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Acne and teen self-esteem

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...

When to call the dermatologist

The hormonal roller coaster of adolescence is often very apparent in facial skin. That previously fine, smooth baby skin is no longer, and now there are bumps and inflammation and all sorts of problems. You child is likely somewhat sensitive about the issue: You can’t interfere too much but, you’d be remiss if you didn’t do something. Addressing skin issues in adolescence isn’t about vanity (although appearance to others is important at this age) -- it’s about basic self-esteem.

Teen with acne

Do you look back at photos from your teen years and cringe at the red blotches on your face? Are you starting to see the same blotches erupt on your child's skin? Do you think about movie characters with unfortunate acne-related nicknames -- and worry your child might acquire such a honorific name? It might be time to call the dermatologist.

Worse than a blemish or two

Skin problems in adolescence are more than a blemish or two. They can be a constant pattern of extreme inflammation and pimples and blackheads and the like. If not treated correctly, it can get worse and worse -- and be what others see instead of the person. As much as you try to teach that it's what is on the inside that matters, severe skin issues can get in the way. Acne can very much affect an adolescent's self-image and confidence.

Rite of passage?

While blemishes and acne are something of a rite of passage, kids no longer have to endure it as they once did. Treatments, both over the counter and prescription, have advanced such that with regular and consistent use and care, even bad acne cases can be well-managed. For the most severe cases, courses of oral medications may make a huge difference in many cases. Acne may still be a rite of passage in some senses, but not in the way it once was.

Family history

If your family has a history of acne -- if you experienced it yourself! -- early consultation with a dermatologist may be high on your priority list. If you yourself know what it's like to go through treatment, you have a leg up on helping your child manage the issue. While it may not be the bonding issue you imagined when your child was newborn, knowing that mom or dad has been there, done that, can help them know that they will get through it, too -- that there is life after adolescent acne.

Some kids, ironically, resist the effort of parents to help them with the issue. "I'm fine," they say, or they feel embarrassed about it. In these cases, you may need to exert your parental authority and take your child to the dermatologist. If you know what's coming, you need to act -- and hearing instruction and information from someone other than you can make the difference in your child's adherence to regimens.

Referral

If acne is new to you, you may not even know how to begin. Start with your child's pediatrician, as he or she likely knows the dermatologists in your area that specialize in helping teens with skin issues. You can also ask friends with slightly older kids who may already have been through it. They can direct you to physicians with the shortest waiting lists and reasonable approaches to the issue -- or to physicians for whom the longer wait is worth it.

You may mourn the loss of your child's perfect baby skin, but acting to head off extreme skin issues that can result in scarring and a bruised self-esteem is worth the effort. Your child will -- eventually -- thank you.

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