Simplifying Science


Almost every tween or teen is going to deal with it sometime, somewhere (face, chest, back, AKA bacne). Really, it’s the rare kid who goes completely unscathed. This piece has some good basic info but it totally buries the lead, IMO. Because every kid I know - and that includes my own - is highly motivated to do something about it. They want the basic info shared here, but they also want strategies. So here’s what we do in my house:

1. Face washing and tooth brushing happen together, twice a day - it’s just a habit, so get used to it. We change up the cleanser from time to time. I haven’t found a perfect one quite yet, but I am a big believer in clean products with no colors, perfumes, parabens, you know the list...

2. Sunscreen in the am, and a mild exfoliant in the pm. One of my kids has trickier skin than the other, so we have had to change up the routine with different post-cleansing ingredients. Talk to your pediatrician or dermatologist. The general approach is to try something for a couple of weeks, see if it works, and if not try something else. Annoyingly, this is the gold standard.

3. Steam! Best part of the ritual is a post-cleansing steam every few days that my son - yes, my son, even more than my daughter - loves. No dermatologist has ever recommended it to me but it seems to work wonders. Just pour a little boiling water on a washcloth, covering an area about the size of your hand, and let it cool for a moment. Then wave the steamy (it shouldn’t be so cool that it doesn’t steam) towel over the face, close but not touching the skin. You don’t want to burn the face, and a super hot towel or even high-intensity steam can do that. Once the damp towel cools down significantly, drape it over the face for a few seconds and the gently wipe away the water that has settled on the skin.

4. And finally, water in the body, not just on the skin!! This one gets 2 exclamation points because, again, no one ever mentions it. A clean diet low in sugar is important for good skin, but drinking water is just as critical, maybe more so. When my kids are well-hydrated, I see it on their faces in so many ways. And let me tell you, when the acne crops disappear they are motivated to drink even more.

Got your own tips? Please share!

Acne appeared sporadically at first when Sophia Steinberg was in the eighth grade, but within two years she said her face, chest and back were covered with embarrassing lesions of cystic acne.

“I was very self-conscious, deeply insecure and anxious,” Sophia, a Brooklyn high school student, told me. “I would wake up ashamed for my face. I felt so unattractive all the time. I had to use so much makeup and wear concealing clothing. I avoided doing presentations in front of the class...READ MORE