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Teens & Acne

If you follow me on social media, you may have seen my little PSA to parents of teens, but if not, let's chat about your teen and their acne (or your own, teen or not).

Acne, like moderate to severe acne, is mostly genetic. There is usually a family history of being acne prone whether consistently throughout their lives or in different stages of their lives, sometimes progressing in severity and sometimes not. Teenage skin is turning over at an extremely fast rate and when your skin is shedding quickly and you aren't removing it or excess oils, you're creating buildup. I've had parents bring in their child and speak for them instead of the teen speaking for themselves and telling me, "Yea, he needs extractions and I mean, look at his face, it's so bad! I make him use _______.......". Please, do not embarrass your child about what's going on with their skin. It's fine to have a conversation about it, but don't ridicule them into dealing with their acne, because we all know that teens are reluctant to change if they feel threatened, as I guess anyone should be.

There are various forms of acne and many parents worry over blackheads and a few papules (pimples). This is not severe acne. So, instead of treating for what it is, many parents assume the worst, without knowing any better and purchase harsh skincare for their kids and sometimes it's cheap skincare, sometimes it's skincare with no benefit, sometimes it's benzoyl peroxide heavy. So, instead of helping the issue, their skin starts to dry up, potentially clearing some zits and they feel sensitized when applying things to their face, because now their natural, protective barrier is almost non-existent and they may overproduce oil, because the skin is being so dried out. It throws their skin out of balance and then if they stop using the product, their skin goes wack-o trying to come back to normal and they may get more breakouts and continue using that skincare without giving their skin a chance.

Trust me, I did this as a teen. I used all the drugstore acne products, I tried the lemon and baking soda DIY masks, the toothpaste tricks, I used AcneFree, etc. I messed up my skin and to this day, in my late 20's, I still have some scarring to heal.


Grades of Acne

Credit: MD Skin Website

There are four grades of acne. In this image above, it shows 3, but it's a great diagram to show you what's happening under the skin. Grade 1: this is very mild acne, typically a result of clogged pores from oil and dead skin shedding. You may see a few papules (pimples, red/pink with no white head, can be painful), but typically this is going to be more blackheads and whiteheads (to make it simple, fleshy bumps that you can squeeze and get something out, but it's not a blackhead and it's not inflamed like a papule or pustule). Grade 2:

this is where we start seeing inflammation and bacteria coming into the picture. This would be considered mild/moderate acne. You might now have pustules (zits, red/pink, with a white head, painful) in addition to blackheads and papules.

Grade 3:

now, we are seeing maybe a few nodules appear (inflamed mound but nothing can be squeezed out) in addition to many pustules and papules and possibly blackheads and whiteheads. This is considered moderate/severe acne.

Grade 4:

this is severe acne. Typically at this stage, many go see a doctor, although not always a necessity. We are seeing cysts now (large and inflamed with lots of pus inside), nodules and pustules covering a large amount of the face. This is where there is a lot of scarring that can become present. You may see texture that appears as ice pick scarring, pigmentation, etc.

So, when it comes to teenagers, we can see every grade of acne, but I'd say the majority of teens brought to me for treatment are at a Grade 1. Now, is that good? Yes! While many parents may think this is severe, it's definitely not, however bringing your child in early can help them control it better.



A big concern of parents is cost and many don't seek out an esthetician, because many don't know what we do, they think we are a luxury who's services may be unattainable at that time or unnecessary or they are afraid of the cost.

I'm here to tell you that while yes, our job is to perform services and offer retail to our clients, we are not usually here to swindle you.

I promise, most of us are very genuinely invested in you and your needs, especially those of us who are solo practitioners and many of us went into esthetics due to personal struggles, leading us to find fulfillment in this industry, so we want others to feel great too.

Let's talk professional treatments involved. When treating acne, ideally you'd want to come in weekly at first or every two weeks and then less as your skin improves. This is because we want to shock the skin. We want to keep up on it so your skin doesn't have time to revert and it helps keep up progress. Many people can't, so at least once a month is okay, but home care will be extremely important. These treatments usually would be an enzyme, extractions, peels, etc. If you don't think treatments are an option for you, I suggest at least getting your child in for one facial to get recommendations and purchasing professional skincare to use at home. Having someone trained in skin physiology and ingredients will help you not waste time and money by guessing. You can always bring them in for follow up treatments later on, but at least the one facial will get you recommendations.

Now let's talk home care. This is your skin care routine at home. For acneic clients, this would be a cleanser, toner, moisturizer, serum, treatment and sunscreen at a minimum. For teens, we may start off with only three products and work on up. It might seem like a lot at first, but a full skincare routine may only take you 5-10 minutes to do and 1-2x a day.

The cost with products varies by line. My main line, I can start a teen on a routine for under $40 at a basic level. A professional cleanser can cost $20-80 on average. I try to carry more affordable lines for my clients, but prices will vary based on ingredients, production, if they are pro or medical, etc. Now, diet plays a big part too and I'm not talking about your teens being put on some strict diet, but they do need to take a look at foods they are eating. Sometimes, cutting out dairy will clear them up, sometimes, a gluten sensitivity is the issue or peanuts. Lifestyle. Are they active? Excess sweat and friction can cause issues or bacteria to grow on the skin. Are they stressed about school? Life event? Family? Are they picking at their skin? Makeup. Are they wearing pore clogging makeup? There are acne safe products out there if you pay attention to the ingredients, but many are heavy and clog pores.

The main thing to ask yourself is, "is my teenager capable of following through with what's required?". Clearing acne isn't permanent. Acne is going to be a life long issue to maintain under control. You absolutely will get breakouts every now and again, but you work to keep it at bay to where it's not taking over your life. So, there is no magic cure, this is not an overnight miracle. Clients can take months to a year to get clear and this is an 80/20 relationship. 80% of your success is due to your diligence with your home care, lifestyle changes if needed, etc and 20% is me performing treatments and recommending products.

TRUST THE PROCESS. Like I said, it can take months. For teens to young adults, the skin is turning over at a rate of about every 20 days or so and as we age, that process slows down. The average adult is about every 28 days and as we get into our 30's and 40's, it's closer to 45 days. You won't see change until the first month and it will be minor. The average pimple takes about 90 days to come to the surface of the skin, so like I said, it's a process and you have to be patient.

Book an appointment with me if you're local or purchase a Virtual Skin Consultation with me to get started on clearing up your skin or your teen's. -Andrea


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