Teenage came with its own set of challenges for Ritwika Basu. Apart from the physical changes, what vexed the 17-year-old from Kolkata more were the unannounced zits on her face. “From clear skin to multiple pimples on my face, it seemed like my clear skin journey was ending,” confesses Basu. Her story is not unique and is shared by almost every teenager across the globe going through hormonal changes.
Understanding a teenager’s skin
“The relationship between teenage and acne has always been one fraught with desperation to looking at a quick fix.”
Dr Krupa Patel, a Pune-based dermatologist.
As puberty hits, teenagers might find themselves encountering skin conditions such as acne, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), hyperpigmentation (uneven dark spots), or the aggravation of existing issues such as sunburn, dandruff, and atopic dermatitis/eczema (itchy, inflamed skin). Just like Basu who paid attention to her skin’s needs and curated a dedicated skincare routine to tackle the acne bouts, understanding one’s rebellious skin, being patient and consistent is key to alleviating the concerns.
Some of the most common skincare worries that a regular teen might face are:
What Causes it
During puberty, our skin produces more sebum (waxy, oily secretion) which often clogs up pores and results in mild, moderate, or severe acne. Moreover, fluctuating levels of testosterone and androgen (hormones responsible for puberty) can destabilise the skin causing frequent breakouts.
It is very important to thoroughly understand your skin type and the acne type to treat it holistically, Dr Patel explains. “Teens often opt for stop-gap solutions or end up trying multiple over-the-counter products, which may make it worse. It’s always recommended to consult a dermatologist before using any medication, whether topical or oral,” she says.
Dos and Don’ts
Dr Divya Gupta, consultant dermatologist at Manipal hospitals in Bengaluru, adds, “Opting for harsh treatments such as chemical peels or even home remedies like chickpea flour face packs, oatmeal scrubs and the like is not a good idea because the granular texture can increase skin sensitivity and strip off the skin’s natural oil.”
Exfoliating once a week with a mild agent (like salicylic acid) is enough unless otherwise recommended by your doctor. She advises teenagers to be wary of blindly trusting ‘natural, organic’ products and avoid following social media skincare trends without speaking to their dermatologist first. “While trying new products, always do a patch test first to check for potential allergic reactions,” she cautions.
Sunburn and hyperpigmentation
What Causes it
Hyperpigmentation (overproduction of melanin) is a common concern among teenagers. It can be triggered by sun exposure, as well as acne-related inflammation.
Dos and Don’ts
Despite prolonged sun exposure, many teenagers neglect the regular use of sunscreen which can lead to sunburn.
“A good, non-comedogenic (which does not clog the pores) sunscreen must be meticulously applied regularly,” says Dr Patel. It is important to find a sunscreen that suits your skin type. Go for a broad-spectrum SPF 15-35, based on your needs, and don’t forget to apply it even indoors, because the blue light emitted by device screens is also detrimental to your skin, Dr Patel adds.
Dr Gupta suggests wearing protective clothes while going out and staying hydrated. “Hyperpigmentation usually fades away on its own, so just make sure to follow your skincare routine well and avoid picking at acne as it might leave scars/dark spots.”
What causes it
Dandruff is another common condition among teens and can affect skin on other parts of the body as well. Eczema or atopic dermatitis, a disease that usually develops in childhood due to immune system activation, genetic or environmental triggers, or stress, can continue into teenage and manifest through painful symptoms such as scaly patches, oozing sores, redness, and inflammation.
Dos and Don’ts
“For dandruff, prescription shampoos and good hygiene go a long way. Eczema is slightly more complicated and might require oral medication, so it is best to consult a specialist if it flares up,” says Dr Patel.
Impact of lifestyle and nutrition
“Your skin is a combination of genetic and environmental factors,” says Dr Gupta. Since your lifestyle is the one factor you can influence, try to follow a well-rounded diet and proper hydration. Foods with high glycaemic content have been proven to be detrimental for acne, so it’s best to reduce the intake of processed and fatty foods as much as possible. “As PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is rapidly becoming a widespread condition among teenagers, it is prudent to get tested post-puberty, especially if acne persists along the jawline. Early detection goes a long way in managing the symptoms efficiently,” she says.
Puja Shaw, Kolkata-based nutrition coach emphasises the importance of regular exercise. A minimum of 30 minutes of exercise every day is crucial for hormone regulation and blood circulation and consequently, skin health. “I would suggest customising routines based on what you enjoy. It then becomes easier to be consistent,” she says. Exercise also helps in regulating stress levels, which have often been linked with acne flare ups in teenagers. “Post-exercise, fresh fruit and vegetable juices (vitamin A and C especially) are highly recommended for maintaining vitamin and mineral supply to the skin and overall hydration,” she adds.
Morning and night routine:
- Find a mild cleanser and stick to it for your morning and night-time routine. For acne-prone skin, go for products with anti-acne agents such as salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), or tea tree oil
- Use a non-comedogenic moisturiser twice a day, preferably when your skin is damp. Even oily skin requires moisturisation, as excessive cleansing can leave it dry
- Sunscreen is essential. Reapply throughout the day when needed
- Drink enough water after you wake up and before you go to bed, as hydration is crucial for skin health
- Always remove your makeup before going to bed. Teens often skip this step, and it can lead to clogged pores thereby causing breakouts