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Helping your teenager deal with acne

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Pimples and reassurance

Adolescence is hard. Sometimes adults forget that. It's hard emotionally and it's hard physically. Bodies and minds are going through so many changes, some obvious and some not so obvious. Some of those body changes can be somewhat hidden under clothing but there's one change many kids experience that's impossible to hide because it's all over their faces.

Teenage Boy with Acne

Acne has been a scourge of teenagers for....forever. As body chemistry changes and oil gland production changes with the coursing hormones, a child who once had the most beautiful, even skin may feel like he or she is a walking version of connect the dots. As a parent, helping your child learn to deal with their acne can be like walking a mine field. It's not just an outward skin condition we're trying to manage, but also a delicate psyche.

Skin care basics

Learning about skin care begins at home. You've long since insisted your child wear sunscreen, for example. But skin care needs change as children reach adolescence, and we need to help our kids understand this. Your child may be embarrassed talking about it with you (the absolutely forget that you were a teenager once, too, and had similar experiences!), but you need to find a way to communicate the importance of skin hygiene. Whether it's by demonstration, shopping together for products, encouraging self research, pointing your child to specific websites with information, or just leaving appropriate products in the bathroom, your child needs your guidance - even if they say they don't.

You child also needs to understand that picking at his or her acne may make things worse in terms of swelling, redness and scarring. But try not to nag! You probably remember how hard it was not to pick at times; it can be so tempting. Try to walk that line between gentle reminders and concern and nagging.

Dermatologist as partner

If at all possible, an early consultation with a dermatologist may help both of you understand what is happening physiologically and there may be additional effective treatments available to you through the doctor. Particularly if your family has a history of severe acne requiring treatment with very strong oral medications such as Accutane, establishing a relationship early can head of some of the effect of severe acne later, and reduce the need for subsequent treatments (such as dermabrasion that seeks to minimize the appearance of acne scarring). A partnership with a good dermatologist can offer reassurance and information to both of you over the years that you both will be dealing with this skin condition.

Also - and as with other issues - your child may listen to guidelines set forth by the doctor more attentively than he or she listens to you, even if you say the same thing. You're "just" a mom, after all, and the doctor is an expert.

Get more tips here on treatment options for acne.

Reassurance

Along with skin care information and medical support, it's so important to offer reassurance. Your child will get through this, and you will help them do it. When they feel so obvious with their inflamed faces, when they are sure they are the only ones going through this much anxiety over their self image, they need you to be there not just for practical assistance, but emotional support - and, again, even if they say they don't want it. They need to be reminded that this won't last forever, even when they feel like it will.

Acne is but one of the many perils of adolescence. Helping our kids through it can be tricky at times, but you will both get through it.

More on parenting teens:

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