Tips and tools to take the best care of your skin!
Written by Kristina Collins, M.D., FAAD
Our skin really is amazing — it serves as a shield for our “insides” from the outside and also interacts and communicates with the world around us. Your face may feel flushed when you talk to someone you like or you could get goosebumps during a scary movie or an aha moment. Those are all ways your skin communicates! And “skin talk” doesn’t stop there — the skin often provides a window into seeing what is going on beneath the surface of our bodies. Being aware of what’s going on with our skin and maintaining healthy skin can be an important part of our overall health and confidence.
But sometimes, in the preteen and teen years, it can feel like your skin is turning against you. Don’t worry, it’s not! There are TONS of changes happening inside of the body during puberty due to hormones, and the skin reflects these normal changes on the surface. By gaining tips and tools for taking care of your skin during these hormonal changes, you can make sure your skin stays healthy.
Our skin, in many ways, tells our individual story and makes us unique. Through our skin color, we can see the beauty of diversity. Our unique markings, fingerprints, moles, and birthmarks, are ours and ours alone. Our skin is the largest organ in our body and the time we spend caring for it is important for our confidence and well-being. From good hygiene habits to caring for specific issues that arise (like pimples, cold sores, or rashes), we’ve got you covered. By taking the time to learn about your skin and how to care for it, you are already on the way to keeping your skin healthy for life.
Normal skin changes that occur during the teenage years
Let’s face it, during the preteen and teen years you have a lot going on. You’ve got to balance school, work, family, friends, and activities like sports or music. You are starting to work towards goals and sometimes feel super rushed, but you also need time to just be a kid. Well, inside of your body, a major balancing act is happening too. You are growing like crazy and your body is transforming. On the skin, the hormonal surges of puberty can lead to:
Enlargement of oil glands and increased oil production, which can cause larger pores, clogging of your pores, and acne
Scalp glands can produce more oil than needed, creating oily-looking and feeling hair for some hair types
Sweat glands become more active. This sweat (from your armpits, feet, or other parts of your body) combined with the natural bacteria of your body can cause body odor (BO) or stinky feet
Hair growth occurring in new places. Hair can grow anywhere on the body (face, legs, arms, pubic area, and more!), however, if you are experiencing excess hair growth it may be a sign of a hormone imbalance or other health issues.
Everyone is different and these changes may affect your skin differently than your friends. If your skin is going a little crazy, we’ve got you covered with some easy tips to deal with it below, as well as some great supporting products in the BLOOM store.
It’s never too early to get to know your skin and start taking care of it. Although it’s really rare, abnormal moles and skin cancers can occur in adolescents, so take a look at your skin once a month to check for any changes. There are certain changes on your skin that mean it’s time to see a dermatologist. So let someone know if you have noticed any of the following red flags.
When you take a look at your skin once a month, it’s a great idea to check out the various dark spots on your body called moles or nevi. Moles may be present at birth or can show up later in life. You can continue to get new ones up until about age 40. These skin marks are made up of cells called melanocytes that produce pigment in the skin. It’s a good idea to look out for changes in these growths and let a health professional know if one of them starts to become noticeably larger, changes in color, becomes asymmetrical (where both sides don’t match each other), or develops jagged borders. Skin growths that itch or bleed may also need a look. Moles can be unique marks for an individual and aren’t anything to be embarrassed about. We ALL have special and unique marks on our skin. But if a mole is growing or making you feel insecure, then it could be time to see a dermatologist. If you would like to try to prevent the development of new moles make sure to wear sunblock or use sun-protective clothing every day. Protection from the sun is the only way to stop or slow the development of new moles, sun spots, or freckles.
Has your birth mom, birth dad, or any siblings been diagnosed with melanoma? If anyone in your immediate biological family has been diagnosed with melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer, we recommend that you have a skin check during your annual physical just to look you over.
