Talking To Teens About Skin

Talking To Teens About Skin

Acne and other skin related problems are a big deal for teenagers. It is a completely normal part of being a teenager – hormones wreak havoc with our skin – but when you are already feeling self-conscious and trying to get to grips with all of the other changes that are happening to your body, as well as well as dealing with fluctuating moods, peer pressures, school work, relationships, social media and everything else that a teenager has to cope with these days, it can be enough to tip some over the edge.

The good thing is there is plenty that can be done, if not to completely eliminate it to reduce it so it is bearable and has less of an impact on the way a teenager feels about themself. Here, we look at some of the ways you can talk to your teens about acne and other skin related problems.

Remind them of the importance of sunscreen

Now that your teen knows what to do when they wash their face, they are going to want to soak up the sun outdoors.

We all know the dangers that are associated with sunburn and sun damage to the skin – increased wrinkles and loss of elasticity in the skin as you age, but more importantly, an increased risk of skin cancer. Even the slightest tan indicates some level of sun damage to the skin. Unfortunately, the media has managed to make a suntan look desirable and healthy and fashionable.

Instead of using sunbeds or sitting baking in the sun, encourage your teenager to protect their skin with wide-brimmed hats and sunscreen, and if they do want to sport a suntan, to get a spray tan or fake tan instead.

Some teens will tell you they don’t want to put sunscreen on their face because it makes them break out. It’s true, heavy, oily sunscreens can block pores and cause breakouts. Common chemical sunscreen ingredients like PABA cause pimples in sensitive, acne-prone skin. Not only does it make young people break out, it’s listed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as unsafe for use. Go to the EWG to sign up for a list of sunscreens that pass the strict safety and efficacy tests, and print the list of toxic ingredients that you can keep handy when buying sunscreen. You’ll be able to know exactly what you don’t want on your teen’s skin! Involving them in the shopping process will give them the feeling of participation in their own health, and you are teaching them how to make healthy decisions by having them stay clear of toxic ingredients.

Encourage them to keep an eye out for skin conditions

Sunscreen does help, but sometimes there’s more going on. Just like you talk to your teen about letting you know if their braces are too tight, you need to let them know they need to alert you if they have certain dangerous skin conditions.

While spots and acne are normal and relatively easy to treat, there are some other skin conditions that you may want to keep an eye out for. Talk about the signs of eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. While none of them is particularly harmful, they can be very uncomfortable, so looking out for signs and treating them as soon as possible is important.

If you ever go to a dermatologist, the doctor will want to take a look for moles, brown spots, and growths on the skin for melanomas. Finding anything new, changing, or unusual about these areas of your teen’s body is important to catch at an early stage. Early detection can prevent skin cancer later on. If you and your teen find a troubling spot, check the warning signs on skincancer.org together. If you recognize an irregularity, make an appointment to see a dermatologist right away.

Talk about a Skin Routine

If your teenager wears makeup, it is essential that they are taking it off on an evening. Sleeping in makeup can cause the skin pores to be blocked, trapping all the makeup, grime and dirt from the day in the skin and not allowing the skin to breathe. This is going to cause and worsen any existing skin problems. Removing makeup at the end of the day with a gentle cleanser and following up with a moisturizer should be part of every teenager’s skincare routine.

Contrary to popular belief, boys are not exempt from this important self-grooming routine. Even if they shower every morning, by the end of the day, after P.E., sports teams, and just moving out and about, they can have just as many issues as a girl wearing make-up. They need to change their shirt after a workout to avoid breakouts on their back. If they have oily hair, they should shampoo their hair every day to prevent acne along their hairline. 

All teens need to be shown how to wash their face. It’s not like showering, and it’s different from washing their hands. Have you ever seen a preschooler try to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without any instruction? Your kitchen ends up looking like the blender exploded. If you want your teen to wash their face every night and have a clear complexion, you have to get down and dirty and show them. You can have fun with it! Laugh at how these things should be taught in middle school. 

Stand right next to your teen in the mirror and have them watch you wash your face right along with them. Talk as you go: “First you pull your hair back with this elastic band. Then you splash a little water on your face to wet it.  Pump out this much cleanser. Put a little bit on every part of your face with your fingertips, then rub the cleanser on your face in a circular, clockwise motion, creating some suds. Don’t scrub! Then you rinse your face with water three times. Grab this soft, clean towel and pat dry your face. Then apply this amount of moisturizer. Remember—circular motions!” 

Most parents forget that their teen has never really learned face-washing in school. And just like learning how to brush their teeth and make their bed, it must be you who teaches them. Remember to show, don’t tell. If you notice your teen spacing off in the distance as you just went through that whole thing, have them watch the American Academy of Dermatology Association’s YouTube video: Face Washing 101. Once you teach them the skin routine, they’ll remember it for life. Just let them know that it must be done at least every night.

Teach them not to touch their face

This one is much easier said than done because most of us as adults touch our faces all the time without thinking, but the reality is that it is the fastest way to transfer bacteria – a major cause of skin issues – to our face. It is even more important given the current coronavirus pandemic happening. If they do need to touch their face, hands should be washed thoroughly beforehand.

If your teen doesn’t believe you, and refuses to stop habitually resting their face on their hands, have them list all the things they’ve touched since the last time they washed their hands. Bet they will say things like their phones, the door knob, or their drawers. And then when was the last time they cleaned their phone? Or the door knob? Or their chest of drawers. Eew. That’s a lot of times they rubbed germs on their face. Let them know that germs on their face can cause acne, just as much as hormones, stress, and other things. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the best ways to manage teen acne is to avoid picking at problem areas. This can trigger acne, and it can also lead to infections or cause scarring. 

The Mayo Clinic mentions a study that found fewer reminders from parents are more effective than reminding them to take care of their skin every day, which can feel like they are being nagged. So try not to over-remind your teen about washing their face or touching their face. The occasional nudge works much better. 

Skin issues affect almost every teenager. If they have avoided big breakouts, you must have super-skin genes! What cleanser and moisturizer are you using? We need to know!  But, zits or no zits, it’s important to develop a skin routine: using sun protection, washing your face regularly, and looking out for troublesome skin. Acne can be very embarrassing for your teen, so giving them the tools to take charge of their own skincare will empower them to feel good about the way they look.