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Teen skin 101

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Caroline Parker, head of education for Dermalogica New Zealand, answered some key questions about teenage skin for Living Well magazine. Living Well is published 4 times year and features inspirational ideas, products and solutions to help make your life even better. Pick up the latest issue (it’s free!) at your nearest Unichem.

At what age should young women begin a skincare regime? 

When they first start to notice excess oil on the skin, it’s definitely the time to encourage a good routine of cleansing and protecting their skin. Look for signs such as blackheads, which usually indicate that oil is not exiting the skin via follicles as it normally would. Blackheads tend to precede pimples unless addressed. The increase in oil will usually coincide with hormonal changes associated with puberty.

What are the key products a teen should be using? 

A sunscreen will always have to take priority and is probably most convenient when in with a lightweight moisturiser. A cleanser is essential to thoroughly remove the sunscreen and other debris off her skin morning and night. A purifying toner misted over the skin will also help control oily shine.

What should you look for in teen skincare products? 

Look for pH-balanced cleansers and oil-free moisturisers with added sunscreen protection for daytime use. Avoid products that have an excessive drying action on the skin – skin shouldn’t feel really tight or be flaky or uncomfortable after using products. If so, the products are too strong or you are not using them correctly.

What’s the best way to treat pimples? 

Use a topical product on a pimple to reduce the bacteria and help clear and heal the breakout. Squeezing pimples can spread bacteria, which can make acne worse and can also cause scarring.

When would a teenager need to see a dermatologist? 

It shouldn’t be necessary to see a dermatologist unless you are worried about a skin lesion or condition, such as severe acne that is at risk of scarring the skin. A qualified skin therapist would be the perfect person to advise a teen on how to care for their skin.

When might a teen need prescription drugs for acne? 

When necessary, prescription drugs are the right option. These can dry the skin out and make it UV sensitive so it’s important to use skincare products that are soothing and hydrating and a good sunscreen to counteract the drying action of the medication and protect your skin from UV rays.

How long should you stick with a product range before you decide it’s not working?

It takes about a month for the skin to replace the outer layers with new cells so you would need to use your products for about four weeks to give your skin time to adjust. Sometimes you can experience more breakouts when you first start using a product as the skin is clearing congestion. 

A couple of top tips

  • If your teenager is blessed with gorgeous skin, help them keep it this way. Many are involved in outdoor activities and therefore get a lot of sun exposure. A simple regime of a mild cleanser and a hydrating zinc-based sunscreen may be all they need. 
  • Don’t forget the basics – your teen’s skin will benefit from her following a healthy lifestyle. That is, eating well, getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of water and exercising regularly.