling, and irritation of the skin. It may also be referred to as dermatitis. It most commonly occurs on the face, inside the elbows and knees, and on the hands or feet. Even though the condition is usually very itchy, scratching can spread the condition and lead to more inflammation, so it should be avoided. There’s no one cause of eczema or dermatitis, and it may be influenced by both genetics and environment. Teens with eczema and atopic dermatitis can experience shame, thinking that they may spread their skin condition to others, so it’s important for them to understand their condition is not contagious. Eczema is actually most common in infants and children, and it can often improve with age and even go away. Teens and adults of all ages may also struggle with eczema, and they are at greater risk if they experienced the condition as children.


Itching is the most common warning sign of eczema, but there are many different forms of the condition. Symptoms can be wide-ranging and include:

  • Severely dry skin
  • Redness and irritation of the skin
  • Sensitive skin
  • Inflammation and swelling
  • Itching
  • Scaly or rough patches
  • Oozing or draining sores
  • Darkened skin coloring

Treatment Options

Because eczema is worsened by irritation, avoiding certain products and materials that may trigger a response is essential. That means the first step to successful treatment is knowing what triggers your flareups. Your eczema treatment plan may also include the following:

  • Keep track of new foods, skin care, or cleaning products that may cause flareups or changes in the skin’s appearance
  • Create and maintain a bathing and moisturizing routine that utilizes mild cleansers and intense moisturizers
  • Take antihistamines on a daily basis to avoid itching and inflammation
  • Use prescription and store-bought oral or topical medications and ointments, including steroids, as directed by your dermatologist or general practitioner
  • Keep nails cut short to avoid injuring skin if you scratch during sleep

3 – Dandruff

Dandruff is a condition that causes the skin on the scalp to dry out and flake off in large pieces. Like eczema, the exact cause of dandruff is unknown. Teens with dandruff often believe the condition occurs because they’re not washing, brushing, or otherwise caring for their hair properly. Let your teen know that lack of cleanliness doesn’t cause dandruff, and the condition is nothing to worry over or be embarrassed about.


The main symptom of dandruff is the noticeable white skin flakes that appear in the hair and on the shoulders, but this is not the only warning sign of dandruff. Ask your teen if they notice any of the following:

  • White flakes in the hair or on clothing
  • Itching or burning in the scalp
  • Eczema or rash on face, especially around the ears, nose, eyebrows, and beard
  • Oily skin that also has dry patches and flakes
  • Rashes on other parts of the body that are red or inflamed with dry flakes of skin

Treatment Options

There are numerous at-home remedies for dandruff, including a wide range of dandruff shampoos and treatments you can find in your local pharmacy. When you work with a dermatologist, they will likely recommend some combination of the following treatments:

  • Use of tar-based, zinc pyrithione, or selenium sulfide shampoos or hair treatments (use in hair and on other irritated areas)
  • Wash hair more frequently
  • Treat skin inflammation with hydrocortisone cream or prescription steroid cream
  • Remove dandruff flakes by brushing hair frequently
  • For severe cases, prescription oral steroids may be recommended

4 – Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot is an infection that typically occurs on the toes, feet, and ankles, and it is caused by the growth of fungus. The technical term is tinea pedis. Because it often occurs when people’s feet become sweaty, athletes are highly susceptible to the condition, which is why the condition is often called athlete’s foot. While most cases of athlete’s foot can be treated with over the counter products, it’s usually a chronic condition that your teen may struggle with off and on for many years.

Related: 5 Common Foot Rashes


If you or your teen notice any of the following warning signs, it’s important to start treatment for athlete’s foot right away:

  • Red, inflamed rash usually starting between the toes
  • Itching that is especially pronounced immediately after removing shoes
  • Dry, scaly, hard skin with a white coloring on the soles and sides of feet
  • In severe cases, blisters or ulcers also occur

Treatment Options

For many people, the best treatment for athlete’s foot is prevention. You can take steps to avoid exposing feet to fungus in locker rooms, swimming pools, and other damp areas. If your teen develops athlete’s foot, it’s important to avoid spreading the condition through scratching or by wearing clothing that has come in contact with the fungus. Depending on the severity of your teen’s condition, a dermatologist may recommend a combination of the following treatments:

  • Wash feet thoroughly and dry them completely before putting on socks and shoes
  • Apply topical antifungal ointment to feet and toes regularly
  • Put the antifungal powder in shoes and on socks
  • Take prescription antifungal medications as directed

5 – Cold Sores

A cold sore is a small blister that appears around or inside of the mouth in most cases, but the sores can also develop around the nose and elsewhere on the face. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Most people are exposed to HSV-1 as small children or toddlers by sharing eating utensils, cups, towels, or other items. After a person is exposed to HSV-1, the virus can remain dormant for years. Teens often develop cold sores after years with dormant HSV-1 due to hormonal changes during these developmental years.


