Callie asked Reddit for advice on her brother's acne. The response was overwhelming.

There’s no doubt the internet can be a loud and unfriendly place. But in one lovely corner, a Reddit thread is helping a teenage boy with autism boost his confidence through skincare.

In a resurfaced Reddit thread called Skincare Addiction first posted in June, 19-year-old Callie asked for advice on treating her brother’s acne. 16-year-old Alec has autism, and experiences acne flare ups and dry skin because of his autism medication.

“My brother is severely disabled and is on medicine such as Risperidone that makes his skin supremely dry and acne prone,” the teenager from San Francisco posted on the online forum alongside photos of her brother’s skin.

“We have tried multiple medications from a dermatologist, including a 5% benzoyl peroxide ointment and an oral medication. The oral medication was helping but it was interfering too much with his other medications to control seizures and his behaviours.

“I’m hoping this supportive community can help create a simple routine for him to do, as he gets teased already so much at school.”

acne and autism
Callie shared these photos of Alec's skin irritations with the Reddit post. Image: Reddit.

As Callie soon found out, Alec's skincare problem isn't uncommon in people taking medication to manage their autism. Many on the thread offered their advice based on either personal experience, or experience helping a loved one going through the same issues, Yahoo first reported.

Some of the things recommended include:

  • Avoiding the sensory experience of 'splashing water', use cloths or wipes instead
  • Keeping the routine consistent and simple before introducing too many new products
  • Using light, mild, unscented products to avoid over stimulation
  • Putting pictures of the products or himself using the products in the bathroom, or video taping the routine
  • Changing pillowcases and sheets frequently and avoiding scented washing detergent

Commenters also thanked Callie for creating such a supportive hub of information through posting her question.

"First, thank you for sharing! I started tearing up because my autistic brother is in the same boat. It's always nice to see autistic people being valued," one wrote.

"I just want to say that you’re an awesome sibling! My little guy is autistic and if we ever decide to have more children, I really hope they’re just as amazing!" added another.


Another user wrote, "This thread warned my heart! I have a cousin who is severely autistic and seeing you say your brother gets picked on made me remember all of the days I stuck up for my cousin in the hallways of our school. Children can be so cruel! Good luck!"

"My heart swells for you and your efforts to help your brother. I have a special needs brother who also had (what sounds like) similar issues. I’m sure he is thankful for your help," another added.

Kathy Lette spoke to Mia Freedman about raising a child with autism, and why the way we talk about it needs to change. Post continues after video.

Callie updated the thread with Alec's current skin care routine after being so overwhelmed with sensitive, helpful responses.

Morning and night, Alec will start off by washing his face with water in the shower, followed by a once-over with Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes ($5.25 for 25pk) and CeraVe moisturiser (not available in Australia, Cetaphil, QV or Dermeze would be our equivalents).

After an initial period of settling into this routine, Alec's family plan to transition him onto a gentle jelly cleanser washed off with a face washer with the help of his therapists, as well as chemical exfoliant and a serum mixed into the moisturiser after a few months, depending how he responds to different stimuli (chemical exfoliants leave a tingling sensation after application).

Many on the Reddit thread recommended Stridex, an American anti-acne product of pads soaked in Salicylic Acid you can find on iHerb. You could also try Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads ($23.99 for 60pk) and Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel ($24 for five pads or $129 for 30) in Australia.

"Holy guacamole everyone I did not expect so much feedback from you all. My family and I are deeply touched from all of your suggestions," she wrote.

"This community is really capable of beautiful things when we put our heads together. I’ve never seen a better example of human kindness."

This post is one family's experience and should not be substituted for professional advice. Please talk to your GP or dermatologist for personalised, professional help.

Do you have experience with skin conditions and medications? What did you find worked for you?