It’s tough to be a teen.
Teenage acne is on the rise. More than 85% of teens now suffer from breakouts, a steep rise from just a generation ago.
It’s ironic—and unfortunate—that this increase coincided with the age of social media and smartphones. Teens are under greater pressure than ever to look good. No wonder the market for acne products and camera-ready makeup is booming. Flawless skin is no longer optional.
How can we help our teens take care of their skin, so that spots don’t stress them out?
Here’s the good news:
There’s never been more information about the causes and cures for acne.
Back when I was a teen struggling with my complexion, I tackled my blemishes with harsh cleansers, benzoyl peroxide, even prescription antibiotics. I didn’t know about toner, moisturizer, masks, or exfoliation.
After years of fighting, I ended up with acne-scarred skin and an oil problem that never entirely went away, even as an adult.
I don’t want the same thing to happen to my primary-school daughter.
I’m spending the time now to find out how to help her maintain her beautiful skin. I hope that what I teach her will sink in before she hits those teenage years and refuses to listen to anything I say. 😉
Here are 6 powerful acne-prevention lessons every teen—and their parents—needs to know.
1. Wash those pillowcases.
Want acne? Then go to sleep with your makeup on!
We know how important it is to get every last trace of foundation and mascara off before bed, but there’s another reason you need to make sure your face is clean before bed.
Whatever is on your face will get transferred to your pillowcase during the night.
Then, when you go to sleep the next night, your face will rub up against the gunk from the night before. No wonder you wake up with spots!
The solution is not just to wash your face before bed. It’s also to keep your pillowcases clean.
Dermatologist Debra Jaliman suggests washing your pillowcase every few days, if not daily. She also recommends using fragrance-free detergent and sticking to pillowcases that are 100% cotton. 
2. Get to bed by 10pm.
Teenagers love to stay up, but all those late nights could be taking a toll on their skin.
Nighttime is when your skin renews and restores itself. The hours between 10pm and midnight are particularly important for skin renewal.
So, if your teen isn’t getting enough sleep, it may show up on his/her complexion. Set an earlier bedtime, and you may even get a happier kid.
3. Don’t let your pets lick your face.
We love our pets, and our pets love us. They love us so much they’d lick us all over if they could!
But your pet’s mouth isn’t the cleanest place. When your dog licks your face, it’s covering your skin with bacteria.
By all means, don’t stop snuggling your pet. But try to keep your face away from its fur and tongue.
4. Eat your way to healthier skin.
Why do teenagers today have more acne problems than teens in the past?
In a word, diet.
Teens today consume more sugar, dairy, and gluten than ever before. Foods that are staples of the average teen’s diet—pizza, fried food, fast food, cheese, milk, bread and candy—spike insulin levels and result in inflammation.
I was envious of the kids who ate healthily in high school. (You knew by what their moms packed in their lunch!) They always had much better skin than the rest of us. They didn’t struggle with their weight, either.
What you eat goes straight to your skin as well as hips.
When you eat a low-glycemic diet packed with fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, your skin flourishes.
Of particular importance to acne are probiotics, the good bacteria in your gut that help break down food. When you eat a diet that supports these little guys, you keep inflammation in check and your skin reaps the rewards.
So any journey to better skin needs to start in the gut. Don’t assume you can eat whatever you want and take a probiotic supplement to make up for it. The healthier your diet, the healthier your skin.
5. Stop overcleansing.
I can’t prove that overcleansing caused my excessively oily skin, but I’ve got a hunch it was a contributing factor.
My family believed in washing your face with soap twice a day, and by “soap” they meant bar soap.
Soap strips the natural oils from your face. Instead of leaving you with an oil-free face, excessive cleansing tells your skin to work even harder to put those oils back.
These days, more and more beauty editors are suggesting skipping face wash in the mornings. Just splash your face with warm water. Save your thorough cleansing for nighttime – or after a sweaty workout. (Give doublecleansing a try, especially if you wear makeup.)
One woman I know with a beautiful complexion swears by warm water. She’s never washed her face with soap and never needed to. (She doesn’t wear makeup either, which helps.)
I’m taking that advice to heart. My daughter washes her face with a washcloth and warm water. No soap needed, unless she’s really grubby.
6. Start meditating.
Will meditating really solve skin issues?
Probably not. But coping with stress might.
As an adult, I find that my skin flares up at predictable intervals. PMS can bring on a few spots, but the real killer is stress.
Teenagers have loads of stress. High school can be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Self-acceptance is low and peer pressure is high.
Meditating can help.
In her classic self-help manual You Can Heal Your Life, Louise L. Hay wrote that acne springs from a core belief that you’re not likable or acceptable.
And, lo and behold, teenagers get acne right at the stage in life where they’re most susceptible to disliking themselves.
Helping your kid love and accept him/herself is an unusual way to treat acne, but it could just do the trick.
When you love and accept yourself for who you are, you can ride out stressful situations much more easily. Self-love is a great stress management technique!
It’s not easy to teach, though. That’s where meditation can help.
When you teach your child to meditate, you’re helping him or her see thoughts for what they really are: the mind’s commentary on what’s going on, rather than an accurate picture of reality.
For example, “I look ugly” is just a thought. It’s not the truth of how you look. If you can recognize that’s just a thought, it’s easier to let negative self-commentary pass by.
Surprised there were no products on this list?
We’ve been led to believe by the beauty industry that products are the solution to acne, but products only treat the symptoms.
The 6 tricks I’ve just given you go straight to the cause.
Stress, diet, sleep, and keeping skin clean (without stripping away all its natural oils) all work on the root causes of acne.
Your teenager’s skin suffering might just be the motivation he or she needs to start living a healthier lifestyle.
As parents, we can ALL applaud that!