It is normal to get some acne as an adolescent but if there are more than ten inflammatory lesions at a time or deep painful nodules, you may need to see a dermatologist for treatment. These deep nodules have the potential to scar, so if you start seeing marks left on the skin from your acne, let your caregivers know that you may need some help taking care of your skin. There are some natural remedies for acne scarring but be sure to speak to your doctor or dermatologist about natural remedies and other treatment options for acne scarring that might be right for you.
If you have a rash that is impacting your activities or self-esteem you can always get help. Let’s face it, being a preteen or teen is complicated enough without skin problems holding you back. Lots of individuals have rashes like eczema or psoriasis and these problems often require a visit to the dermatologist to get it under control. If you have an itchy rash or other skin problem that just doesn’t seem to go away with good, daily hygiene and skin care then let a parent or caregiver know you need a little help.
If you notice patches of hair falling out on your skin/scalp, you may have a condition called alopecia areata. The good news is, this is usually reversible with treatment. However, you will need to see a dermatologist to get creams or special in-office injections to remedy the bald patches. Other reasons for hair loss include hormonal imbalances, poor nutrition, hair treatments or styling techniques that are damaging to the hair, medical illness or condition, etc. For some people solutions include wearing hair pieces (including toppers), extensions, wigs, headbands, or hats. Others may decide to embrace their thinning hair or “bald is beautiful look.” See BLOOM’s Hair Care section for more on alopecia and traction alopecia.
Sore/Ulcer in Genital Area
Not all problems on the vulva (the external female genital area), the penis, or the scrotum are sexually transmitted, but a painful sore in the genital region can sometimes be the result of a herpes infection. Tan and brown warts can also occur in the genital area due to exposure to a sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus (HPV). Other skin conditions can occur in the genital region that are not sexually transmitted, including contact dermatitis (a type of allergic reaction), psoriasis (a common skin condition that often causes red rashes on the knees, elbows, scalp, folds between the buttocks, and groin), and fungal infections. Any of these issues usually call for a trip to the doctor to check the area and get treatment options.
There are a few major skin offenders that can seriously destroy any good skin care routine. Here are the top five things you need to avoid to maintain healthy skin.
1. Avoid excess sun exposure.
There is no such thing as a safe tan. Even if the skin does not appear burned, a tan occurs as the skin attempts to protect itself from damage. Indoor tanning in particular leads to a 75% greater risk of developing melanoma during your lifetime. Self-tanners and bronzers are safer ways to get the look without the risk but be sure to check the EWG’s Skin Deep Database to search any prospective products before buying.
2. Avoid harsh products or exfoliators.
Do not use harsh scrubs or exfoliators on your skin, as these can cause greater inflammation and break down your skin’s protective barriers. Skin care does not need to hurt or burn to be effective. Mechanical brushes and scrubbing devices can also be overly harsh and are not necessary for cleansing the skin. The same goes for hot water, which is very drying and hard on the skin. Always use lukewarm water to cleanse and pat dry to avoid drying out your skin.
3. Do not pop your pimples/zits or pick at your skin.
Keep those pointy fingertips and sharp nails away from your delicate skin. While it can be tempting, picking at the skin and squeezing or popping pimples is likely to lead to even more inflammation or damage. Instead, use an acne spot treatment serum or acne patches that contain salicylic acid to spot treat blemishes. Again, if you have a pimple and desperately want to pop it, use a warm compress to help open the pores and then gently press and roll the area using the sides of your two index fingers.
4. Do not go to bed without washing your face.
Your skin needs to breathe and it is important to wash away oil, bacteria, makeup, and grime that builds up throughout the day.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you have a skin issue that isn’t responding to healthy hygiene habits and a daily skin care regimen, then it may be time to consult a doctor. Having a skin problem does not mean that you are unclean or you are doing something wrong. Skin issues can happen to anyone, at any point in life. The good news is, there are plenty of treatments available to make sure you can feel confident in your own skin.
10 Easy Skincare Tips
A great skin care regimen doesn’t have to take up lots of time but does require consistency and daily effort. It’s never too early to start forming good skin hygiene habits and the things you do for your skin now will continue to keep you looking your best for many years to come. We have plenty of tips that won’t take up too much valuable time. Here is a list of one dermatologist’s top 10 tips for preteen and teen skin care.
