Once upon a time your precious little bundle of joy had picture-perfect skin without a pore, pimple or pustule in sight. Then puberty came along, decided to ignite a fire under their hormones and skin – and their mood – and it all got erratic. While it’s easy to be patronising and dismissive of teen skin, it’s something that needs to be taken seriously. Predominantly for the impact it can have on their mental wellbeing.
As part of an international study on the impact of acne, researchers in Norway recruited almost 40,000 teenagers to take part and answer questions about their skin, lifestyle and diet. The results revealed that the level of mental distress the teens talked about was directly linked to how much acne they had. The worse the acne, the greater the depression.
As a parent it can be hard to know what to do when your child is obviously unhappy on the inside about what’s going on the outside. They find you embarrassing at the best of times, let alone when you want to sit down and discuss the state of their skin. Choose your moment wisely, and ask if they’d like you to help them to go shopping for some products that will help.
Or it may even be that you are suffering from acne, something you thought you had left well and truly in your teen years. Thanks to our poor diets and high stress levels, adult acne is on the rise, with Dr Stefanie Williams, dermatologist at the world-famous Eudelo clinic, describing the rise of adult acne as an ‘epidemic’. But thankfully there are amazing products that are accessible and easy to use that really can do wonders. So read on to find out exactly what your teen, or you, need to soothe and heal and get back on the way to happy, healthy skin.
Clean it up
Correct cleansing lies at the heart of getting hormonal skin to behave itself. If the skin isn’t clean bacteria and dirt will continue to have the party of all parties, and blocked pores and spots will never clear up. However, picking the right cleanser is key. If a face wash strips the skin of its natural oils the skin’s internal system will over-compensate and go into oil-production overdrive, and too much sebum on the skin can lead to blocked pores. However, you also don’t want the skin to end up feeling too dry.
‘Tightness does not indicate squeaky clean skin but suggests that the skin pH has been disrupted and increased water loss is likely to follow,’ says Dr Justine Hextall FRCP, Consultant Dermatologist for La Roche-Posay. ‘This is not only important for so-called dry skin, but also oily skin. Often when individuals present me with acne, the most important step is to stop the complex harsh cleansing regime that is leaving skin dry, irritated and inflamed. Once a gentle wash is introduced the improvement in acne can be remarkable.’
It’s easy to think that oil-based cleansers should be avoided for fear of creating an oil-slick situation, but even though it may seem counter-intuitive, oil cleansers and balms can be a great option as they help the skin balance out the levels of sebum. Otherwise cream cleansers are a winner for spotty skin as not only will it pick up dirt and grime but inject moisture and hydration back into the skin. Ensure your teen is washing their face twice a day, and the evening cleanse needs to be thorough so that any makeup and pollution is well and truly gotten rid of.
You might think exfoliating would be the wrong thing to do on acneic skin, and it is if a facial scrub with big, scratchy particles is being used. However, gentle exfoliation is key, ‘by increasing cellular turnover it promotes exfoliation to mitigate bacterial proliferation and clear clogged pores,’ explains Dalya Sager, Skin and Laser specialist at Rebecca Treston Aesthetics, Euromed Clinic in Dubai. The exfoliating ingredient you need to look for is salicylic acid – in fact this is the spot-fighting ingredient. It’s normally found in either liquid or creams, but for the exfoliating element it’s best to use a liquid that’s swept over the skin on a cotton pad. Not only does this ensure uniform application, it also prevents irritating and scratching the already delicate and compromised skin.
As well as having to deal with spots, blackheads and oily, greasy skin, thanks to spots disrupting the skin’s barrier function a lack of water can leave the skin dehydrated, more prone to crack, and susceptible to bacteria, which then of course brings you back to the beginning of a spot rearing its head. Keeping the skin as moisturised and supple as possible really helps, but as ever when dealing with spots it’s important not to overload the skin, kickstarting the sebaceous glands. A lightweight, oil-free lotion is ideal and if the skin still looks dry, team it with a moisture-boosting serum packed with hyaluronic acid.
