Why Acne Scars Are More Than Skin Deep for Your Teen

Expert advice on when to step in and help your child

Why Acne Scars Are More Than Skin Deep for Your Teen

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions affecting teenagers. About 80 percent of people between the ages of 11 and 30 have outbreaks at some point in their lives.

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Severe acne has the potential to permanently scar your child’s skin. Teens who suffer from severe acne are at risk for psychological effects as well. Should parents intervene?

Listen to your teen

As many parents know all too well, most teens are highly concerned about fitting in with their friends and classmate. This puts them at risk for psychological effects when they are struggling with persistent, severe acne.

If this is your teen, first make the effort to open up communication with your son or daughter, says pediatric psychologist Kate Eshleman, PsyD. Gently probe to find out if they want medical help to deal with their acne.

“It’s very important to talk with your teenager and to listen to what they’re saying,” Dr. Eshleman says.

Second, try to give your teen some perspective. Yes, it’s not desirable to have a troublesome skin condition. But it’s not the end of the world, either.

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“Because of where teens are in their development, they tend to think in extremes — as though this is the worst thing that could happen to them,” Dr. Eshleman says. “As adults, we need to work with them to show them that’s not true without minimizing their feelings.”

Treat the external and the internal

It’s important for parents to know that if acne is an issue with your child, that you treat the external issue — the skin condition — as well as the internal issue, meaning the way your child is thinking and feeling, Dr. Eshleman says.

It’s also important to validate your child’s need to feel comfortable and confident about the way they look, she says.

So taking your child to a dermatologist for an evaluation can help to jump-start the physical as well as the emotional healing, she says.

This simple action also can build trust between you and your teen and positively reinforces your parental role as someone to turn to for help, Dr. Eshleman says.

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Watch out for warning signs

Because adolescence already is a time filled with fluctuating hormones and emotional ups and downs, it can be easy to miss the signs that acne might be creating a more serious problem, such as depression.

Dr. Eshleman recommends that parents pay close attention to their child’s behavior.

“We always look for changes in behavior,” Dr. Eshleman says. “So if you see differences in the way that your child is eating, the way that they’re sleeping, if their mood seems different, they seem more on edge, or more easily aggravated, those would be things that you might want to investigate a little bit further.”

It’s also important to be mindful of things that happen in school, Dr. Eshleman says. If your child is being teased or picked on about their appearance, it’s important to know that and to be able to address that as well.

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