I remember one of the first times a boy drove me home from a night out together. As we pulled up my driveway and came to a halt, I may have taken more than 5 seconds to exit his vehicle when suddenly the front lights of my house started flashing on and off extremely fast. There was nothing wrong with the power that night. It was my mom. That was her signal for me to get the F inside my house and for said boy to get the F out of my driveway. Subtle mom…really subtle.
Fast forward to 2017. I am now a proud mom to 3 rapidly growing girls. Try as I might to hit the slow down button – they are aging at lightning speed. I know that strobe lights are in my future and I will worry just as my mom did when they are out past 8:15 pm. Even though I would like to think that as moms we hold the power… looking back on those younger years I realize there is only so much we can control. Curfew, dating advice and social media limits will be unchartered territory for me… but there is one thing I DO know about making the teenage years BETTER. It’s a dirty little secret that most parents don’t know about… and this time our girls aren’t trying to screw us…they don’t know about it either.
The little secret is hiding in your teenager’s bathroom.
Let me explain.
The average teenage girl puts 17 products on her body EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
You read that right. 17.
That means that on any given day your girl is exposed to about 200 chemicals through her personal care products like mascara, lip gloss and deodorant.
And why should we give a shit?
All of these chemicals are absorbed into her skin and bloodstream.
And in case her emotional shifts aren’t enough of an indication – a girls body is going through enormous developmental changes during the teen years. From bone and brain function to hormonal system changes to metabolism… shit is getting real.
During this window of time, teeny tiny levels of hormones are what shape a girls development. So when little miss makeup kit comes in with her seemingly innocent dose of who knows what – it is easy for the body to interpret those chemicals as natural and change function accordingly. In the science world we call these shit disturbers “endocrine disruptors.” Suffice it to say they have just enough power to mess things up (think neurobehavioral problems, cancer cell growth and obesity).
Many teen girls are entering puberty earlier than they were a generation ago—in part due to childhood and in-utero exposures to endocrine disruptors. Early puberty puts girls at a higher risk for later-life breast cancer, and the shortened childhood has other implications including an increased risk of depression.
As a mom to three girls I give a lot of fucks about a lot of things… but I give an especially big one to making sure I do whatever I can to keep my kids safe and healthy. Given that teens also have a mind of their own, I am working to teach my kids why all this stuff matters. I’m hoping that when it comes time for them to buy their own products they will ask some of the same questions I am asking now.
Last summer there was a study conducted where 100 teenage girls were asked to discontinue use of products that contained certain hormone disrupting chemicals. The findings were crazy. After just three days there was a significant drop in levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals in their bloodstream. This study proved what many of us already knew to be true – the products we choose do make a difference.
So what’s an oblivious mom to do?
First of all, encourage your daughter to limit the number of products used. Less is more. If the things I mentioned above aren’t enough to make her care, you can tell her that the use of cosmetics can also cause skin damage and acne.
Secondly, there is a free app from the Environmental Working Group that anyone can download. It is called “Healthy Living.” We can use this app to look up the products that we already have and get safety information on them. We can also search and scan labels for BETTER alternatives. Encourage your daughter to download this herself. It will take her 30 seconds to figure it out (trust me, I have tested this with many teen girls). Instead of you lecturing her on what is good and bad you will be giving her the tools to figure that out herself. More and more teens are seeking out companies that don’t test on animals. Remind your kid that companies shouldn’t test on humans either.
But your kid really does need some skincare and she wants to wear makeup too… What now?
Learning to take care of our skin is a normal part of growing up. Unfortunately, having acne is a very normal part of growing up too.
Here is my quick and easy guide to keeping skin clean and healthy.
First of all we should all be sure to:
- drink enough water
- eat plenty of whole foods
- wear sunscreen every day
Kids aren’t really thinking about aging and wrinkles but good habits start early and sun damage is cumulative – which means it adds over a lifetime and shows up later in the form of wrinkles, skin issues and cancers. A safe, mineral based sunscreen like this one is key. (For more on sunscreen safety click here).
Once teenagers start to experience oily skin or breakouts it is time to start cleansing every day. It’s easy to start with evening cleansing. This may be something to do in the shower. Face cleansers are better than soap because they are more gentle and less irritating. Things to keep in mind with cleansing:
- make sure hands are clean
- wash well around the jawbone and hairline
- pat gently after washing to leave some moisture on the skin
Athletes may need to cleanse more often and might want to toss a face wash in their gym bag.
You’ve heard it before and you will hear it again. Tempting as popping can be… pimples should be left alone. Popping them can lead to marks, scars and irritation.
If your teen notices his/her skin feels dry, a moisturizer can be helpful. Skin needs hydration and nutrition and a good, clean product should give it just that.
Aside from these products (sunscreen, cleanser & moisturizer) there really isn’t much else that is needed for young skin. A clay mask is fun and a gentle exfoliator can be nice to use a few days a week… but more is not better when it comes to teens and skin care.
Here are my favorite product picks for teen skin.
1. Sunscreen: Non-nano zinc oxide based formula that I love because it is light, has a nice scent and rubs in clear.
2.Charcoal Bar: This bar contains activated charcoal, coconut oil and green tea and can be used on the body or face. It is perfect for anyone who struggles with breakouts or who tends to have oily skin.
3. Nourishing Cream Cleanser:Super every day cleanser for normal skin. Very hydrating and non-drying.
4. Nourishing Exfoliator: Can be used 2-3 days a week instead of cleanser. It is very creamy and gentle. The jojoba beads are used in place of harsh abrasive and toxic microbeads. Great for teens with drier skin.
5. Charcoal Mask: This mask contains charcoal, kaolin clay and peppermint. The charcoal draws out impurities and it exfoliates leaving the skin softer and clearer.
6. Nourishing Night Cream: This night cream is lightweight and non-greasy. It will help the skin stay hydrated and nourished.
7. When it comes to makeup, teenagers have their own ideas. But sticking with a safe line of cosmetics that is free of harmful ingredients but also contaminants like heavy metals is key. I love the way this Beautycounter makeup looks on women of all ages.
If you still think this whole clean beauty movement is a little overblown check this out. Alarming but not uncommon…and always BETTER to err on the side of caution.
For questions, skin-specific recommendations, to schedule a get together with your teen or any other information feel free to reach out! firstname.lastname@example.org