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What do the above mentioned youngsters have in common? All of them suffer from skin conditions that they could probably have avoided. They have another factor in common too. All of them belong to the 13 to 20 age group. Dermatologists Dr Sunil Tolat, Dr Dilip Shah and Dr Narendra Patwardhan elaborate on the common skin conditions that affect this age group, and how these could be overcome with the help of allopathy and cosmetology. Also, take a look at some alternative therapies available in the market.

A balanced physical and emotional personality is a prerequisite to success. Until now, beauty and its pursuit has always been the domain of the fairer sex. However, now, things have changed. Today, one finds generation X boys visiting all–male beauty parlors and gymnasiums with the same aim in mind. Actually speaking, beauty is only skin deep! Yes, beautiful and glowing skin is a reflection of good general health of your body. Hygiene and good habits keep illness away. If we imbibe and practice good habits, we are less likely to fall prey to disease. Why not put it into practice from an early age and make it a habit.

Puberty, nature’s way of preparing your body for the big task of regeneration of the human species is a natural phenomenon. The onset of puberty varies from person to person. Generally this phenomenon takes place between 12 years to 14 years of age. It is a stage when boys and girls start becoming conscious of their body and their physical appearance. A commonplace occurrence during teens is pimples. In fact, every teenager has had to fight a battle with pimples. You get up one morning and look into the mirror and wonder how you’ve got them.

Well, here is how they break out on your face. Hormonal changes occurring during puberty expose your skin to heat and humidity. This triggers an eruption of pimples. But, why do they occur at all? A changed hormonal level during puberty stimulates sebaceous glands which secrete more sebum (a greasy substance that lubricates hair and skin), say doctors.

How do teenagers react to this significant change? At this age, girls become conscious of their face, while boys are more conscious of their body, says clinical psychologist Sangita Thakur Wadnerkar. “The hormonal aspect is a natural phenomenon. Even if teenagers do not have any skin–related problems, they still feel they don’t look good”, she reveals. The sensitivity level in teenagers is high as they want to be accepted socially and by their friends.

“Even one pimple on the face gives rise to stress. Stress by itself could cause skin rashes”, she adds. Quite often, teenaged girls resort to cosmetics to cover these blemishes. This may only aggravate the problem. To add to their problems, teenagers have no one to tell them about hygiene and the need to maintain good dietary habits.

What do you know about your skin?
There are more than 1,000 skin–related maladies. Some are rare, some are infective while some are genetic. Most skin–related problems are partly hereditary and partly a part and parcel of our day–to–day routine.

The common skin–related complaints of the 13 to 20 year olds are white heads and black heads of acne, oily skin, dry skin, recurring dandruff, hair loss, facial pigmentation, sun allergies, eczema, and fungal infections in the underarm and groin areas. Skin allergies like candiasis and tinea are also common.

Stress is also a major perpetrator of skin–related problems and can cause acne, hair loss and thin, stringy hair. Pollution is another factor that can aggravate sun–related allergies, cause pimples and facial pigmentation (nutritional dischromi/ post–inflammatory hypo–pigmentation in medical lingo).

If you live in dry climate areas and are of the dry skin type, exposure to ultraviolet rays can lead to sun–related allergies and rashes could appear on the exposed areas of the skin. Kids who play in public gardens are also prone to get allergic rashes (artopic dermatitis inherent in childhood manifests).

Scientifically, cheese and chocolates are also triggering factors. “These can cause urtucaria or red nettal rash/hives (allergy to tomato/peanut butter etc). Nowadays, food rashes are on the increase as lesser number of teenagers eat hygienic, home cooked meals and prefer to eat fast food instead” says dermatologist Dr Sunil Tolat.

Some skin–related problems like molluscum contagegusum occur especially in slums and are contracted by skin–to–skin contact. There are certain skin manifestations if one contracts venereal disease as well.