Tip #1 – Wash your face!
Never go to bed with a dirty face, whether or not you wear makeup. If you do wear makeup or you are experiencing oily skin, you may want to double cleanse by first wiping off impurities using micellar water/toner and then utilizing a gentle foaming cleanser with warm water to wash the entire face. Some people with oily or acne-prone skin benefit from incorporating witch hazel during cleansing. If your skin is dry or very sensitive, you can use a gentle facial hydrating cleanser.
If you are experiencing major acne breakouts, you may want to explore with your dermatologist an acne regimen that incorporates a benzoyl peroxide cleanser for the face or salicylic acid wash or spray for the body. If your skin is a combination or oily type then wash twice a day in order to keep the oil down and reduce the concentration of acne-causing bacteria on the skin’s surface.
Cleansing with water and a gentle cleanser is always the best way to ensure a healthy skin surface, but occasionally, if you are super tired from a long day, if you are traveling, or if you are on-the-go, cleansing wipes can be used to wash the face in a pinch. Having trouble remembering to wash your face twice a day? Here’s a pro-tip: try putting your face wash on top of your toothbrush holder. You almost certainly remember to brush your teeth twice daily, so use that to your advantage!
Tip #2 – Keep sweat on the court or in the gym.
Engaging in physical activities like sports and exercise are important parts of staying fit and enjoying life, but without a few precautions your skin can act up. Always rinse off after getting super sweaty and change sweaty clothes after workouts. Sweat that stays on the skin can be a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria or other irritations. If you wear any hats, helmets, or gear for your activities make sure to wash these regularly, or else they can also harbor bacteria and wreak havoc on your skin. After removing a sweaty hat, rinse your skin or use a moistened facial towel, micellar water, or witch hazel towelette to quickly cleanse on the go.
Tip #3 – Moisturize your skin.
Yes, even oily skin can benefit from enrichment with moisturizer. Look for non-comedogenic and oil-free lotions and moisturizers to help protect the barrier function of your skin and give relief from inflammation.
Tip #4 – Do not pop your pimples/zits or pick at your skin!
It can be very tempting to pick at a new bump on the skin or try to pop and squeeze pimples/ zits, but picking and prodding the skin can be traumatizing and even scarring. Popping your pimples can lead to more bacteria, inflammation, and sometimes staining/scarring of skin. If you have a pimple that is white or yellow at the head and you desperately want to pop it, use a warm compress (or after a warm shower) to help open the pores, then gently press and roll the area using 2 Q-tips or use the sides of your two clean index fingers. Do not poke the skin with your fingertips or nails! If the pimple is not easily expressible using the broadsides of the fingers then it will traumatize the skin if you try to force it. Ideally, it is best to avoid touching blemishes altogether. Next time you are tempted to pick, try using a pimple patch containing salicylic acid to spot treat your zit.
Tip #5 – Be consistent with acne treatments.
Almost all preteens and teens experience acne at some point. If you begin to notice clogged pores, blackheads, whiteheads, or deeper zits the best thing you can do is begin a skin care regimen as soon as possible and stay consistent. If you are using a gentle cleanser twice a day and begin to notice clogged pores, you can start using adapalene gel, which is an over-the-counter acne-fighting retinol product. Avoid skin dryness by starting slow and using the product every few nights, slowly working up to nightly use. Just a pea-sized amount will be perfect for your entire face, right before bedtime. Salicylic acid washes can be helpful for stubborn acne in the body. Spot treatments and acne patches can be used for larger, more inflammatory pimples.
The BLOOM Store is a good place to find some of the best acne spot treatments, washes, and moisturizers for your skin. Don’t forget — acne treatments can take time to take effect so give each treatment a trial of at least two months to determine if it will work for you. Don’t get discouraged if your skin doesn’t change overnight — with consistency and effort, you will get there!
Tip #6 – Be aware of other notorious pore-cloggers.
