As a rule, kids from age two to eight get an acne pass because their sebaceous glands — the oil-producing glands inside hair follicles — have yet to kick into gear. If pimples do pop up before age eight, chances are it’s just a few isolated hormones causing flare-ups early, but it’s best to see a doctor to rule out a more serious condition. “Acne that appears before age eight in girls and age nine in boys could be a sign of precocious puberty, which is a medical issue,” says Weinstein.
Once a paediatrician has confirmed a child’s spots are due to isolated hormones and not early puberty (a condition where the brain jump-starts sex hormone development ahead of schedule), your doctor can decide on the best treatment. Most acne medications are still too strong for kids, but milder doses of benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics or retinoids (derived from vitamin A) can be used to fight bacteria and unclog pores.
A version of this article appeared in our April 2012 issue with the headline: Acne Through the Ages (p. 44).