The role hygiene plays
How can the 13 to 20 year olds cope with skin–related problems? Staying clean, observing good dietary habits and regular exercise are the best safeguards. If your body is healthy, your hair will also be healthy and no amount of shampooing or conditioning can help you otherwise. Wash your hair and body at least once a day. Skin specialist and cosmetologist Dr Dilip Shah maintains that the right kind of soap solves 50 per cent of the problem. Use mild bath soaps. These cause minimum irritation to the skin, give it a suppleness and also act as a cleansing agent. Your skin will remain soft not due to its oil content but because of its hydration. Applying a good moisturizer after bath is effective. Refrain from using medicated soaps as these can give rise to sun exposed rashes, cautions Dr Shah. Those having dry skin should use soap twice or thrice in a week especially in areas of sweating.

Steaming twice a week is good for oily skin types as it opens pores. But do not expose your body or face to cold shower immediately after steaming or sauna bath, cautions Dr Shah. After working out in a gymnasium, don’t leave sweat on your skin. Your skin is sensitive to your own sweat. Uric acid in your sweat can lead to infestation of fungus on your back and front.

What do you do if you have unhealthy or bad skin?
Teenagers like to experiment to improve their complexion and hair. In the fervor of their new found awareness, they would love to try out a shampoo that a friend might have used. Seeing the friend’s hair grow healthier encourages them to use the same product, little realizing that it may not suit them, says beautician Rajni Agarwal of Gorgeous Beauty Parlor in the city. Hygiene and cleanliness have taken second place, laments Agarwal.

Nowadays youngsters are exposed to a range of commercial and herbal beauty products like Oriflame, Avon, Aviance, Revlon, etc., which are available openly in India. A lot of good herbal beauty products like Shahnaz Herbals, Ayurvedic Concepts, etc. are also available. Agarwal who specializes in Shahanz Hussain’s herbal beauty treatment avers that one must buy creams and lotions from shops that you know do not sell spurious products. Also one should not go according to what is written in magazines or even brochures, she advises.

If you have a dandruff problem, don’t use a clinical shampoo instead use a good herbal shampoo after consulting your beautician. It is also best to consult a beautician before using peel–off masks, scrubs, sunscreens, shampoos, hand lotions or sea bath lotions. A good nail strengthener plays a dual role in not only making them look attractive but also keeping them strong, Agarwal opines. Pollution, hard water and dry weather add to the problem.

Identifying your skin type before using beauty products is very important, reiterates Agarwal. The best way to identify which cosmetics will suit you is by doing a self grooming course, she informs. Doing the course at a reputed beauty parlor may be a little expensive but you can obtain personalized information on what will suit you best.

What do you do if your beautician gives up?
If you want to improve you complexion, then consulting your beautician is appropriate, agrees Dr Tolat. Generally, most teens get carried away by advertisements. Before using a product, its content and authenticity must be verified with your dermatologist," beautician Agarwal is quick to add.

Many youngsters also opt for cosmetic surgery like face lifts or brace lifts. Cosmetic surgery also helps remove blemishes and scars on your skin. Ten years ago, cosmetic surgery was just a branch of medicine, but lately it has developed into a popular treatment, says Dr Shah. Today, there is treatment available for every cosmetic blemish like acne, depressed scars, skin tags, warts or birth marks, or white spots on the face or body.

At each grade a new line of treatment is available. There are good acne–saddled drugs available in the market. If treated in the early stage, the intensity of acne can be brought down. Is allopathic treatment better than other types of medication like homeopathy, ayurveda or even herbal treatment? According to Dr Tolat, very few conditions respond dramatically. Allopathic doctors refrain from prescribing commercial remedies to skin problems. "Critically, allopathy is a better science of medicine as it deals with hard facts. There are no dadi ma’s treatments in this science, asserts Dr Tolat. Some skin specialists do prescribe herbal medication. Dr Shah maintains: “Ayurvedic and herbal products are sometimes more effective than allopathic medicines”.

