Teens and Skin Care: Creating Great Habits for Life
One of my favorite parts about being an esthetician is being able to help busy women learn important skin care habits that they can pass on to their children. Just in time for back to school, in this article, originally printed in Dermascope Magazine, I share how you can help Moms and their teens create great skin care habits that will benefit them all their life.
The first thing that usually comes to mind when thinking about teenage skin care is acne treatments. A teenager, or even tween, will usually make their first visit to a spa in a state of desperation, no longer able to self-manage a condition that has probably spiraled out of control and has now become visibly and physically uncomfortable. Furthermore, the treatment of cystic or impacted acne lesions can be very uncomfortable. Lancing acne lesions and the application of antibacterial products can create a negative impression on young clients, resulting in them having a negative impression of the spa.
More importantly, the impact of severe skin problems at an early age can significantly lower self-esteem at a time when teenagers are emotionally and psychologically vulnerable.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
Fortunately, it does not have to be this way; proper skin care is as much an essential part of a young person’s education as proper diet and lifestyle habits. Adequate skin care also needs to be introduced at a young age. Like environmental protection, learning about the necessity of proper skin care as early as the tween years can make a big difference in a young person’s quality of life. Young people do not have to, and should not, wait for acne to appear to start practicing good skin care habits. Acceptable skin care practices, including thorough and relaxing homecare and spa treatments, will prevent costly dermatology treatments and a negative self-image.
It may take a shift in ideology to believe that a child as early as eight years old needs to start practicing good skin care to prevent acne and other skin problems. According to a 2011 study in Pediatric Dermatology, which assessed an estimated 93 million patients, physician visits for acne by children ages six to 18 is rising. Furthermore, research is finding that hormonal changes leading to puberty, and the subsequent onset of hormonal skin changes leading to acne, are happening far earlier than was imagined. The Medical Journal of Pediatrics recently cited that acne is very common in children ages seven to 12. According to physicians, this is the result of an earlier onset of adrenarche, the process in which adrenal or hormonal glands first start to kick into adulthood. In addition, according to Mintel, the average age of puberty dropped from 12.5 in 1980 to 10.5 in 2010.
Just as older teenagers do during puberty, this younger age group is spending money. The 20 million eight- to 12-year-olds in the United States are spending $30 billion of their own money and $150 million of their parent’s money every year. It is important that this money is invested wisely into their future health and well-being. To do this, skin care professionals need to introduce healthy skin concepts to young people early and continue their education throughout their teenage years to firmly establish habits that will benefit their skin and life going forward.
The Importance of pH
Too often, the skin care professional looks at addressing sebum production in younger clients to curtail acne and promote healthy skin. While sebum is an important factor in teenage skin, maintaining the proper pH balance is equally, if not more, important to creating a healthy complexion.
Sebum is manufactured in the sebaceous glands of the skin that are located at the root of the hair follicle in the dermis; these glands secrete sebum along the hair shaft. The purpose of sebum is to maintain skin softness and pliability. Sebum is commonly referred to as oil when, in fact, it is an oily,lipid-rich film that covers the skin’s surface. It mixes with perspiration to make the skin’s surface slightly acidic, which helps to keep some bacteria from proliferating. The sebum coating also helps to retain water in the skin tissue by slowing the evaporation from the skin’s surface.
A skin care professional must understand pH and its effects on the hair, skin, and scalp. The pH is a unit of measurement that indicates whether a substance is acidic, neutral, or alkaline. Just as degrees measure temperature and inches measure distance, pH measures the amount of acid or alkali in a water-based solution. When dealing with water-based skin care products, it is essential to understand which products have a high or low pH and why. Only solutions that contain water can dissolve in water can have an acidic or alkaline nature. A solution is either acidic or alkaline depending on the number of positive hydroxide ions or negative hydrogen ions it contains. An ion is an atom that has gained or lost electrons. If a solution has more positive hydrogen ions than negative hydroxide ions, it is acidic; if it has more negative hydroxide ions, it is alkaline. When a solution has equal number of hydrogen and hydroxide ions, it is neutral.
The pH measurement scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being in the center of the scale and considered neutral. Numbers lower than 7 are considered acidic while numbers greater than 7 indicate alkaline. The natural, ideal pH of skin is between 4.5 and 5 on the pH scale. Many people do not know that the pH scale is logarithmic, meaning that the quantities that go up and down are not small increments but are significantly higher or lower. For example, sometimes a slight tingle can be felt when an orange is peeled and the juice makes contact with the skin. That reaction is because the pH of an orange is 2. While this does not seem that far from the skin’s natural pH, the reality is that it is almost 1,000 times more acidic than skin.
