Ask any adult, and they’d probably have a story to tell about their teenage skin insecurities. At such an impressionable age, feeling different can mean feeling inferior. The beautiful truth though is that perfect skin is a fallacy, and having so-called flaws is a shared human experience. As a new school year approaches, let’s explore the connection between skin care and self-image—as well as what kids, tweens, and teens can do to take care of their gorgeous (yes, gorgeous!) skin.
Below the surface
As parents and caregivers, it might be hard to understand how profoundly skin conditions can impact our children’s lives. Acne, for example, can lead to feelings of shame and isolation, as well as contribute to anxiety and depression. Children with eczema report more bullying, plus feelings of stigmatization, low self-esteem, and social isolation. Young people with port wine stains (a type of birthmark) tend to have lower mental health scores and report feeling embarrassed, anxious, or depressed due to their skin.
If your child is showing signs of anxiety or depression, reach out to a qualified health professional for guidance.
Many skin conditions like birthmarks, moles, and freckles are quite common. Even stretchmarks and cellulite, which are perhaps more commonly associated with adulthood, are normal in young adults and becoming more widely discussed and accepted.
Yes, for some, dermatological intervention is needed, and certain skin conditions can be treated. But even then, it’s a worthwhile goal to learn to show love toward ourselves, and that includes how we view and take care of our skin.
Social media and self-image
A unique source of challenge for young people today is social media. Here, photo editing and filters can distort reality, portraying fictional beauty standards and enforcing unrealistic expectations.
This “new normal” based on editing and filters can have negative consequences, changing how kids and teens view themselves. One recent survey found that teens who regularly use filters are more likely to want cosmetic surgery and even alter their natural skin color. And a study from 2022 found that young people who follow social media influencers who have had cosmetic procedures are more likely to want to have cosmetic procedures themselves.
Some research suggests that taking breaks from social media may help alleviate some of the pressure and comparisons that come with time online.
The rise of #skinpositivity
Social media might also have the ability to do some good. Recently, there has been a flurry of social media accounts dedicated to embracing one’s natural beauty—the so-called “imperfections” and all. One need only search the hashtag #skinpositivity to see countless posts normalizing cellulite, stretch marks, freckles, birthmarks, acne, and more. Some believe that the tides are turning, and that social media can be used to help us break down beauty standards and build up our self-esteem.
It’s not just social media: fashion runways and beauty campaigns are now featuring models with beautifully unique skin. Model Winnie Harlow, for example, has an autoimmune condition called vitiligo, and has graced runways and magazine covers around the world. Teaching kids that that they’re not alone, and wonderful exactly as they are—that’s a beautiful thing.
Simple skincare for kids and teens
Help your children get into the habit of taking care of their skin with these low-maintenance skincare tips. Keep in mind that this may need to be tweaked based on individual concerns and conditions.
Kids Teens Children may not need a daily bath—a few times a week may be sufficient. When puberty starts, it’s best to shower or bathe every day, as well as after exercise. Use water and a mild cleanser for washing skin. Try to avoid cleansers with harsh chemicals or dyes. Use water and a mild cleanser for washing your skin. Apply a gentle moisturizer daily. Apply a gentle moisturizer daily. Those with oily skin may prefer light moisturizers. Protect your skin from the sun by applying sunscreen. Physical sunscreens (which stay on the surface of the skin) may be less irritating on children’s sensitive skin than chemical sunscreens, which are absorbed into the skin. Protect your skin from the sun by applying sunscreen. Avoid tanning beds—even just one use can increase your risk of skin cancer..
A great deal of our total lifetime sun damage occurs in our younger years. This is in part because children’s skin is more sensitive. Parents, that means it’s our job to protect our children’s skin from the sun by limiting time spent in the sun, providing protective clothing, and applying sunscreen.
Ask the expert
If you or your child has a skin condition that you have questions about or requires specialized help, it’s important to seek out professional advice, such as from a dermatologist. Dermatologists can help with serious cases of skin conditions, prescribing medicines, and administering treatments.
Several infectious diseases can also cause rashes, so be sure to ask your doctor about any skin conditions that your child develops. The same goes for any moles that have multiple colors, jagged borders, or are changing in appearance.
Food for thought
Does your diet affect your skin? It might, say experts, but everyone is different. If you’re affected by acne, try paying attention to the foods you eat and observe whether you notice a difference. Then mention it to your health care practitioner or dermatologist for further advice.