Medication for a skin problem should preferably be prescribed by an skin specialist. “It angers a doctor to see a patient whose skin problem has become worse due to wrong medication prescribed by quacks or those who are not qualified”, says dermatotherapist Dr Narendra Patwardhan. There are a few drugs called Retinoids which are exclusively used to treat nodulo cystic acne and should be prescribed only by a dermatologist, he argues. “Allopathic treatment is good in spite of some side–effects they might produce. For instance, if a Retinoid drug is prescribed, the patient must not get pregnant for six months as it can affect the fetus”, cautions Dr Patwardhan.

The downside is that some Retinoid drugs are imported and not easily available in the market. So, people have to buy them from the black market. Also a major stumbling block faced by dermatologists is that they have to pay high Government duties on equipment like laser equipment which is required for acne scars. “Surgical laser machines are less expensive than cosmetology laser machines”. reveals Dr Patwardhan.

Alternative therapies
Many alternative forms of treatment are available for skin problems. Most of them are experimental and should be undertaken only with after due counseling and consultations. Commercially launched in late 90’s, the Kerala Ayurvedic Treatment Center has brought traditional Ayurvedic treatment that has been practiced since a thousand years in Kerala to the masses. The therapy claims to cure many ailments including skin problems. All medication is prescribed after personal consultation with a doctor qualified in Ayurvedic science. After the ailment is isolated, medication is given depending on how chronic the patient’s condition is and how he/she responds to the treatment. Skin–related therapies offered are sarvakaya abhiyanga (complete body massage to remove stress and tension), a rejuvenation package which is a combination of mukhlepam (facial massage), keshpalanam (hair and scalp massage), oral medication and oil massage, and the traditional kitdhi treatment. The Kerala Ayurveda treatment claims to cure freckles, pimples/acne, rashes and psoriasis (itchy dark patches that spread fast on skin).

Or, you could try aromatherapy. With so much pollution around us aromatherapy is a quick way to stimulate your body. The therapy promises many mental and physical benefits. The aromas can be used as perfumes with massage oils (during bathing) as an inhalant. The therapy claims to help get rid if scars, acne and blemishes, dandruff, relieve sunburn and also provides cure for eczema and dermatitis. If you have pimples/acne or have sensitive skin or are pregnant, it is advisable to consult a beautician or a aromatherapist before use.

Keeping your skin healthy
Some Do’s
  1. Have a bath twice a day, especially if you live in tropical areas. Sweating predisposes a person to most infections.
  2. Use mild soaps and avoid over soaping.
  3. Include leafy vegetables in your daily diet. Vitamin A in the vegetables is good for your skin.
  4. Include carrots and beetroot in your diet. Betacarotene found in these vegetables is a natural sunscreen.
  5. Use a scarf in the afternoons. Liquids and lotions are not as good a sunscreen as a cloth.
  6. Aerobic exercises when done regularly help build immunity naturally against skin infections.
  7. In case of persistent and itchy rashes, approach your doctor at once.
Some Don’ts Types of cosmetic treatment
  1. Facial resurfacing (CO2 slash to peel): To remove pimple–scars and blackheads.
  2. Peeling : Chemical peels for superficial pigmentation.
  3. Cryotherapy or Micro–epiderm Abrasion: Treatment for superficial pigmentation and scars. Aluminium Hydroxide micro crystals are rubbed on the upper layer of skin. The cost of treatment depends on the skin area covered.
  4. Non–surgical face lift (like removal of double chin) and brace lift (on calves and thighs): To bring back the muscle tone in the area. Requires lifelong maintenance.
  5. Cosmetic surgery/laser surgery for skin aesthetics: To remove skin tags, freckles, moles, warts, wrinkles and disfigured skin after chicken pox.
  6. Surgical treatment by skin graft or micro–pigmentation: For removal of static resistant patches of vitiligo (patches of unpigmented skin) and leucoderma (white spots).
  7. Superficial X–ray: Therapy for chronic eczemas.
  8. Electrolysis: Removal of excess facial hair.
  9. Iontophonesis: For excessive sweating at palms, soles and armpits.