Evidence Skincare: Skincare tips for teens
Hands up all the recovered pizza faces?! ME! Thanks to better treatments these days, an acne disaster will stand out a mile! We know how much acne devastates a teen’s self esteem and parents of spotty teens are super keen to help. Without wanting to go all science-nerd on you, I did want to explain the science of acne so you understand what we at ESK recommend for acne and why so much advice on Instagram will make their skin worse.
What causes acne?
There are 4 factors which combine to cause acne. It’s important to understand all of them so you can best manage the treatment:
Overproduction of superficial skin cells coupled with slow skin cell turnover causes skin cells to clump and in the presence of oil (see no.2 below) block the pores resulting in pimples and blackheads.
Overactivity of the sebaceous (oil) glands
The culprit here is an excess of certain hormones, especially DHEAS, an adrenal hormone that both acts like and turns into the male hormone, testosterone. Literally the more DHEAS, the worse the acne, especially in girls.
Overgrowth of bad actor bacteria in the skin
Especially by Cutibacterium acnes, which used to be called Propionibacterium acnes (P.Acnes). These bacteria simply love a blocked follicle and turn a blackhead into a pussy pimple.
Some people seem to be hypersensitive to the P Acnes bacteria and so mount a huge inflammatory response
Voila redness, pimples and sometimes, painful massive pimples. The inflammation is partly caused by the C. Acnes bacteria but ultraviolet radiation from the sun’s rays can cause inflammation, as can picking at the skin, as well as the wrong skincare.
So how can you help your teen?
Before you start pulling out your wallet, here are some basic rules:
Most topical treatments (stuff you put ON your face as opposed to tablets etc) work by preventing new pimples, not shrinking ones that have already formed
So your skincare must be applied to all of the acne-prone skin, not as a spot treatment on pimples you can see.
Skin care should be simple
This is because your teenager is unlikely to comply with an expensive and complex 5 or 6 step regime. Plus, complex regimens are usually more irritating, and inflammation and irritation make acne worse.
Don’t keep doing something that’s not working
Not every treatment works for everyone. Give any acne treatment six to eight weeks. If it’s not working, then stop and change to something else.
Try non-prescription stuff first
If that fails, go to your doctor to pull out heavier hitters like antibiotics or even oral Vitamin A.
Skincare for teens with acne
Soap free cleanser
Soap is irritating and can dry out the skin and disrupt the chemistry of the skin.
Alpha Hydroxy acids
AHAs, including glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, and citric acid are pretty common players in cosmeceutical skin care. For good reason. AHAs break down some of the bonds between skin cells helping older skin cells shed or exfoliate. That’s why they tend to be used in higher concentrations as “skin peels”. But they are also effective when used at lower doses on a daily basis.
Vitamin A products (retinoids) are the best topical for treating acne
Retinoids help with skin cell turnover, they are comedolytic (pimple busting) plus they are anti-inflammatory. Retinoids are used at night only, because they are actually broken down and rendered ineffective by sunshine. Over-the-counter retinoids include retinal (AKA retinaldehyde), or its weaker and less effective cousins, retinol or retinyl palmitate. Prescription retinoids often cause irritation, redness, dryness and even peeling and certainly initially, many teenagers can’t use them every night.
Beta Hydroxy acids AKA salicylic acid
This is a total winner when it comes to acne. Apart from also being an exfoliator, salicylic acid, a first cousin of aspirin, has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-comedogenic (pimple busting) properties which all give it a really good role when tackling acne.
Vitamin B3 AKA Niacinamide
This is another ingredient that has evidence for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects, as well as reduced sebum or oil production. It can also improve that all important skin barrier function by preventing water loss through the epidermis (the outer skin layer). Given that many people with acne have dry skin underlying their overproduction of oil, this too can be helpful for acne.
I know most teenagers - especially teenaged boys - will actually look at you like you’re insane if you suggest they use sunscreen. But UV damage causes inflammation to the skin which dries it out and causes the redness that is a big part of the problem. So for the highly motivated teenager who seriously wants to get rid of their acne, look for a non-comedogenic (non zit producing) broad spectrum sun screen. Ideally, a zinc-based sunscreen is ideal. Not only is zinc oxide, non-comedogenic, zinc also reduces sebum production.
What NOT to use for acne
Whether they’re made from crushed apricot seeds, environmentally unfriendly “microbeads” or sand, these exfoliators will remove a layer of skin giving you a short-term gain. They’re pro-inflammatory so will make you break out more the next day or the day after.
Rubbing the face dry after washing
Again this can bust open pimples that weren’t ready and cause physical trauma to the skin. Use warm water then pat dry.
From celery juice to going dairy or gluten free, there is no evidence for these diets and they can be inadequate to meet your teens nutritional needs.
Products that dry the skin
Getting rid of the oil slick might feel great and shrink the face invaders, but watch out for the rebound! Drying the skin compromises its function as a barrier… and we know how that ends.
How young can my teen start using skincare?
If your teen has acne, they can get straight into evidence based cosmeceutical skin care for acne, including Retinal.
Experts say that children under the age of 10 shouldn’t use retinoids. Not because it is harmful, but because we don’t have safety data for these young children. Acne before that age is unusual, but if this is your child, chat to your GP.
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