The teenage years are hard enough but then you add the complications of breakouts and it just seems unfair. Hormones are to blame. Around the age of 13, although I have seen earlier, the skin starts to change…fast and it usually begins in the t-zone. It can almost feel like it happens overnight!
Boys generally experience more acne during the teen years than girls do because of the testosterone that can over-stimulate the sebaceous glands. Girls usually have fewer breakouts during these years but are more likely to deal with breakouts later because of the monthly cycle. Sometimes women are still dealing with breakouts past their 40’s. I don’t think we ever really get a break!
Here are some tips to help manage breakouts. But please remember that it can take time for you to see improvement. Usually there is a difference in how it looks and feels after a few days because once you are using products that are good for the skin, the skin then reacts in a healthy way. But big improvements will take longer. The more consistent you are, the better the results. At the same time, we are still fighting hormones though.
- Use a gentle cleanser. Teenage skin is more sensitive and so it’s important to use products that are non-drying. I realize that this is the opposite of what is advertised but trust me. Most of the acne cleansers you can find at Target or anything over the counter, including ProActiv uses harsh detergents that strip the skin, irritate it and causes further inflammation. I actually recommend two different cleansers because you want a second cleanser to use a few times a week at night that contains salicylic acid. Too much of that can dry the skin. Salicylic acid reduces acne-causing bacteria and oil, exfoliates and helps to lessen post-breakout redness. It does all of that without irritating the skin.
- Alcohol Free Toner– This is an important step that people either skip or use but don’t know why. Toner helps to remove any residual cleanser left on the skin but also is the first step to hydrating the skin. There are different toners to use and depending on the severity of the breakouts or even how motivated someone is to clear the skin, I might recommend 2 different toners. Just like the cleansers, you would use one toner for everyday and another a few nights a week to hit those breakouts hard. Again, the second toner can’t be used all the time because it will dry out the skin.
- Wear a sunscreen everyday, even when the sun is not out. This is a hard one for teens, I have found. They don’t care about aging yet. I know I didn’t. My goal was to be as tan as possible every summer. Let me tell you, I regret it. I wish I had listened to my mom when she told me to wear sunscreen. The one I do recommend for the face contains zinc oxide. It calms the skin, protects it and can help fade the post-breakout marks. Now since teens rarely care about sun damage, let’s focus on the two benefits that sunscreen can offer those suffering from acne or just breakouts.
- Look for a sunscreen with zinc oxide. It can be anti-inflammatory when it’s on the skin, which makes it perfect for calming red and inflamed blemishes. And did you know that zinc oxide is the main ingredient that’s used in diaper rash creams?
- The other reason to use sunscreen is that it can help with the fading of discoloration after the blemishes are gone. Now stay with me while I explain this. Acne scars are caused from the inflammation of the dermis layer of the skin. The inflammation then triggers the pigment cells, which is why you see red and purple discoloration. When the skin is exposed to UV light (365 days a year), that keeps the pigment cells awake and thus preventing the blemish scar from fading as easily. If you wear a sunscreen with zinc oxide that is lightweight and non-pore clogging, it can protect those damaged cells and allow them to heal properly so the skin can become even-toned faster.
So wearing sunscreen becomes more than just worrying about sun damage. It can save your skin from those acne scars and blemishes.
- Moisturizer– I recommend using a lightweight one with soothing benefits. This will protect your skin and also keep it hydrated, which is so important with oily skin. It’s all about balance.
- Weekly Mask– I think masks are fun. When I was a teenager I used to rummage through my sisters cabinet, she had all the fun stuff because she was older, and so I would play with her masks. Unfortunately we have very different skin but I didn’t understand that then so I just had fun using them! A great mask for acne prone skin is one that will unclog pores, rebalance the skin and soothe irritation, inflammation and redness. Not all masks are created equal so make sure you don’t use one that just dries out the skin. I posted one that I love for acne and breakouts.
- See an Esthetician– What I can do in the treatment room is much different than what you can do at home. I have stronger products and I know how to use them gently so the skin is not damaged. Extractions are another reason to see an Esthetician. Everything I do in a facial leading up to extractions is to make it easier to do them. It’s easier than you think to damage those pores. This may not be the favorite part of a facial but it’s necessary to achieve healthy skin. And I’ve actually been told that I am pretty gentle. Seeing an Esthetician is also a good reminder to stay on track with home care. You can’t lie to an Esthetician. We know whether you have been taking care of your skin or not.
- Some parents might opt to take their teen to a Dermatologist. This will likely mean that a prescription will be given. I’m not against that route because I think some have it so bad, it’s the best way to clear the skin and usually the fastest. I would still recommend seeing an Esthetician because then the teen will learn how to properly care for the skin too. A quick fix is never the answer and they may pay for that later. Most of the prescription products are really drying to the skin and so using good products become even more important. Damage that is done at 15 won’t show up until later and then it’s too late.
For the most part, my teen clients are using the same products but the frequency of the stronger products might be different. When you see me or even do a consultation (if you don’t live in the area), I am available for questions or concerns. My goal is for you to have healthy skin. The most important thing to remember is that it takes time. Teenagers are impatient and they want results now. Be patient and it will be worth it.