Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.
Daily Bathing and Dental Care
In general, teens will need to bathe and shower more often than they did when they were younger children because the hormonal changes of puberty cause them to produce more perspiration and skin oil. More information about these changes is available in the Adolescent Developmental Article section on physical development. This increase in perspiration and oil can make teens' skin and hair look greasy and unattractive if they do not bathe enough, and teens can also develop body odor more easily. Most teens will need to bathe daily, and teens who are extremely active in sports or other physical labor may even need to bathe more frequently. Teens should also use deodorant or antiperspirant daily after each bathing to control body odor.
Dental care continues to be extremely important during the teenage years, especially if youth like to indulge on sugary drinks or snacks. Youth need to continue to brush their teeth at least twice a day, if not after every meal. They should also floss daily. Many preteens and teens have special orthodontics, such as braces or retainers that require special care. It's extremely important for youth to follow their orthodontists' rules about avoiding certain foods, cleaning the devices, and going to all scheduled dental visits. This ensures that these expensive devices function correctly and do not cause tooth decay, which can easily happen if they aren't cleaned properly.
In addition to bathing more frequently, teens will need to care for their skin in news ways, such as taking precautions to limit acne and other skin blemishes, and to avoid excessive sun exposure and/or other unsafe tanning practices.
Acne and blemishes
Most teens struggle with acne blemishes at some point during their adolescent period. Hormonal changes can cause skin problems by increasing the production of skin oil (sebum) and creating a greasier look and feel to the skin. Acne blemishes are caused when the pores in the skin become blocked with this oil, or sebum, along with dead skin cells and other dirt or chemicals. However, it is less clear what causes the pores to become clogged in the first place. Some medical professionals believe the increased oil production is responsible for causing adolescent acne. However, other medical professionals believe the hormonal changes also cause the pores to become blocked more easily. Thus, doctors and scientists are not yet in agreement about the exact cause of adolescent acne. For more information about the causes and types of acne, please review the Adolescent Development Article under physical development. Here we focus on how parents can assist their youth to manage these skin conditions.
Youth can take several steps to limit, or even prevent, acne from developing in the first place. First, youth can wash their face with a gentle, medicated, facial cleanser designed for acne-prone skin. These cleansers will often include ingredients such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide that help to control acne. Youth should wash their face 2-3 times a day, but not more often than that. If teens wash their face too much, the skin can become dry, which will trigger the oil glands to produce even more pore-clogging oil. As well, youth who wear makeup should always remove their makeup and wash their faces before going to bed because cosmetics can clog pores overnight. Often a fresh pillowcase each night can be helpful because dirt, oil, and cosmetics can build up on the fabric and transfer to the skin during sleep.
Similarly, youth should be encouraged to shower shortly after they exercise to remove perspiration and oil from the skin in order to prevent the skin pores from becoming clogged. Youth should learn to avoid touching their faces throughout the day and should avoid the temptation to pick at, or "pop" facial blemishes. At a minimum, youth should be certain to wash their hands prior to touching their faces, including prior to removing makeup and washing their faces, because unwashed hands can easily transfer bacteria to the facial area including the skin, nose, mouth, and eyes. Youth who have experienced problems with acne may need to pay special attention to the types of cosmetic and skin care products they select. Youth should look for cosmetics, and skin care products (including moisturizers and sun screens) labeled "noncomedogenic," meaning the product is specifically designed not to block pores. They may also need to choose hair styles that prevent their hair from hanging in their face (such as bangs), as oil and hair styling products can also clog pores.
Beyond these preventive measures, some teens may need over-the-counter acne treatments, or may they may require prescription-only acne treatments available through their family doctor or dermatologist. Generally, over-the-counter treatments are more affordable and typically include topical creams or lotions that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which can be very effective. Parents and youth should carefully read the package information before using any product to fully understand the safe and correct use and/or dose. The warnings, side effects, and contraindications (when the product should NOT be used) should also be carefully reviewed. Often these treatments can have some mild side effects such as skin dryness or sun sensitivity. Some youth may require prescription treatments which can take the form of topical lotions or oral medications. These tend to be more expensive than over-the-counter medications, and some carry the possibility of more serious side effects. Once again, parents and youth should talk to the doctor about possible benefits and risks and should carefully read the informational insert that comes with the medication so they understand how to use these medications safely.