I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear a dermatologist say that protection from the sun must begin at birth. No matter where you live in the world, early protection includes direct sun avoidance and cover up, with the addition of a broad spectrum sunscreen when a child is six months or older.
However, the precise age to start an anti-aging skincare regime varies considerably from person to person, so the best judgement of when to start is made between the young patient, their parents and - if necessary - their doctor.
The ideal age to start a regime does not differ between boys and girls, but in my experience boys will often delay starting a skin treatment programme later than girls.
If someone is lucky enough to go through their childhood, pre-teen and teen years with little or no skin problems then a regime may be as simple as using a broad spectrum sun protection moisturising day cream year round and an effective, yet mild cleanser twice a day.
Avoid harsh ingredients
There is no need to start rejuvenation or anti-ageing creams or use creams with ingredients that can be harsh and drying.
Retinols and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can reduce the skin's protective barrier and can cause or aggravate already sensitive skin.
Look for cleansers specifically developed and tested for sensitive skin and target the appropriate skin type, for example dry skin, oily or combination skin. Use a daily moisturiser that is non-comedogenic (i.e. one that doesn't block pores!) and combines both UVA and UVB sun protection, Night creams are not essential at a young age unless you have particularly dry skin.
Suffer from acne? Then, start a regime...
The most common complaint in preteens and teenagers is spots. These can range from one or two spots to severe acne. The ideal time to start a regime is at the onset of acne, spots, blemishes, blackheads, whiteheads, and skin oiliness.
Acne starts in response to increasing production of androgen hormones. Androgens stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce increasing amounts of sebaceous oil or sebum. The increased sebaceous gland activity is associated with 'plugging' or blocking of the opening of the sebaceous ducts. This 'plugging' is seen on the surface of the skin as blackheads and whiteheads. Acne bacterium flourish in these blocked ducts, and acne can appear inflammed because of attempts by our skin to contain the growth of bacteria.
What's the best skincare for teen acne?
For teenage and pre-teenage blemishes and acne, choose products that reduce blackheads, and whiteheads, control skin surface sebaceous oil and reduce inflamed spots and blemishes by reducing inflammation. Successful treatments will in turn reduce skin darkening, discolouration, and development of scars.
What ingredients should you look out for?
Salicylic Acid - reduces the accumulation of blackheads and whiteheads by reducing the plugging of the sebaceous pores. Salicylic Acid works by reducing the stickiness of the skin cells thus helping to clear the keratotic plugs or comedones. Some formulations can be drying and irritating for the skin.
Vitamin A – prescription gels, lotions and creams derived from this are tretinoin, isotretinoin and adapalene. They can be helpful but some people cannot tolerate them because they can cause skin dryness and irritancy.
Antibacterial - includes Benzoyl Peroxide or prescription topical antibiotics such as Erythromycin lotions and gels. Problems with Benzoyl Peroxide include skin irritancy with some products and bleaching of clothes, bedding and towels.
What about antibiotic resistance?
One concern about topical and oral antibiotics is that they can lead to bacterial antibiotic resistance. There are concerns by skin doctors worldwide, about increasing antibiotic resistance as they may not be effective when needed for other illnesses. Some oral antibiotics can lead to stomach pain, indigestion and other side effects.We have recently developed new products, Acclenz, that combine treatments that help to reduce excess surface oil, encourage skin cell shedding and calm blemish prone skin, using natural antibacterials, eucalyptus extract, and a synthetic antibacterial, chlorhexidine that is not an antibiotic.
Stick it out – success comes if a regime works for you!
The secret for a successful regime that will continue to be used is to have products that do not cause skin stinging, dryness or irritancy, do not discolour clothing or towels and do not run risks of antibiotic resistance and other side effects.