BFFs with SPF
Suncream and spots can be a vicious cycle. You need sunscreen to protect the skin, but some sunblocks can clog the pores, which then leads to more skin problems. However, lots of modern-day formulations are as light as a feather to wear and are non-comedogenic, making them ideal for spotty skin. The most important thing to look out for is an SPF with a physical, rather than mineral, sunscreen. Physical sunscreens are the kind that can be applied and give protection immediately. Mineral sunscreens need at least 15 minutes to sink in and work. The ingredient you want to be looking out for is zinc oxide. It provides great skin protection and will also help absorb any excess grease.
The big cover-up
While getting a great skincare regime in place is essential, we all want results instantly, so of course your teen is going to want to cover up their skin and make their spots disappear immediately. ‘Acne can sometimes feel like it’s wearing you,’ says makeup guru Charlotte Tilbury. ‘This should never be the case.’
And that’s where makeup comes in. It’s easy to think that by wearing more makeup, skin will look better but heavy makeup just makes skin imperfections more obvious. Instead find a lightweight foundation or tinted moisturiser that can be built up in the areas that need extra coverage but will also nourish skin so dry patches don’t look flaky, and one that doesn’t settle in pores, making them look more obvious.
Also keep your eyes peeled for skin colour correctors. These are genius for neutralising the red, angry skin around a spot. Don’t be alarmed by the fact they are green. It’s all down to the clever colour wheel you may have studied in school – green neutralises red.
The zit list
One of the easiest habits your teen can adopt is to stop touching their face. Easier said than done, but the less frequently their hands are on their face, the fewer germs and dirt are being spread on the skin.
To pop or not to pop?
Of course we all know we shouldn’t pop spots, but sometimes the urge to get rid of a pustule is just too much. So if they are going to do it then make sure they’re doing it the best way. It’s important their hands are clean and that they use a piece of tissue rather than digging into the skin with their nails. Get them to use the pads of their index fingers to push the skin around the spot together and then wipe away any pus. Apply an antiseptic oil, such as Tea Tree, directly onto the skin afterwards using a cotton bud.
Wash wash wash
We don’t want to up your laundry load but keeping bed linen – especially pillows and towels – clean can really help with problematic skin, so make sure you’re washing anything that comes into contact with their skin as frequently as you can.
To the doctor you go
A few minor breakouts can easily be treated and remedied with drugstore products, but if your teenager gets larger patches of very aggressive acne then take them to see a doctor or dermatologist. They will check the overall health of your teen, make sure there aren’t any underlying issues causing the problem, and may prescribe medication.
Perfect skin buys
These are a great place to start on the journey to clearer-looking skin
Caudalie Teint Divin Mineral Tinted Moisturiser, Dh110
This lightweight tint contains non-pore-clogging ingredients and gives skin a wash of colour that looks totally natural but is still hefty enough to conceal problem areas.
Ren Clarimatte T-Zone Control Cleansing Gel, Dh96
A purifying and antibacterial cleansing gel that leaves skin feeling gorgeously clean, plump and hydrated.
Origins Zero Oil Pore Purifying Toner, Dh111
Not only is this packed with salicylic acid but it also contains mint to instantly cool and soothe the skin.
Eau Thermale Avène Cleanance Mat, Dh60
A balmy-feeling moisturiser that keeps skin matte thanks to an active ingredient that regulates sebum production.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar A.I Breakout Corrector, Dh60
The entire Effaclar range is perfect for teenage, hormonal skin, but this targeted spot treatment filled with salicylic acid will help shrink spots down, reduce redness in the skin and prevent further breakouts.
YSL Touche Éclat Neutralizer, Dh215
To prevent the brush getting contaminated apply this silky green colour corrector onto the back of your hand before dabbing it on any redness.
Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation, Dh200
Magic is exactly the word to describe this base. It feels flexible on the skin, allowing it to breathe while covering what needs to be hidden. It’s packed with hyaluronic acid, which drenches the skin in moisture and comes in 15 shades spanning ultra pale to black skin.
Clinique City Block Sheer SPF25, Dh172
This completely sheer SPF also acts like a primer, magnifying the skin and keeping it looking shine free.