Teenage acne is the scourge of the young as they mature and go through puberty. My teenagers hit puberty simultaneously. My daughter was 10 and my son 14. It was hell. We lived in a cauldron of permanent hormonal angst as they both adapted to the emotional and physical changes that puberty forces. Acne was the biggest challenge of all.
Unfortunately, acne is a common condition that affects most people at some point in their lives. In fact according to the NHS around 80% of 11-30 year olds will suffer from acne. It is claimed that genes also have a large part to play, so if your parents had it, it's likely you will too. Ironically, neither of my parents suffered but I went through a brief spotty period when I was 16 before going onto suffer adult acne in my 30's (coincidentally perhaps), during the period of my divorce.
Of the two, the latter episode was the worst. As a teenager it is expected you will fall victim to the occasional bout of zits as your hormones start raging but less so as an adult. Whatever your age it is debilitating but my own experience did equip me with the appropriate empathy to deal with my teenagers' distress. I knew how self-conscious they felt so didn't brush their complaints and tears aside, but instead decided to tackle it head on and avoid the paper bag syndrome setting in.
- The GP
Our GP is always my first port of call. Pharmacists can advise on various over the counter treatments but the GP is best for giving the all important medical opinion or a referral to a specialist should that be necessary. For mild cases, they can also prescribe a course of antibiotics to combat any bacterial infection. In fact my daughter was prescribed Differin a topical antibiotic which really helped in the initial stages. Also I found that by taking them both to a professional they listened carefully to the advice their were given on the importance of keeping their skin healthy, which made my job easier.
Medical advice is to resist the temptation to clean your skin too much as this can over-stimulate the sebaceous glands into producing more oil which in turn will block the pores if it is not washed away, trapping bacteria and creating a breeding ground for more spots. It is important, however, not to abandon cleaning your skin completely and developing a good skin care regime early was an important step for both my teenagers. As a parent you don't want to make your child feel embarrassed about their skin but acknowledging there is a problem sooner rather than later and agreeing on finding a solution, is much better in the long run.
- A Good Skin Care Regime
My son plays a lot of sport so is frequently sweaty and dirty and on occasions just doesn't have time to wash properly after practices. Dermalogica does a great introductory kit with trial sizes aimed at teenagers and young adults called Clear Start but he wanted something that he could use easily and quickly whilst showering. Recommended by dermatologists, Cetaphil is his preferred cleanser. Gentle and non-abrasive he uses it daily and always has some in his sports bag for use after matches.
Of the two, however, my daughter suffered the most and her situation was made worse by the fact that she suffers from atopic eczema. For her using a cleanser that required washing her face with water was overly drying, particularly as we live in a hard water area. Also at just 10 she needed something uncomplicated and straightforward as we didn't want cleaning her face to seem like a chore, so we looked at lotions which she could simply apply on a cotton pad, the challenge was to find the right one.
There are hundreds of cleansing products to choose from and we worked our way through a fair few. At times I felt truly despondent and was convinced that we would never find anything that would work on her skin. She was the first to go through puberty and that was tough as she was very much alone among her peers with her skin issues. She felt totally isolated and desperate at times and her self-esteem took a real knock. It was also hard for us to remain upbeat and positive when at times it was truly hard to look at her once beautiful skin erupting in such a way.
Sleepovers and school trips away became my personal agony as I fretted about whether she would return even worse than when she left. On one occasion, the morning after a sleepover she called me from her friend's bathroom crying and asking me to pick her up immediately as she had woken up with the most gargantuan spot on her nose and felt mortified at having to face her friend's family over breakfast. School trips with 4-5 nights away were absolute torture as with little time to herself and the emphasis on non-stop activity, there was no time to spend on her skin.
Dermatologists won't see children under 16 so we were left with the topical antibiotic for the worst eruptions and the never ending quest for the perfect cleanser. To say that I became fixated would be an understatement. Then we discovered the wonders of Micellar water, which cleanses the skin without the need for rinsing and is so gentle that it is perfect for sensitive skins such as hers. Most of the leading skin care brands have a Micellar water in their range but our favourite is Dr Andrew Weil for Origins Mega Mushroom Skin Relief. At £27.50 it is definitely at the upper end of the price spectrum but it is worth every penny. It is not only gentle but it also combats any redness, which if you have eczema is extremely beneficial. There was a real difference in her skin after about one month.
It is a natural misconception that if you have spots you shouldn't apply moisturiser, but all skin needs to be kept hydrated. If your skin is overly dry, it will over-compensate by producing more sebum which will lead to more breakouts and this was true of both my teenagers' experiences but more so with my daughter because of her eczema. The challenge was to find a moisturiser that wouldn't clog pores and lead to more breakouts. My son simply supplemented his skin care routine with the Cetaphil moisturiser but for my daughter I needed to find something that would treat her eczema but not aggravate her acne.
Odylique is an organic skin care range developed by a lady called Margaret in a quest to make something to treat her own sensitive, dry skin. The result is a range of products made simply from the finest natural and organic ingredients free from any chemical irritants. The Repair Lotion is a staunch favourite in our house. Of all the creams I had tried on my daughter's skin, this was a life saver. At its worst her skin was so angry and itchy, with inflamed peeling areas, which combined with the acne was distressing for her and yet this managed to calm her eczema, completely healing the scaly areas, yet not irritate her acne and it did it quickly. Her eczema has not flared up to that extent since and she has not looked back. On a daily basis she now moisturises using E45 but always turns to the Repair Lotion at the slightest itch.
- Spot Treatment
A good skincare routine made all the difference to my teenagers but there is no getting away from the spots and pimples completely. The flare ups needed to be treated and having something on hand to apply at night to calm any inflammation and reduce redness was an important part of tackling the problem, as well as my nagging them not to pick! Odylique Spot On Serum is packed with both anti-bacterial and calming ingredients, such as Lavender and Aloe Vera and when applied overnight it really made a difference in terms of reducing the redness and the discomfort of breakouts.
I like many others am guilty of thinking that a good blast of sunshine will clear up spots and can remember frequently sitting in the sun as a 16 yr old praying for a miracle, but the fact is the reverse is true. Apart from promoting increased sweating which will clog pores, the sun dries out skin and makes the appearance of spots more likely. Nowadays it is unusual for people if not wearing a full sunscreen, not to be wearing a moisturiser with SPF at the very least.
Over the years, I have come to dread the summer as until recently I hadn't found a sunscreen that didn't make my daughter's skin ten times worse and as a redhead going without was not an option for her. Most of the high street brands and even the organic products were too thick and sat on her skin like a layer of lard. This summer, however, we had a breakthrough with La Roche-Posay and its ultra light 50+ fluid which gave her the right level protection without clogging her skin. I am not quite sure how we missed it before as I have been a fan of their sun products for a while.
Over the years I have spoken to many skin specialists, read numerous advice posts on the internet and bought lots of products for my teenagers to try, as not surprisingly a large part of finding the right product is down to trial and error. Ironically, both my teenagers seem to have emerged at the same time again with the worst behind them and I am crossing my fingers that remains the case, particularly for my daughter as she really suffered. In fact she came home from school at the end of last week and said her friends had commented on how good her skin looked. For her this was beyond exciting but it was also tinged with sadness as she said it made her realise that it must have been bad before! Of course she still has flare-ups a couple of days before her period, that's to be expected but it is nothing in comparison to having it 24/7 for more than 3 years.
Editor's Note : This is my first-hand advice on treating acne and what worked best for my teens. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions on these products are completely my own. Please share any advice you may have from your own teen years or if you have teenagers in the house that have been through a similar situation.