The teenage years are riddled with anxiety – about school, about fitting in, about friends and about appearance. For teens concerned about keeping their skin as beautiful as possible, Angela Dunlap, RN, BSN, Director of VCI Med Spa in Tinley Park, Illinois, recommends seven essential tips to skin care.
With teenager of her own, Angela understands teen skin. She knows that hectic school, activity and social schedules can often make skin care routines the last priority. “Unfortunately, when teens don’t pay attention to the health of their skin, it makes them more prone to whiteheads, blackheads and acne blemishes,” says Angela. “This can cause more problems. Bad skin can cause your teen to withdraw, develop depression and have lower self-esteem.”
“At VCI Med Spa, we recommend seven essential tips to help teens achieve and maintain healthy, smooth and beautiful skin, while also enhancing their mental health,” says Angela.
Water, water, water
Explain to your teen the importance of drinking more water. “Making alot of changes all at once can be difficult. Urge your teen to just increase their water intake, and they’ll see a big difference in the health of their skin,” says Angela. “Drinking water flushes out and hydrates your entire body, and that of course includes the skin. Your body is triggered to produce more oil when skin is dry, which exacerbates breakouts and blemishes. When your teen drinks water, they are also fortifying their immune system, which helps the body fight off the bacteria that causes acne.”
Angela recommends buying your teen a reusable water bottle in the color or pattern of their choice, making it more likely they’ll bring it along.
A better diet
A teen’s diet can consist of fast food, fried foods, junk foods and more fast food. Changing up their diet to reduce or eliminate these items and increase the amount of fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits will improve the health and look of their skin.
“When teens eat a diet lower in sugar, it reduces inflammation in their bodies. Because teens are also dealing with surging hormone levels, a lower sugar diet can help control those acne-causing hormones – which also helps their overall mood,” smiles Angela. High sugar diets also increase the levels of insulin in the body, which also spurs oil production.
Angela says, “Ask your teen to keep track of their diet, especially when they have a breakout, redness, swelling or any irritation. It could be an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods that is negatively impacting their skin’s health.”
Smoking, vaping and chewing are huge no-nos
Teens may not be thinking in terms of lung cancer or other health problems developing when they are 50, but they should certainly be warned about the effects of any tobacco products of their skin right now. Angela says, “Don’t let your teen start smoking and if, heaven forbid, they are experimenting, tell them to stop now, before they become addicted.”
Numerous studies have shown a direct link between smoking and acne, which will last long after their teen years. “About 42% of smokers have acne, compared with just 10% of non-smokers. Smoking impedes oxygenated blood flow to the skin, also reducing the supply of nutrients,” says Angela. “Your teen doesn’t have to smoke or vape alot to incur skin damage. Research shows it’s not the amount of tobacco ingested everyday. Health damage – including skin damage – happens as soon as any tobacco hits your teen’s system.”
Facials aren’t just pampering
Bringing your teen to a professional aesthetician before problems begin can be a very good idea. Start with monthly facials as soon as your child’s skin seems to be changing, and then add appointments as recommended.
Drugstore masks, lotions and exfoliators may be less expensive, but they can damage your teen’s skin and cause breakouts, the very thing you’re trying to avoid. Angela says, “A professional aesthetician will evaluate your teen’s skin at each appointment, and select specific products that will protect or improve their skin at that time. Your teen’s facial will cleanse skin, unclog pores, reduce inflammation, kill bacteria and then properly hydrate their skin. A professional aesthetician can also use steam, gentle exfoliation, light or laser therapy, and safe extraction of whiteheads and blackheads when needed.”
Establish a skin care routine
Skin should be cleansed each morning, each night and after workouts. “Sweat should not sit on or dry on your teen’s face,” says Angela. A twice-daily routine of gentle exfoliate cleansing, such as Elta MD Foaming Face Wash, should be instituted. Angela recommends following this with a serum such as Elta MD AM Therapy or iS Clinical Active Serum. Angela says, “Ask your aesthetician for a water-based, light moisturizing product. That should be applied while skin is still damp to seal in the hydrating effects of the clean water,” says Angela.
Many parents have been rigorous about applying sunscreen while their kids were growing, and teens should continue that practice themselves. Apply sunscreen after each skin care regimen except before bedtime. “You’ve done such a great job as a parent protecting your kids from damaging UVA and UVB rays. Make sure your teens understand that they need to always wear sunscreen, every single day, even in winter,” says Angela.
Look for sheer, water-based products if your teen wears makeup. “Water-based products won’t clog pores and they add moisture. The sheerness will help your teen look fresh and natural and give them a dewy finish.”
Protect skin at night
Giving your teen yet another chore sounds like an argument waiting to happen, but if you explain it will improve the look and health of their skin, you’ll get buy-in – and it just takes a minute every other day.
“Have your teen change their pillowcase several times a week,” says Angela. “Their face stays on a pillowcase for many hours each night, producing oil and bacteria. The pillowcase absorbs all that – and then their face goes right back in that the next night,” says Angela. Angela recommends purchasing 100% cotton cases and putting a stack next to their bed. Wash the cases in fragrance-free, dye-free detergent and avoid fabric softeners.
Your teen should also consider wearing a headband to bed, pulling hair away from the face and forehead to prevent the oils in hair from sitting on the face all night long.
When teens – or anyone – is nervous about something on the body, they tend to touch it. “Squeezing, scratching or picking at any blemishes just makes things so much worse,” says Angela. “Touching spreads the bacteria, spreading acne and increasing their risk of infection. Squeezing and picking interferes with healing so blemishes worsen and last longer. Picking also increases the risk of scarring and permanent skin damage.”
Angela recommends giving your child a fidget-spinner or squeeze ball to keep hands busy. At night, your teen can wear gloves to prevent picking and touching. Give your teen gentle help only if they request it. “Come up with a key word or sound that cues your teen to the fact that they are touching their face, but be aware that this could upset them if used too often.”
Your teen may be fortunate enough to sail through these years with hardly a blemish. They may also experience severe skin problems that will cause them to become angry, depressed and withdrawn. When you notice signs that your child’s skin is changing, help them implement these seven steps as quickly as possible to keep their skin smooth, healthy and beautiful.