As mentioned, proper pH is what helps to contribute to the skin’s protective acid mantle. This covering provides a suitable environment for skin to grow and function. Altering the pH of the skin with products or treatments can compromise the acid mantle, allowing for a cascade of problems to erupt, especially acne.
With the onset of puberty, hormone levels begin to rise and can stimulate skin glands to manufacture sebum. Acne onset begins when sebum mixes with excess dead skin cells on the skin, creating a mixture that clogs the pores. Bacteria can grow in this mixture, causing an infection that can spread into nearby tissues and cause swelling, redness, and pus formation. Proper maintenance of pH can kill bacteria before it has a chance to proliferate into the sebum mixture.
With more tweens and teenagers stressed and depleted from spending the majority of their time in front of electronics, there has never been more of a need for young people to engage their senses and enjoy the soothing, time-out refreshment of a great facial massage and treatment, one that relaxes and nourishes the skin.
The professional’s first consideration should be to make the teenage client feel at home; one way to create this comfort, and also a way to market services, is to offer teenage-specific treatments on the menu. This customization can capture the attention of parents whose teenagers may have skin care concerns and also makes treatments less intimidating for teenagers. Corresponding with this should be parent and teenage specials. This duo offering can create a more comfortable environment for a teenager who might not be used to a spa setting. It also allows for bonding time that parents will appreciate.
Professionals can also recharge the teenager’s senses with multi-sensorial experiences before, during, and after their treatment. Offer them delicious drinks and tidbits that coincide with the ingredients they are about to experience in their facial. Put interesting and fun items on display to make the reception area look fun and play music that appeals to the younger client during their treatment times.
Remember that when dealing with teenagers, it is important to incorporate a fun element into the mix. Encourage selfies and social media usage during the treatment or offer to take pictures of them with a face mask on. This motion also creates that feeling of comfort and ease that teenagers can appreciate. It can even be a way to give the business a little attention on social media.
Create a menu of services for tweens and teenagers that can be a treat as well as treat their skin. Combine the potent benefits of natural skin care ingredients with delicious flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, mixed berry, and green tea to create custom and freshly-blended facials. With these combinations, a fun, relaxing facial treatment that provides real, nutritive benefits to the skin, while also stimulating the senses with wonderful aromas, can be provided.
The time during and after spa treatments is ideal for education. Professionals should take caution, however, not to preach. Teenagers respect when they are treated and talked to like adults. Always provide a thorough explanation in simple terms so that they can easily understand what is being performed on their skin. Inform them of some of the things they may not know, including the fact that that their cell phone may be causing their breakouts or the effect that staying up too late has on their skin. Recommend a treatment they will both benefit from and enjoy and explain how it will help their skin concerns. Finally, always educate clients on the importance of wearing environmental protection. A little education can go a long way.
The Perfect Teenage Facial
A soothing facial treatment that combines a fun, beneficial face mask with calming massage can counteract a week of sedentary fixation on the computer and phones. The following are some important considerations when giving a calming, fun facial.
Cleansing and proper toning is the key to maintaining a healthy, pH-balanced acid mantle. Too many teenagers are over-aggressive with their cleansing and astringents, leading to the production of additional sebum, irritation, and possible infections. Aggression can be in chemical form (the overuse of overly acidic or alkaline products, such as alpha hydroxy acids) or physical form (the use of harsh abrasive exfoliants and at-home cleansing machines). Conversely, a young person may not be cleansing their face well enough or at all.
Use time with the young client to not only perform a deep cleaning, but also to educate them on the proper way to cleanse at home. Teenagers need a cleanser with a mild surfactant and ingredients that help to purify, deep cleanse, and soothe, such as green, white, and rooibos tea; St. John’s Wort; seaweed; chamomile. Be sure to make teenagers aware that specific oil ingredients are not going to increase skin oiliness or clog pores. The molecular weight and quality of the oil has an affinity to the skin, moisturizing without clogging pores.
Teenagers that are starting to show signs of acne can use cleansers that incorporate beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid into their formula. Salicylic acid is a mild acid exfoliant from willow bark that is oil-soluble and able to penetrate and help to slough off dead skin cells that are sebum or oil impacted.
