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Not Just Angst: 10 Tips for Talking About Acne With Your Teenager

While adolescence certainly presents a bevy of challenges, acne may top the list. Here are some tips on how to talk your teen through it.

Talking to your teen about touchy subjects can be tough — but when it comes to sensitive matters like acne, how you approach the topic is crucial. Here are our top 10 guidelines for making this bumpy conversation a bit smoother.

1. Don’t just tell them to wait.

Part of why teens find acne so awful is that it makes them feel powerless over their own bodies. They can’t predict when zits will appear or when they’ll go away, and telling them to just wait it out can lead to more frustration. Instead, connect with a dermatologist to seek out potential solutions.

2. Let them put the situation into their own words.

When something is happening to your body, it can be irritating to have someone trying to explain what’s going on for you. Parents: you might think you’re doing your teen a favor, but it’s usually counterproductive. If your teen visits a dermatologist, let them speak for themselves. A direct conversation between patient and doctor always yields the most effective results.

3. Don’t chastise them if they struggle to adapt to treatment.

Starting any new medication can be a tough adjustment. Your teen may find it difficult to get into the routine of applying or taking medicine in the exact right way, especially for treatments that take a while to work. Don’t make them feel worse than they already do for any slip-ups.

4. Be open about treatment options.

As much as your child might want their acne gone ASAP, taking the step to see a doctor or start a treatment plan might be intimidating. Help them by scheduling appointments, driving them to the dermatologist, and sitting in on the appointment if it makes them feel more comfortable.

5. Discuss what acne really means.

Acne can have serious social and psychological effects on a young person. Take your teen’s concerns seriously, and be open about your own experiences with acne, how it affected your adolescence, and what you did to make it better. Leave the conversation open, and give them space to ask questions.

6. Gently remind them of their treatment routine.

While it’s unproductive to criticize your teen when they seem to be neglecting their acne treatment, it can be helpful to give them a gentle push in the right direction. Subtlety can be a good thing in this situation: write a reminder on a small piece of paper in the bathroom where they will see it, or set up a recurring reminder on their phone.

7. Encourage them to get into good habits.

Acne is unpredictable by nature, but certain lifestyle changes can help prevent breakouts. For instance, touching your face is a force of habit for some, but it can lead to the spread of acne-causing bacteria. Help your teen recognize their problematic habits, and work with them to eliminate them.

8. Help them know what products to look for.

There are a dizzying amount of products out there that claim to combat acne, but not all will be effective for your teen’s condition. Ingredients like parabens and sulfates can irritate, while salicylic acid can dry skin out. Consult with a dermatologist to help your teen find the right products for their skin.

9. Keep their surroundings fresh.

Improving your teen’s skin could be as simple as changing their sheets and pillowcases more frequently. While the bacteria on these surfaces certainly isn’t the only cause of acne, make sure they know that small habitual changes can have a positive impact on their skin.

10. Above all, provide support.

Whether their acne is mild or severe, limited to the face or all over, it’s important to show your teen support. Assure them that their feelings are valid, and that you’re always available to help.

And of course, consult a dermatologist before deciding on any course of action to combat your teen’s acne.

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