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Tips for Teenage Skin & Hair

By Amalah

Hola Amalah:

I’ve recently been put in charge of putting together a three part panel to teach the young girls in my church congregation about taking care of their bodies. (Why me? Yeah, I’m not sure either.) I’ve found someone to come and teach about nutrition and another women to come and teach about how to dress appropriately and how to take proper care of clothing. Now I just need someone to teach about hair and skin care. This is where you come in.

Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to fly to Seattle to teach the teenager girls. (I know how you feel about teenagers!)

I’ve not been able to find anyone to teach this portion. I decided that since I can’t find anyone to teach for me that I’d just do it. Problem is that I’m not really an “expert”. I figured I could pull some info from the Advice Smackdown and just present it to the girls. Needless to say I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading the Advice Smackdown archives today, and while I’ve found a ton of useful info, it really is geared towards us adult ladies. I’m not sure if teenage skin and hair is much different then adult skin and hair (except for the lack of wrinkles and gray strands here and there).

So, is it different? Should I be teaching the girls something totally different than my “adult” skin and hair routines? It must be noted that the girls range in ages from 12 to 18, so about half of them aren’t even wearing make-up (yet!).

I would appreciate any advice you (and the AS readers) could share with me, so that I can share it with these girls.

As always, keep on rocking. You do much good around the interweb.


Oh, how I wish I’d had someone like you in my life back when I was a teenager, when I had no idea how to deal with my hair and skin and had even less of an idea about all the harm I was doing to do it. So, thank you for at least putting the effort and realizing that this is actually a pretty useful topic — beyond the teen magazines’ tips on PERFECT PROM MAKEUP or EYELASHES TO GET U NOTICED BY BOYZZZOMG. Skin and hair health. Avoiding mistakes that you pay for later. Like now, when you’re old. Like us.

Of course, teenage hair and skin IS like adult-lady hair and skin in one way: Everybody is different. Perhaps you could offer a little one-on-one consultation time with each girl? Just to help them identify whether their skin is normal/dry/oily/combination? Quick hair health assessment and pointers on what type of shampoo and conditioner might be best for them? I know I would have appreciated that — for YEARS I was sure my skin and hair were full-on oily and used every product on earth to fix the problem. Turns out my skin was actually combination and needed to be treated a wee bit gentler. I never even used moisturizer because I was sure moisture = zits. And I had no idea how bad all those shampoos for oily hair were on (at-home, from-a-box) colored hair, and that just because my scalp was oily, I still needed to condition.

Beyond that, I guess I will start things off with a few things I wish someone had told me back in junior high.

Tips for skin and hair care for teens

1) Wash your face. Wash your hands. Keep them from coming in contact with each other as much as possible. I was always touching my face with my hands. Totally awful for your pores and blemishes. I was also entirely too cavalier about slapping on tons of makeup and not remembering to remove it properly at night. Bar soaps are bad for dry skin, scrubs aren’t good for anyone: the best bet is a gentle liquid face wash.

2) And on that note, you’re going to have this same skin when you’re OLD. Be gentle with it. My whole thing? About using balancing skin and hair products instead of throwing the harshest thing you can find at the problem? Totally applies to teenage skin. Crap, I used to swap out my face toner with STRAIGHT RUBBING ALCOHOL during breakouts, and thought I was a total genius for coming up with that one. Then I’d use an acne mask and a spot treatment and no moisturizer. A quick science lesson in that whole pH balance business would have been helpful.

3) Wear sunscreen. All the time. Not just at the beach. You can get sun damage on cloudy days.

4) Your hair may grow out, but the quality of the new growth depends on how well you’re treating what’s already there. Hair dye, perms, straighteners, heat styling = really rough on your hair. Proceed with caution. Be really, really sure about chemically altering your hair.

5) For general all-purpose hair upkeep: shampoo just your roots, condition only your ends. Comb your hair out while it’s sopping wet, use a heat protectant if you’re flat-ironing. Don’t sleep with a ponytail in. Homemade hair masks (avocado, mayo, etc.) are fun for sleepovers and goooood for your hair.

6) Diet matters. And I don’t just mean “chocolate gives you zits!” old wives’ tales. Just a quick talk about how what you put into your body affects you in ways beyond the bathroom scale. Junk food, excess salt, artificial and overly-processed crap can be to blame for some skin and hair problems. And likewise, the stuff you put ON your hair and skin should be chosen with care. It’s never too early to start thinking critically about fragrance, parabens, chemicals and animal testing.

7) Zits totally suck. Everybody gets them, they’re always worse around your period and no, don’t squeeze and pick at them and NO, you really really aren’t going to die alone and unloved and unpopular because of them.

8) For really terrible teen acne, follow the regimen from Hands down, it’s the most sensible approach for zits ever.

9) For teenage undereye circles: It’s usually a lack of sleep and/or dehydration, unlike the ones us Olds get as our skin thins and ages. Teabags, cucumber slices and a yellow- or apricot-tinted concealer are magic.

10) Remember that the “natural look” in magazines requires two makeup artists, three hairstylists, four hours, fake eyelashes and a pantsload of Photoshop. It’s okay that you don’t look like that, because NO ONE DOES.

What say the rest of you? If you could go back in time and tell your teenaged-self just one thing about her hair and skincare regimen, what would it be?


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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