OTC Summer Skincare Recommendations for Teen Acne

By Deirdre O. Hooper, MD, Audubon Dermatology, New Orleans, LA.

Supported with advertising by Ortho Dermalogics


Summer can seem like a minefield for acne-prone tweens and teens. Part of establishing an effective relationship with these patients involves being their go-to source for all their skincare needs, including OTC products.1

Changes in Skin in Summer

A year-long observational study by Meyer et al2 showed increased sebum production at all times in acne sufferers, more pronounced in the summer and fall. Increased sebum production has been associated with increased Propionibacterium acnes and subsequent bacterial production of inflammatory mediators.3,4,5 There are likely other factors that also influence the acne microbiome, including the individual innate immunity of the skin, weather (heat, humidity), and changes in barrier function that work in concert with lipid production to alter the growth conditions for skin bacteria. This all adds up to a need for adjustments in acne regimes in summer months.

Tip 1: If skin feels oily, use a foaming cleanser.

Cleansing requires a delicate balance between skin hygiene and stratum corneum barrier damage. The problem is that surfactants cannot distinguish between lipophilic skin soils requiring removal and the lipophilic intercellular lipids required for barrier maintenance.6 In general, bar soaps and foaming cleansers are better at removing sebum and are good choices for oily skin. Sensitive skin types should still use liquid syndet cleansers. Discuss the barrier risks of over-cleansing with your patients.

Tip 2: Utilize non-greasy moisturizers and sunscreen.

Sunscreens and moisturizers are important for photoprotection and barrier maintenance. Oily complexion products are generally composed of water and dimethicone or cyclomethicone, which are noncomedogenic, hypoallergenic, and non-greasy, providing the basis for “oil‐free” moisturizers. Gel or lotion formulations have less oil and will be better choices for oily skin.7

I take the time to discuss three points with teens: 1) Sunscreen will help with the prevention and resolution of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. 2) The right moisturizer can help them better tolerate their acne regimen so they clear faster. 3) They can absolutely find formulations that will not worsen acne.

Tip 3: Realize your patients are consumers.

I recommend you have a basic knowledge of toners, masks, pore strips, and all the extras available to our patients over the counter. Oil-absorbing technology exists, including clay-, starch,- or charcoal-based lotions and oil-wicking paper sheets. These can be effective adjuncts for acne-prone skin, but we must educate patients that there just isn’t data to back up these products as stand-alone treatments, and they can backfire by over-drying and irritating the skin.

Be Adustable

In conclusion, be prepared to make adjustments for higher sebum and enjoy the benefits of a better barrier in summer months.

1. Decker A, Graber E. Over the Counter Acne Treatments: A review J Clin Aesthet Dermatol 2012 May 5(5): 32-40

2. Meyer BS,Pappas A et al. Evaluation of seasonal changes in facial skin with and without acne. J Drugs Dermatol. 2015 June 14(6):593-607

3. Kurokawa I, Danby FW, Ju Q, et al. New developments in our understanding of acne pathogenesis and treatment. Exp Dermatol. 2009;18:821-832.

4. Lwin SM, Kimber I, McFadden JP. Acne, quorum sensing and danger. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2014;39:162-167.

5. McGinley KJ, Webster GF, Ruggieri MR, et al. Regional variations in density of cutaneous propionibacteria: correlation of Propionibacterium acnes populations with sebaceous secretion. J Clin Microbiol. 1980;12:672-675.

6. Slotosch CM, Kampf G, Loffler H. Effects of Disinfectants and Detergents on Skin Irritation. Contact Dermatitis. 2007 Oct;57:235- 241.

7. Draelos Z , The science behind skin care: Moisturiozers. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2018 Apr;17(2):138-144


Contact Info

For advertising rates and opportunities:
Rick Ehrlich
Group Publisher
(609) 922-0337

About Practical Dermatology

Practical Dermatology is the monthly publication that provides coverage of medical care, cosmetic advancements, and practice management for clinicians in the field. With straight-forward, how-to advice from experts in various fields, we strive to enhance quality of care and improve the daily operation of dermatology practices.