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Skin Care for Teens

Today I’m highlighting some of the tips we cover in Girls Health class when they ask about skin care. We usually spend 5-10 minutes discussing some of the adjustments girls are making as they rapidly grow and their hair and skin change, before we launch into a discussion of their nervous, immune, and skeletal systems. Skin is a complex topic, and genetics and diet both seem to play a role. For many girls, skin symptoms track with their cycle. So I cover the topics in bold and encourage them to try whatever they aren’t doing yet. Hygiene - I tell my girls to change their pillowcases several times a week in addition to washing their faces, and change their sheets once a week, even washing their comforter every week or two. For sweaty people, maybe twice a week for the sheets. And don't touch your face - easier said than done. Plain water or Cerave or Cetaphil cleanser in very small amounts not to over-dry the skin and cause reactive acne. Moisturize after showering or washing the face if your skin feels tight and dry. Water - aim for a gallon a day of hydrating beverages; no juice unless it's very diluted because the sugar concentration could make it worse. Sunshine - helps most skin look better. Obviously, fair skin needs some protection for extended exposure. Supplements - B vitamins and, in particular Pantothetic Acid, are good for the skin. Gummy or powdered vitamins can be helpful if they aren’t used to swallowing pills. Probiotics or pre-biotics can be helpful, too. Food - lower sugar, more fiber, and perhaps lower or no dairy. By lower sugar I don't mean cutting out fruit, but juice, candy, etc,... They might consider switching bread for potatoes which are more nutritious, eating more protein and fat, like eggs, tuna, chicken, and sausage. Vegetables and other fibrous foods will help the gut microbiome which connects closely to the skin. No one seems to have a definitive answer about why dairy can disrupt skin (and hormones and cycles), but if a teen is doing all the other steps and still has touchy skin, it’s worth considering. We discuss this more in the High School Girls class because by that age they've tried various strategies already. Anecdotally, I was the only one of my siblings who had to limit my ice cream, juice, etc,.. very sharply. (Otherwise, I would get symptoms like elevated blood sugar, which is concerning in a teen.) For a while, I could eat only 1/2 cup of ice cream at a time, once or twice a week; no soda, no candy, very rarely juice. I didn't really care for bread and potatoes so cutting out the sweets meant I was on a moderate-carb diet. Meanwhile, I touched my face too much, washed irregularly with only water, moisturized when I remembered, didn't drink enough water by half, and STILL had clear skin all through high school. All 7 of my siblings who "tolerated" sugar went through years of moderate to terrible acne. Fast forward 25 years; My husband will STILL get acne if he eats fast food twice in a week. He doesn't drink soda, so it seems to be the fat and additives. His skin settled down a lot when he got off gluten a year ago (not for that reason). I don’t recommend this to teens when there are lots of other things to try, and they can sometimes become fixated on certain eating habits, but it surprised us both what a difference it made for him. Half of his family has touchy skin, and half don’t, so they have lots of practice experimenting. My oldest daughter, 18, can't have any cow dairy at all, or she will break out; she's naturally moderate about sugar and carbs, so it was clear the dairy was the issue. My second, age 16, has a sweet tooth but cutting sugar doesn't completely resolve it, so I think she needs more fiber and sun, but she wants to 'figure it out herself.' My 3rd daughter is good so far; she's almost 13, doesn't appear sensitive to dairy, follows all the general advice above, and may have lucked out genetically. I believe diet makes the biggest difference of all, based on my own experience and that of my extended family. Teens in traditional cultures with very simple food have less acne, and families who buy simple (what the kids might call “boring” or “why do we only have ingredients”) foods seem to do better than average. Most families reading this are eating well, so hopefully, the skin care discussion helps your daughter to appreciate that her clear skin may be the result of all those ingredients. About half the girls will acknowledge they should drink more water.
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