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Why Puberty Causes Acne

By Rachel Nall ; Updated July 18, 2017

Puberty occurs in young people and signals a time when a person becomes sexually mature, according to Many changes take place during puberty, including the growth of breasts and beginning of menstruation in girls and the change of voice and development of testicles in boys. Another part of puberty can be the development of acne as hormone swings contribute to increased oil production.


When a person goes through puberty, the brain releases a hormone known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), according to TeensHealth. The hormone then travels to the pituitary gland and signals this gland to release two additional hormones that affect a girl's or boy's body differently. This results in growth and development, production of hair under the arms and pubic area, and acne.

Time Frame

According to, girls may begin puberty as early as age 6 to 7, but typically at 11. Boys begin as early as age 9, but typically around age 12. At this time, hormones may trigger acne production almost immediately, according to TeensHealth. This acne may continue throughout the teenage years and may begin to disappear as hormones become more regulated during the post-teen years.


Increased production of hormones signals the body to produce more sebum, which is a form of oil that develops in the pores. While oil can be beneficial in keeping the skin soft, excess production can cause oil to build up in the hair follicles, which results in acne pimples. Bacteria also may begin to grow in the hair follicles, which can further exacerbate acne.


Acne comes in several different shapes and sizes. Pimples are the red bumps that occur when the wall of the hair follicle breaks and swells, containing the excess oil and sebum. Whiteheads are the stage before pimples when oil and dead skin cells plug the hair follicle, but it does not erupt. The top of a whitehead appears like a white pin dot, while a blackhead resembles a black pin dot and contains oil as well. The most severe forms of acne are nodules and cysts, which occur when the hair follicle wall breaks deep down in the skin.


Eradicating acne during puberty begins with developing a good hygiene routine. Daily cleansing in the morning and at night can help to remove excess dirt and oils from the skin. Over-the-counter acne medications, such as those containing salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, also may help to reduce acne lesions. If severe acne is experienced during puberty, a physician may prescribe a stronger acne medication, such as Accutane, or even birth control pills for girls, which may help to better control hormone fluctuations.

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