The one way to know when it's time to see a doctor about your child's acne.

It’s a dilemma many parents face.

You notice pimples on your child’s face. You’re concerned and want to help, but they haven’t said anything to you about it. Do you mention it or leave it, for fear of making them self-conscious if it’s not bothering them?

“Bring it up sooner rather than later. The longer you leave it, the harder it gets,” says Professor Rodney Sinclair of Melbourne’s Sinclair Dermatology.

Image: Getty

"The aspect of acne that's irreversible is scarring, so if they are getting scarring then it's automatically time to bring it up and arrange for them to be seen [by a GP].


"Other times when they need to be seen is if it's causing them distress."

Often it's a fear of embarrassment that prevents kids from talking about their skin problems, even if it is bothering them.

"When you talk to pharmacists, the number one item shoplifted is acne treatments. Kids get embarrassed but it really shouldn't be a source of embarrassment, it's pretty much a universal problem."

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Dr Sinclair says a casual approach is fine.

"It's perfectly reasonable to say 'I see you're getting a couple of pimples, do you want to go to the pharmacy and get something for it?'" he says.

"If nothing is working five or six weeks, then go to a doctor. If it's severe, a pharmacist will guide you as to when it's time to see a doctor."

Your GP will most likely be able to manage it, otherwise they will refer you to a dermatologist.

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The product Dr Sinclair - and most pharmacists - will recommend is Benzoyl Peroxide cream.

"Of all the over the counter options, it's going to be the best. Go for the lowest strength as the higher strength causes more irritation but doesn't have any higher benefit. It will take about six to eight weeks," he says.

"The only thing to watch is you don't bleach your clothing and towels. [If that's a concern] use the benzoyl peroxide wash, which is one of the better ones and does less damage to pillow cases."

However even this can be too much for some people. Dr Sinclair points to the success of brands like Proactiv, which can retail for more due to the convenience of purchasing online, removing the need to ask for it. He likens the anxiety of buying acne treatment for some to buying condoms.

If that's the case with your child, Professor Sinclair even recommends going to the pharmacy yourself, purchasing the cream and leaving it on their bed or in the bathroom.


"Sometimes the best thing parents can do is notice, buy it, then discuss it with their kids. It saves them feeling awkward or embarrassed," he says.

"Girls start [getting pimples] about two years before or two years after period, so typically around eight to 14 years old. At the end of the day pimples are normal, everyone gets them.

He also points out that there doesn't have to be hundreds or extremely severe to get treatment.

pimple pride
(Image: iStock)

As for concerns about medication like Roaccutane should the acne be so severe, Dr Sinclair says there are many preconceptions about it.

"Sometimes the best thing to do is wait until you've had the discussion with the dermatologist before you make an decisions about going on it. Side effects and doses can be managed," he says.

As for picking pimples, Dr Sinclair thinks it can be "ok".

"No-ones going to tolerate a yellow head on their face but need to know when to stop, which is at the first sign of blood as this prolongs the healing phase," he says.

Wearing makeup is also fine, as long as it's not too heavy. (Post continues after gallery.)

"You don't want to cake it on. If your child is wearing lots of makeup to cover acne, it might be a sign you need to see doctor and it could potentially going to be aggravating it," he says.

"Go to the GP to get treatments so then they don't need as much makeup to conceal. Kids don't generally choose to put that much makeup on for no reason, if they are then it might be because they're very self conscious about it."

Ultimately the bottom is at the first sign of getting pimples, start that first dialogue.

"Give them cream to put on them and then you've got a basis for a dialogue. If it's not working, then you can discuss what the next steps will be."

How have you dealt with this situation before?