Teenage years can be a pretty confusing time. There are numerous changes that take place in the body at both an emotional and physical level. One such prominent and noticeable physical change is acne. The sudden hormonal changes during puberty often lead to an increase in the skin’s oil (sebum) production. The sebum produced mixes with dead skin cells, clogs pores, and traps bacteria within the skin causing acne or pimples—resulting in acne becoming a mainstay during one’s teenage years.

Acne can affect more than just your teen’s skin

While some teens escape with mild blemishes or mild cases of acne, others are usually not so lucky. They experience acne so severe that it leaves them with physical and emotional scars. According to a study published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology it was found that having acne has been linked to a risk of depression and anxiety. This is also echoed by the British Journal of Dermatology that found that there was a 63% increase in risk of depression in a person who has acne when compared to a person who does not.

Acne and depression can be a vicious cycle. A person may feel unhappy if they suffer from acne, which leads to social anxiety. The subsequent increase in stress hormones can further aggravate their acne. There is another link between depression and acne – social stigma. There are numerous cases of bullying that stem from acne, which plays a major role in lowering one’s self-esteem.

How can you as a parent help your teen tackle acne?

Acne can make peer approval and ‘fitting in’ quite difficult for teenagers. It is important to be cognizant of your teen’s worry about acne. Undermining their concerns by saying ‘you will grow out of it’ will only prove to be detrimental to an already fragile state-of-mind. As a parent of a teen battling with acne and the subsequent emotional turmoil, here are a few ways in which you can help minimise the effects.

  • Help them cope emotionally: Self-consciousness peaks during adolescence and for a vast majority of people finding support in from family and friends can go a long way in helping them deal with this skin issue. As a parent, look out for signs of emotional disturbance in your teenager. They may stop going out, avoid interacting with people, withdrawing from their favourite extracurricular activity, etc. Do your best to be the go-to person for them to approach when they are having a particularly bad episode. Be sure to avoid toxic positive reinforcement.
  • Set up a consultation with a dermatologist: It is important for parents to note that, setting up a consultation with a dermatologist sooner than later can radically decrease the risk of permanent damage – physical (as scars) and emotional (in the form of social anxiety). Dermatologists help diagnose the severity of acne – mild to cystic and treat it accordingly by prescribing appropriate medication and/or treatments to help with the breakouts. They can also help adjudge if your teenager is at a risk of scarring. The dermatologist will also provide guidance on choosing the right products for the skin and tips for good skin health.
  • Ensure physical well-being: Physical exercise helps with sweating, which in turn results in the unclogging of pores, thereby helping to reduce the outbreak to a certain extent. Diet is another important factor in helping manage acne. Ensuring that their diet is rich in fruits, vegetables and grains will help give a boost mentally and physically. Some studies have shown a definite link between dairy products and acne. It is recommended to consult with a dermatologist to decide on foods to avoid preventing severe breakouts.
  • Encourage them to cultivate healthy skin habits: An oft-repeated line is to just let the skin be if one suffers from acne. Teenagers must avoid picking, popping and squeezing the breakouts. Overall, stop bothering their face that much. Squeezing these breakouts, especially deep-seated ones can damage the skin severely. This can also lead to scarring of the skin. Apart from this, ensure that your teen regularly uses the products/medicines that have been prescribed. Additionally, if your teen uses makeup do speak to their dermatologist and help them figure out which products would work best for them. Do remind your teen to wash off makeup before bedtime, as this can result in clogging of pores and increase the severity of breakouts.
  • Help them differentiate fact from fiction: With a lot of information floating online regarding acne, it is very easy to get caught up in the web of myths. There are many myths that surround acne, for instance, fast food is often blamed for acne. That is far from the truth. While fast food can contribute to the severity of acne, it does not cause it. Same is the case with chocolate. However, it is true that certain food groups should be consumed in moderation for one’s overall well-being. Another myth that most people buy into is that acne is contagious. Again, this is FALSE. Acne is caused by an increase in hormones and build-up of sebum production. As parents of teens combating acne, it is important to take time to understand and speak with your teenager and their doctor to bust these myths.

Timely intervention is important

Consulting with a dermatologist in case one has severe acne or cystic acne is important. These kinds of acne cannot be treated with over-the-counter medicines. And a delay in treating acne at the earliest can cause severe scarring of the skin, which will further contribute to a lowered morale.

With consultation, timely treatment, and regular follow up, acne can be effectively treated and managed.

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