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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Anita Pee, Physician Brandon Yew and Dr Eki Wari on March 24, 2023

Best Natural Acne Treatment Options For Teenagers

Has your teen tried every acne treatment out there without success? If so, these TCM tips can help you address underlying causes of acne that most treatments miss to clear up their skin for good.

Teenage acne min scaled

Your teenager might not actively seek out acne treatment, even if it’s what’s best for them. However, due to changing hormone levels and the typical teenage American diet, kids in this age bracket may be more prone to breakouts.

Although not typically a medical concern, acne can make your teenager embarrassed or cause them to lack confidence.

Luckily, there are several things you can do to help them develop habits that will give them clear skin for life. Check out these top acne treatments for teenagers using gentle, holistic remedies.

Why Do Teenagers Need Acne Treatment?

An overweight teenage boy eating unhealthy food and drinking soda while playing video games
An unhealthy diet can contribute to teenage acne.

Although adults can also develop acne, this skin condition is more prominent in teens. Here’s why: 

1. Hormonal changes 

Puberty brings about many changes to a teen’s body. These changes are regulated by hormones like androgen, the male sex hormone.

During puberty, the body generates larger amounts of androgen, in both boys and girls. This process stimulates oil production in the skin, known as sebum.

Sebum helps moisturize the skin, and sometimes together with dead skin cells, it can block the skin’s pores. As a result, it creates a build-up, which eventually can turn into blackheads or whiteheads. When it becomes inflamed, acne forms. 

The cause of acne in teens and adults is the same, but since the former has more androgen during puberty, they experience more breakouts.

2. Genetics and immune system problems

No two people are the same, and no two adolescents experience the same symptoms of puberty. While some may develop acne, others may not.

Because of this, it is thought that genetic factors and the immune system may play a role in developing acne.

Types Of Teenage Acne

In general, acne can be classified as the following: 

Mild acne 

Teens with mild acne have blackheads or whiteheads, which appear when the pores are clogged. Contrary to popular belief, blackheads aren’t pores filled with dirt. They appear dark because they’re “open,” allowing the skin’s melanin to react with oxygen.

Moderate acne 

Adolescents with moderate acne have noticeably more pimples. They can appear as red, small bumps (papules) or as lesions filled with yellow pus (pustules). 

Severe acne 

Teenagers suffering from severe acne have many papules, pustules, and large, painful nodules. If left untreated, it may leave permanent scarring.

Acne Causes, According To TCM

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are three underlying causes of acne: 

  1. Too much spicy, sweet, and oily foods can lead to Damp-Heat accumulation in the stomach and Spleen
  2. Excessive Heat and Wind in the Lungs, resulting in itchy skin
  3. Weak Spleen, causing a disruption in qi, blood production and circulation

“Blood Stagnation, coupled with Dampness, can form deep-rooted and large acne.”

TCM Physician Anita Pee.

TCM believes that acne appearance and location are linked with internal health imbalances

Appearance of acne:Causes:
Forehead and nose acneLung Heat with symptoms of Wind Sensitivity and a red tongue with a thin yellow coat
Chest, shoulders, back, and around the mouthStomach Heat with symptoms of constipation, excessive thirst, foul breath, a big appetite, and a red tongue with a thick yellowish coat. 
Inflamed, pus-filled acne with an oily complexionDamp-Heat with symptoms of constant thirst, aversion to heat, and a red tongue with a thick yellow coating
Mild to moderate acne on the nose, around the mouth, and between the eyebrowsBlood Heat with symptoms of a flushed face, extreme sensitivity to heat, dry stools, dark urine, and a red tongue with spots
Severe, pus-filled acne with red, painful skinToxic Heat with symptoms of lethargy and a red tongue with a sticky yellow coating
Refer to this chart to determine what type of acne you have and how to treat it.

Best Acne Treatment Options For Teens

A teenage boy with acne applying moisturizer to his face
Keeping skin clean and moisturized can help fight teen acne.

Some practical and natural ways to treat acne include: 

  • Maintaining good facial hygiene with natural products  
  • Using topical antibacterial and moisturizing creams  
  • Limiting the intake of fried, oily, and sweet foods 
  • Staying hydrated 
  • Reducing hormonal imbalances by getting enough sleep, managing stress well, and eating adequate nutrition 
  • Drink eight glasses of water daily to remove toxins in the body 
  • Consuming a well-balanced diet of proteins, good fats, grains, fruits, and vegetables

In severe cases, a visit to a dermatologist might be needed. Likewise, a TCM physician needs to consider a teen’s physical constitution or any lifestyle and dietary factors to recommend an individualized treatment plan.

TCM-approved remedies for acne may include: 


Some Chinese herbs are believed to be able to treat the root causes of acne.

Physician Pee recommends the following:

  • For Excess Heat: Forsythia (lian qiao) and dandelion (pu gong ying)
  • For Damp-Heat and to strengthen the Spleen: Coix seed (yi yi ren)
  • To eliminate Heat, cool blood and dispel Blood Stasis: Red peony root (chi shao)
  • For Lung Heat: Loquat leaves (pi pa ye) found in Pi Pa Qing Fei Yin
  • For stomach Heat: Rhubarb (da huang) and hawthorn berry (shan zha)
  • For Toxic Heat: Red sage root (dan shen), Ciotis chinensis (huang lian), peony root (dan pi), Radix rehmanniae (sheng di), and Scrophularia (xuan shen)

A 2003 study found that some herbs have valid anti-acne effects. The researchers found that Angelica dahurica (bai zhi) and erythromycin are as potent as retinoic acid, a common remedy for acne.

The study also showed that Rhizoma coptidis (huang lian) is even more effective than retinoic acid and can help with toxic Heat, too.

Acupuncture and acupressure

TCM physicians would also propose acupuncture therapy to treat hormonal acne. Acupuncture can be used to manage hormonal changes while strengthening the body and improving energy. To ease symptoms, acupressure may help.

TCM Medical Senior Physician Brandon Yew suggests these acupoints:

  • Qu chi (LI11)
  • Chi ze (LU5)
  • He gu (LI4)
  • Nei guan (PC6)
  • Zhong wan (RN12)
  • Xue hai (SP10)
  • Yin ling quan (SP9)
  • Zu san li (ST36)
  • Tai xi (KI3)
  • Tai chong (LR3)

Among all the complex changes teens face during puberty, they sometimes must deal with insecurities caused by acne-prone skin. Share this article if you know of someone with this condition and can benefit from these tips. 

This is an adaptation of an article, “Teen Acne”, which first appeared on the Eu Yan Sang website.


  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2019. Acne: Overview
  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 2020. 5 ways to help your teenager survive acne
  3. National Centre for Biotechnology Information, 2000, The science and art of treating acne in adolescence,

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