Make sure to wash anything that touches the face. This means that hats, masks, glasses, cell phone surfaces, hands, and pillowcases require regular washing to prevent the acne-causing build up of oils or bacteria. Pay attention to whether your acne is worse on one side or area of your face and think about what may be causing it. Do you typically hold your phone on that side of your face? Or do you rest your chin on your hand during class? Hair products (especially conditioners) can also be secret-pore cloggers. If you are noticing frequent breakouts on the forehead or hairline, look for products that do not contain sulfates or are specially formulated to prevent skin irritation. In the shower, you can wash your face after rinsing out the conditioner to make sure that hair product residue is not left on your skin.
Tip #7 – Practice good makeup and skin care product hygiene.
Make sure to wash all makeup brushes regularly and dispose of makeup products that are past their prime. That foundation from a few years ago stuffed in the back of your bathroom drawer could wreak serious havoc on your skin and even cause skin infections. In general, foundation, concealer, highlighters, pencil eyeliner, and primers should be replaced after one year. Liquid eyeliner and mascara are best replaced every three months. Most skin care products like cleansers and lotions have a shelf life of about two years. As fun as it is to have a makeover party with friends, make sure to sterilize beauty products before sharing them to avoid sharing bacteria too.
Tip #8 – Be gentle with your skin.
Don’t make the mistake of using harsh scrubs, toners, or exfoliators on your skin. Even with oily skin, a gentle cleanser is all that is needed to wash the surface. Harsh treatments can make acne even worse by increasing inflammation and breaking down the skin’s natural barriers and defenses. Along the same idea, don’t damage your skin with excessive sun exposure, indoor tanning, or sunburns.
Tip #9 – Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Using sunscreen or sun-protective clothing daily is probably the most important healthy habit you can start to take good care of your skin. When choosing a sunscreen, look for one that offers broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection and is mineral-based (meaning made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient). Use at least SPF 30 and remember that you should fill your whole palm for a full-body application. Reapply every two hours when outdoors or even more frequently when you are sweating a lot or doing water activities.
If you have trouble finding sunscreens that work with your skin type or your activities make it difficult to reapply, sun protective clothing should be your go-to! Choose a hat with a wide brim of at least 3 inches and a built-in UPF of 50 or higher. Sun guard long sleeve sun protection shirts and swimwear can keep you cool and protected. The things you do to protect your skin from the sun will protect you from getting sidelined with a painful burn now and will also prevent wrinkles, premature aging, sun spots, and skin cancer down the road. Don’t forget — all people, regardless of skin color, benefit from sun protection. Even though people with darker skin colors are less likely to get sunburned, it is still important for them to protect their skin from dangerous UV rays.
Tip #10 – Hydration and Nutrition!
Remember that truly healthy skin comes from within. Get your glow on from within by hydrating your body every day. Every person needs at least 8 glasses of water per day to stay hydrated and preteens and teens often need even more to keep up with water loss from physical activities. Keep in mind that a healthy diet will also help you look and feel your best. A super-skin-saving diet minimizes saturated fats and high glycemic foods. Dairy and gluten can also trigger acne for some people. Stay aware of how your body feels after consuming certain foods and make sure to get enough nutrient packed fruits and vegetables that your skin needs to repair and renew.
Let’s face it, most preteens and teens will have acne at some point as a result of the effects of hormonal changes on the skin.The good news is, there are some great treatments for mild acne available right in the BLOOM store. If you have started to notice clogged pores, blackheads, whiteheads, or inflammatory pimples make sure you start a daily skin care regimen. Wash with a gentle cleanser twice daily, if accessible use adapalene gel at night, and spot treat with salicylic acid pimple patches. If you continue to notice inflammatory pustules, an over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide wash or lotion for the face in the morning may do the trick.