In the initial stages, cold sores are blisters that then develop into sores filled with fluid. Finally, the blisters dry out, turning into scabs before flaking away. In most cases, cold sores are chronic and will reappear often. Symptoms of cold sores that you and your teen should be aware of include:

  • Blisters and sores usually on or around the mouth
  • Pain or burning sensation
  • Red, inflamed, or swollen gums
  • High fever
  • Muscle aches or weakness
  • Nausea or ill feeling
  • Swollen glands

Treatment Options

Your teen’s cold sore will likely clear up on its own in a few weeks. However, the sores can be very painful, so taking steps to address the symptoms can significantly improve comfort. Some treatments to address the side effects of cold sores include:

  • Use ice or a cold compress to relieve pain
  • Take oral pain medications (over the counter or prescription) as directed
  • Use topical numbing medications to relieve discomfort
  • Use over the counter or prescription oral or topical medications as directed

6 – Excessive Sweating

The technical term for excessive sweating is hyperhidrosis. Everyone sweats when they exert themselves, experience stress, or are overheated. Sweating is one way the body regulates its temperature. Hyperhidrosis is sweating that occurs when the body does not need to be cooled down. The excessive sweat can be expelled from any part of the body, but those with hyperhidrosis most often sweat from the palms, feet, underarms, or their head. Even if the rest of the body is cool and free from sweat, the areas where the patient experiences hyperhidrosis may drip with moisture.


Sweating is a natural and necessary process, but if your teen is experiencing any of the following symptoms, they may need to seek treatment for hyperhidrosis:

  • Even when at rest, sweat stains on clothing or dripping sweat is visible
  • Dripping sweat interferes with the ability to perform regular activities
  • Areas of the skin where sweating occurs become softened, pale, or peels

Treatment Options

Like some of the other skin conditions we’ve reviewed, teens who suffer from hyperhidrosis may be very embarrassed. Luckily, a dermatologist can help teens with hyperhidrosis reduce excessive sweat production through a number of treatment options, including:

  • Daily use of prescription or over the counter antiperspirants
  • Iontophoresis electric current treatment for hyperhidrosis in the hands and feet
  • Botox injections in the underarms
  • Prescription oral medications that temporarily prevent sweating
  • In severe cases, sweat glands may be surgically removed

7 – Sunburn

Sunburn is a burn that occurs due to overexposure to sunlight. Any patient can experience a sunburn, but teens may be at higher risk if they participate in outdoor athletic events and fail to apply sunscreen. Daily application of sunblock can help reduce the risk for and severity of sunburn in people of all ages. Since sunburn is one of the leading causes of many skin conditions, including cancers, protecting skin from sun damage at all ages is important.


If you or your teen notice any of the following symptoms after sun exposure, you should begin treatment for sunburn right away to limit long-term damage:

  • Change in skin color, typically red or pink coloring
  • Affected areas feel warmer than unaffected areas
  • Burned areas ache or feel bruised
  • Sunburned skin tightens and itches
  • Severe sunburns swell or blister
  • People with very bad burns may experience headache, nausea, or exhaustion

Treatment Options

The ideal option is to avoid sunburn altogether by limiting time spent in the sun, using sunscreen every day, and covering sensitive areas with protective clothing and hats. Once sunburn occurs, you can take the following steps to relieve discomfort and promote healing:

  • Take over the counter pain relievers
  • Take a lukewarm bath or apply a cool cloth to the affected area
  • Keep burns moisturized using aloe vera or other intense moisturizers
  • Don’t pop blisters that appear, and clean those that break on their own
  • Gently remove peeling skin and continue to moisturize the area
  • Cover burned skin to prevent additional exposure to sunlight

When to Call U.S. Dermatology Partners about Teen Skin Conditions

Teens often feel embarrassed, and they won’t say anything about their skin problems. Make sure you’re paying attention and encourage teens to get help with these conditions when they need it. At U.S Dermatology Partners, we work with kids, teens, and adults every day. If you are concerned with teen skin conditions, call one of our conveniently located offices to schedule an appointment, or you can complete our simple online form to get in touch with the office nearest to you.

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