How long does acne last?

Q: My son is 15 and he started breaking out when he was 12. He wants to know when this is going to end. What do I tell him?
-- Cyndee

A: No one knows exactly how long acne will last for each person. Many people find that their acne improves as they become older and that it has almost disappeared by the time they enter their 20s. Others have acne well into their adult years.

The good news is that acne can be treated - and breakouts can sometimes be prevented. Prevention involves taking good care of the skin. Your son should wash his face twice a day (and after building up a sweat) with a mild soap and lukewarm water. Make sure he washes it gently; teens sometimes scrub too hard in an attempt to get rid of acne. This can irritate the skin and actually make acne worse.

If good hygiene isn't helping with breakouts, have your son try an over-the-counter acne medication. Be sure he follows the directions carefully. If his acne still doesn't improve, he may need some extra help from the family doctor or a dermatologist. A doctor can find the best treatment for him and also give lots of useful tips on dealing with acne.