Look for BPO (benzoyl peroxide) concentrations of 4% or lower to avoid excess drying or irritation of the skin. Also, remember that BPO can and will bleach fabrics so you may want to use white towels and avoid laying on your pillowcase right after use. If you are struggling with body acne, or “bacne,” you can incorporate a salicylic acid body wash for the shower. If your body acne continues despite treatment and is accompanied by dandruff, you could have an overgrowth of a form of yeast called pityrosporum. Anti-dandruff shampoo can be used on the scalp and also used as a body wash in the case of pityrosporum folliculitis. To reduce the oil of the skin, again, wash twice daily and double cleanse at night. It’s also a great idea to wash off pore-clogging sweat throughout the day or blot oil with oil-absorbing paper. If acne and oily skin are difficult to control, ask your caregiver to make an appointment for you to visit a doctor or dermatologist to establish a regime that is individual to your needs.
Eczema is a super common skin condition for children and adolescents. How do you know if you have eczema? If you have a rash in the fold of the forearm or behind the knees, as well as any itchy rashes in other areas of the body you may have eczema. Lots of individuals with eczema also have either hay fever or asthma.
Eczema is sometimes called the “itch that rashes” and the first step of improving eczema is reducing trauma to the skin.
Make sure to avoid hot showers or baths and avoid rubbing the skin dry. Instead, take lukewarm showers and pat the skin dry.
Immediately after showering (while the skin is still damp) apply moisturizers all over the skin. For areas with an active rash, you can apply over-the-counter cortisone and then seal with a coat of thick moisturizer, like petroleum jelly or Aquaphor.
Sometimes skin rashes can appear like eczema, but are really due to allergens that the skin is exposed to. This is called contact dermatitis and avoidance of the triggers is the only way to stop the process. If you notice a rash begins a few weeks after starting a new job or starting a new activity, think about potential allergens you may have been exposed to (such as poison ivy during yard work or latex gloves during cleaning).
Psoriasis can often show up on the skin during preteen and teen years. Most commonly, you may notice red plaques with white scales located on the elbows or knees. Thick scaly plaques can also occur on the scalp, hands, or anywhere else on the body. Psoriasis affecting the groin area or buttocks often looks different and is redder and less scaly. When psoriasis gets out of control it can really affect a person’s confidence and sense of emotional well-being. Usually, psoriasis will require an evaluation by a doctor who may recommend over-the-counter cortisone, which can be used as a first-line treatment. If the scalp is scaly, an over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo can be used, including Avalon Organics Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, Head and Shoulders, or Neutrogena T-Sal. Keep in mind that these dandruff shampoos should only be applied to the scalp as they can be drying. Be sure to read the directions, which will state the length of time to leave the shampoo on your scalp.
Fungal infections can take on many forms and are super common during adolescence. Red, itchy rashes in the groin area (tinea inguinal) or scaling on the bottom and sides of the feet (tinea pedis) can both be due to fungal infections. Commonly, these problems are referred to as jock itch or athlete’s foot. Fungus is highly contagious. It grows and thrives in moist, sweaty environments so the groin and feet are the most common locations for fungal overgrowth. When circular, itchy red patches occur on the body, tinea corporis, or ringworm may be to blame.
If you think you may have a fungal infection:
Make sure to keep the area as dry as possible.
You can wipe off excessive sweat and use sweat-absorbing powders to maintain a dry environment and wear sweat-wicking socks/clothing to help absorb moisture.
Wear flip-flops in the gym shower to avoid possibly exposing your feet to other people’s fungus.
Grab an over-the-counter anti-fungal cream and apply it twice daily to the affected area for two weeks.
If this doesn’t do the trick, you may need to consult your doctor.
Almost everyone gets a wart at some point in their life and these frequently resolve on their own. However, if you have a wart that is stubborn or growing, you can treat it with at-home remedies. Using a disposable nail file, exfoliate and file down the wart. Make sure to toss the nail file after each use. Apply an over-the-counter wart treatment containing 20-40% salicylic acid, then cover with fresh duct tape for the remainder of the 24 hours of the day. Do this process daily and don’t be surprised if it takes a few weeks to work. Avoid picking or scratching the wart to prevent spreading it. If you notice warts on the genital area, consult your doctor.