Using the finger tips, never the fingernails, the cleanser should be applied to the face in upward, circular motions to gently lift away grime, dirt, excess sebum, and dead skin cells. Thoroughly remove the cleanser with cotton saturated in lukewarm water. For the homecare regimen, the young client may be advised to follow with the application of a balancing toner to restore the proper pH of the skin and the protective acid mantle.
The Facial Massage
Skin care professionals often forget that they possess a very special gift: the license to touch. The simple act of tactile contact through massage can lift depression, strengthen the immune system, improve sleep patterns, decrease the production of stress hormones, and reduce stress. Adult clients should be made aware of these life-enhancing benefits, especially at a time when their children truly need holistic treatment. Professionals are privileged to possess the training and certification that enables making truly life-altering differences in young people’s lives.
When performing a facial massage on a younger client, keep it light and brief, incorporating soothing, effleurage movements with gentle pressure to help relax.
Use a soothing massage cream with skin-softening ingredient (such as coconut) and moisturizing and protective ingredients. Warm the cream between the hands before beginning the massage.
Starting from the neck area, use the full palm to gently glide in an upward motion. Continue gliding up the neck towards the facial area, alternating hands and continuing effleurage on the sides of the face and the frontalis muscle across the forehead. Using the finger pads, lightly tap the skin in key areas. Continue tapping for approximately 30 seconds.
Resume effleurage movements and work with both hands simultaneously. Move upwards on the side of the face, switch hands on the forehead, and move downwards towards the chin area. Switch hands again to return upwards. Repeat this action several times in smooth movements.
Proceed to perform Shiatsu pressure points on key areas of the face. Apply a gentle pressure using the pads of the thumb and index fingers; hold the pressure for three to five seconds.
Perform effleurage again, moving the palms in an upward motion on the sides of the face and across the frontalis muscle on the forehead. End by applying pressure on the temples with the index and middle finger, holding the pressure for a few moments. Leave the remaining cream on the face and proceed with the next steps of the facial.
The Fun, Flavorful Masks
Anyone from ages 8 to 80 can enjoy the soothing, hydrating benefits of an alginate mask. This seaweed-based medium goes on soft and creamy but solidifies into a gel that seals moisture into the skin. This mask is easily rolled off the face in one piece and presents a fun experience for the younger client market.
The alginate base can be blended with any number of potent organic ingredients that add skin-enhancing benefits. These additions will increase the sensorial and pleasurable experience of the mask. Nutriceutical-level ingredients, such as chocolate, vanilla, pumpkin, matcha, and mixed berries, all have intensive moisturizing and soothing benefits that create the perfect complexion for both young and mature clients.
When compared to the usual purifying mud or clay masks used for acne treatment, this is a very different experience. While these masks are an important tool in treating acne-prone skin, it is beneficial for both the mind and body to be supplemented with a more soothing and enjoyable mask, as well to keep the spa a safe haven of relaxation and wellness.
As an additional step, the young client could be asked if they want to have soothing and calming eye pads placed over their eyes while the mask is setting.
After the mask has set, remove the eye pads, gently roll the flavorful mask off the face, and clean off any mask residue with moistened cotton.
The Finishing Moisturizer
Moisturizing creams and gels may seem to be the antithesis of oil-prone teenage skin, but nothing could be further from the truth. Products that restore the skin’s natural moisturizing factors are as essential to promoting a healthy, acne-free complexion as maintaining pH balance. Proper moisture balance strengthens the skin from bacterial infection and provides the best environment for optimum skin performance. Skin cell exfoliation and sebum production will regulate better, preventing clogs and possible eruptions. Seaweed-based moisturizers provide intense moisturization without clogging pores.
Finish the facial with a light massage of the appropriate moisturizer, educating the teenage client on how to apply their homecare regimen as well. Finish at the temples, gently holding for a few moments before releasing.
This service should finish as fun as it starts. Professionals can provide clients with more fun smoothies and tidbits while retail products are recommended. Be sure to recommend the best products for their skin before they leave, but keep in mind that they do not have to buy into an entire regimen! The essentials are a good cleanser, a balancing toner, a lightweight moisturizer, and a protective cream; this last product is non-negotiable. Instruct the young client on the importance of wearing a product that protects their skin from environmental aggressors, such as ultraviolet light and pollution, emphasizing that this is as important a step as brushing their teeth. The best choice is non-comedogenic environmental protection that contains a mineral-based UV protectant, such as zinc, and antioxidant ingredients that also nurture the skin.
“Teens and Skin Care: Creating Great Habits for Life” is reprinted from Dermascope Magazine, pages 57-63, Volume 4, Issue 2016.