Monday, 01 July 2013 11:23

The Psychology of Treating Teen Acne

Written by   Laura Cooksey, owner of face reality acne clinic

It is no secret that the teenage years can be tough, even in the best of scenarios. Most teenagers are awkwardly finding their way through the social dynamics of high school, dealing with rapidly changing bodies and hormones, and wrestling with feelings of shame regarding these changes, all while trying to keep up with homework, sports, social activities and family obligations. So when teenagers start getting acne, it can be emotionally devastating. Self-consciousness, depression, shame and despondency can dominate a teenager's emotional life in these years.

While the process of treating teenage acne is exactly the same as the process of treating adult acne, one should approach the teenage client differently. There are several factors that an aesthetician should take into account when treating teenage acne to ensure your client will successfully overcome their acne problem.

Whose Idea is It?

If the teenager's parents want clear skin for their teenager but the teenager really could not care less, there is absolutely no chance of success. If the teenager would rather be out playing basketball with his friends instead of dealing with his acne problem, you will have to sit the parent down and have a heart-to-heart talk with him or her. There is no need to take the money of any hardworking parent when the teenager is unwilling to commit to a daily skin care regimen. After discussing this with the teenager's parent, allow the teenager and the parents to make the final decision about whether or not they will continue with some form of treatment.

Are They Ready?

There are some teenagers who will enthusiastically say that they are on board and willing to do whatever it takes to get clear skin. However, when it comes to actually following their skin care routine, they fall short – skipping several times a week or just not doing it at all. If you suspect that a teenage client is being noncompliant, try asking them to go through their regimen step-by-step, just to see if they are familiar with it. This is also a good time to see if the client is using all of the products correctly. You may also be able to tell by the condition of their skin whether or not the client has been using their products. There is a certain way the skin looks and feels when acne products are used; oftentimes the skin will be a little dehydrated. If you still cannot tell, check your accounting records to see if the client is using up products in a timely manner. Figure out how long it takes to go through products, on average, and see if the client has been repurchasing products in the correct time frame. Another tactic is to give a particularly noncompliant client a regimen that you know will dry out their skin. I tend to do this with teenage boys who do not really care if their skin is dry or not. If their skin is not dry the next time I see them, then I know they are not doing their at-home care.

Ask the Right Questions in the Right Way

If you suspect that a client is not doing his or her routine at home, do not ask, "Are you using your skin care products?" The answer to that will always be yes. In order to get more information, ask, "Do you ever skip your skin care routine?" This will elicit a more honest answer. If the client does say yes, ask, "How many times a week do you skip your routine?" Another way to ask is, "On a scale of one to 10, one is you really do not care and 10 being you want your skin to improve, what number describes your desire for clear skin?" Teenage clients almost always say 10 – they really want their skin to improve. Then ask, "On a scale of one to 10, how willing are you to do everything we tell you to do to get clear skin?" Some will say, "Well, I will try to do a 10." It is important to tell your clients that trying is not good enough. You can then repeat the question to get a true number. Some clients will say five or seven, and I point out that anything below a 10 – the maximum level of effort on their part – will not work. Asking in this way helps your client let go of their own ideas about what they want to do and understand what they will have to do in order to achieve the results they are looking for.
If a client is skipping home care, patiently explain why they will never achieve clear skin. Most acne systems keep new acne from forming, so when a person skips their skin care routine, a microcomedone is allowed to form. Since it may not surface until 30 to 90 days later, it may appear that a person is getting away with skipping their skin care routine. In reality, all they have done is created a delayed breakout. One strategy I sometimes employ is to pare down a client's home care regimen. I will only include products that are absolutely necessary for keeping a client's skin clear in order to make their routine as simple
as possible.


Many teenagers are very sensitive to extractions and can be scared of them. To help a particularly sensitive client, you can have them breathe with you as you do the extractions. More importantly, give them permission to end the extraction session if it is too painful for them. Most teenagers do not feel like they have a say in what happens to them. In this instance, you want to make sure they do have a say. Even if a teenager tells you to proceed with extractions, constantly check in with them, asking, "How are you doing with this? May I continue?" Some will not say anything, but begin to cry, hinting that it may be time to end the session for that day. Another strategy is to have them bring a music device with headphones so that they can listen to their own music during extractions to give them a bit of a distraction.


Always have successful before and after pictures on hand to show your teenage clients. It is important to inspire them and give them hope that their skin can clear so that they will be more compliant in their skin routine. A picture is certainly worth 1,000 words, especially when it comes to acne. Most of the time, teenage clients can be a joy to work with. Many of them are excited by the prospect of having clear skin and are willing to follow the protocol. But if you have a teenage client who does not or cannot follow your advice to make it happen, it is best to just let them wait until they are ready.

Want to read more?

Subscribe to one of our monthly plans to continue reading this article.

Login to post comments

Skin Care Blogs

Scope This

body { overflow-y: auto; } html, body { min-width: unset; }