Written by Kristina Collins, M.D., FAAD
Cold Sores (aka fever blisters) are super common during the preteen and teen years and can be embarrassing. Pay attention to triggers that bring on your cold sores, like stress, fatigue, menstruation, a viral infection/fever, or UV exposure. This way you can take antiviral therapy as early as possible when a cold sore is developing.
A cold sore often will go through stages and they generally take 7-10 days to heal.
Stage 1: tingling, itching, and a painful spot as the cold sore develops or starts to emerge.
Stage 2: small fluid-filled blisters typically erupt in clusters along the border of the lips.
Stage 3: the small blisters may ooze, burst, and then scab over.
Stage 4: as the scab heals there may be flakiness in the area and some residual inflammation.
Ask your caregiver or doctor about using Lysine, which can be purchased over-the-counter as an oral supplement or ointment. Your doctor may also recommend and provide a prescription for an antiviral medication like acyclovir or valacyclovir. Lastly, to prevent cold sores from spreading to other parts of your body or to other people keep your hands clean, avoid touching the cold sore, avoid kissing others, and avoid sharing items such as drinks or towels etc.
Written by Kristina Collins, M.D., FAAD
Molluscum contagiosum are small, pink dome-shaped papules that can occur anywhere on the body and are spread via close contact. These frequently resolve on their own with no intervention but you can try applying over-the-counter retinol daily to give your body a boost in fighting them off. If they become widespread, or fail to resolve, you may need to see a doctor and have them treated in the office with something called cryotherapy (where the doctor gently applies a bit of freezing spray to the lesions).
Things to Know When it Comes to Makeup
Makeup has been used in certain cultures to enhance beauty throughout history, even in ancient times. Self-adornment with makeup or other forms of body decoration can have cultural roots, such as the use of henna tattoos for Southeast Asian celebrations. In the current day, we are constantly inundated with videos and tutorials on every aspect of makeup application or physical enhancement. It is important to remember that people of all genders can be attractive and appear professional with or without makeup. At its best, makeup can be used as a form of self-expression and to boost feelings of confidence by highlighting certain parts of one’s appearance. At its worst, makeup can become something that preteens and teens feel they must wear to appear attractive or fit in. Always remember that wearing makeup is an individual choice.
If you do choose to wear makeup, there are some things you can do to protect your skin against any negative consequences.
First, don’t forget to wash makeup off before bed. Make sure that your skin is nice and clean before heading to bed so that it can properly renew itself overnight. Makeup sitting on the face too long can lead to inflammation, rashes, and bacteria build up.
Make sure to clean makeup brushes and sponges regularly and sanitize any makeup applicators you share with your friends. If not properly cared for and sterilized, makeup and applicators can harbor bacteria, spreading acne on the skin or even worse, cause eye infections.
Always make sure to toss any makeup supplies past their prime as these can be a breeding ground for bacteria as well. Foundations, concealers, eye pencils, and primers should be thrown out after one year, while mascaras and liquid eyeliners should only be kept for three months.
Clean out the bathroom drawer regularly to avoid skin problems.
During puberty, sweat glands, including those in the armpit area, become more active making a person sweat and possibly smell more. Although anyone can have strong body smells at times, the hormones released during puberty seem to wake up these smells, especially in the armpit, feet, and genital areas.
Tips for handling body odor
Remember that sweating is a natural part of being a person. Sweating helps regulate body temperature, especially when we exercise.
Wash your body parts regularly with soap and warm water, including your feet, armpit, and genital areas.
Consider washing your armpits or bathe more often, especially after exercise or playing sports.
Products that help minimize or mitigate armpit odor include deodorant, antiperspirant, or home remedies.
Deodorants are usually pleasant-smelling products that are made to cover up unpleasant smells.
Some deodorants contain antiperspirants, which contain chemicals to help a person stop sweating.
If you choose to use a product in your underarm area, test it on your forearm for 48 hours first. Doing this will make you sure that your body is okay with the product and you are not allergic to it.
Home remedies are natural products that include ingredients sometimes found in a person’s home, like lemon juice. To explore homemade deodorant recipes, check out Tree Hugger.
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