With 85% of teens experiencing acne as early as eleven, what can you do as a parent to help your child’s suffering?
When I first started breaking out, my body was rapidly changing. I was developing into an adult before I was mentally ready. And the transition from being a carefree child to a paranoid teenager was abrupt to say the least. Even now, I look back at this time as being the worst years of my life.
The way my skin looked made me feel miserable and as one of the first people in my school year to have braces I didn’t feel like I was exactly blossoming into womanhood. Between spots, menstrual cramps and teeth straightening – growing up was painful.
For the first time in my life I found myself comparing my body, clothes, hair and skin to my friends. And while some “friends” laughed at me for the way I looked, others were jealous and asked me for beauty tips. Even back then it was hard to define beauty!
If you have a child with acne it’s likely they’re feeling overwhelmed. And if they are anything like I was as a teenager, they probably don’t want to talk about it. How you speak to your child about their skin condition will really depend on their age and your relationship but I hope this post will give you some helpful insights of how to approach it in the best possible way.
TALKING ABOUT ACNE WITH YOUR CHILD
It might seem like you’re treading on eggshells at the moment and you are right to approach this topic with caution. I remember any conversation with my parents about my skin ending in tears. But don’t let the daunting task of trying to navigate conversations around the ever changing mood swings of your child put you off from speaking to them all together!
Firstly you need to create the right environment for your chat – not for example, in the cosmetics aisle of a supermarket! Your child probably feels safest in their bedroom, so providing they don’t share with another sibling, this is likely your best option. If you are reading this blog, you’re already helping! You’re trying to understand acne and how it is affecting your child. At this point it could be worth considering if you are the best person to be having this conversation with them. Is there anyone else in the family with personal acne experience or someone who you child typically opens up to? The first step is to get them to talk – it doesn’t matter who to. Once there is an open dialog it’s important that acne doesn’t dominate all conversations. Your child is reminded of their skin condition every time they look in the mirror, sometimes the best thing you can do is keep them laughing and show them a life beyond acne.
FINDING THE RIGHT SKINCARE ROUTINE
Once you are able to talk to your child about their skin you will be able to discuss skincare options. And don’t worry if skincare is new to you too! There’s plenty of information on my website or my social pages to help you. I also offer an online skincare consultation service which I will link here.
At this stage you want to start by slowly introducing a very basic routine. The mistake most people make (myself included) is to strip the skin of its natural oils or overload the skin with several products/treatments all at once. A basic skincare routine should look like this: cleanse, tone, spot application treatment, moisturise. If you’re not sure how to cleanse acne-prone skin without spreading bacteria, I’ve linked a basiccleansing tutorial here. You can either watch this first before you demonstrate cleansing to your child or you can watch the video together. Depending on the age of your child, their twice daily skincare routine might be down to you apply but I would recommend encouraging your child to take responsibility.
SEEKING PROFESSIONAL HELP
There may come a time where professional invention is necessary. The cause of your child’s acne is likely due to the surge of hormones in their body. In my opinion it is better to understand how you can help balance these quickly through diet and exercise before resorting to medication. In this case, I would recommend seeking the help of a nutritionalist or a naturopathic doctor. If you do decide conventional medication is the best option for your child, I would recommend seeking help from a dermatologist and not your local general practitioner. Remember that your child will feel anxious about explaining their condition to a professional, so you may have to step in and ask questions on their behalf. You may also want to consider psychological support as social anxiety and depression are a common side-effect of acne.
Once your child has established a good routine, the best way you can support them in their acne struggle is from a distance. You can always let them know you are there for them but ultimately they need to understand they are in the driving seat. This is a hard lesson to learn. It took me many years to realise that I was the one actually in control. And this is where I think psychodermatology is so important.
If your child gets to the point where medication and skincare doesn’t help, they may become demotivated and genuinely believe they’re helpless. And if they feel like nothing works, why bother? After that, it won’t take long before acne starts dictating their life. More than ever they will need to regain control! And I found the best way to do this is by writing a journal and taking pictures to measure my progress. Most people with acne are just looking for the cure but unfortunately there is no ONE thing that works. Skin conditions like acne need to be targeted at the root. And to understand their skin they need to listen and identify patterns between their breakouts. Writing a journal is one of the ways I was able to breakdown some of my psychological barriers that had been preventing me from making progress. Within a few short months I had discovered the cause of my breakouts and the best way to combat it. Unfortunately it took me over a decade to realise I hand’t tried EVERYTHING!
QUICK DO’S AND DON’T’S
- Don’t invite their friends round as a surprise to cheer them up
- Do suggest that they go out more spend time with their friends
- Do suggest fun activities that you would like to do with them
- Don’t comment on their skin, even if it’s to say “your skin looks better today”
- Don’t draw attention to new breakouts – they know
- Do ask if they are experiencing any side-effects from medication they are taking
- Do let them know you are there to support them in all things – not just acne
- Do speak to other family members and request their discretion in advance
- Do check that they aren’t having any issues at school
- Don’t talk to your child’s friends or friends parents about their skin
- Do compliment your child so they know acne does not define their beauty
- Do remind your child not to touch their face
- Do offer plenty of hugs!