"Have you put on your sunblock?" I often call out as my nearly 13-year-old heads out the door, sports bag over her shoulder.
"Have you taken off your makeup?" I say as she heads for bed.
Makeup? No, that wasn't part of my plan for her tween years, but somewhere along the way she's picked up a tinted moisturiser from a friend and some matte powder she imagines improves her skin. The way she cakes it on when I'm not watching certainly masks a few freckles, although it won't do much to help the occasional spot she is starting to get.
"Everyone!" I'm told, wears mascara to school. This isn't true, of course, but a fair few do. There are also plenty of girls who don't.
Whether your daughter is an early adopter or uninterested, there comes a time - and, yes, I wish it was a bit later, they grow-up so fast - when the skincare conversation must be had. With any luck, good washing and sun protection practices will already be well established, so try to simply build on this.
We are not as fanatical about our skincare as French and Asian women, but do try to be a good role model. If you expect your teen to cleanse and tone, then set a good example, but be realistic. Sometimes busy Kiwis - of all ages - will resort to removing makeup with a face wipe, which is much better than nothing.
The problem, though, is that most young women are more interested in cosmetics than skincare. Try linking the two. If they are going to wear makeup, then reinforce from early on that part of the deal is taking it off. I abhor the practice of giving little girls makeup, but by the time they are of intermediate age many will acquire it, with or without your permission, so in my view it is better to guide this and set a few ground rules on what is acceptable, and when, rather than to impose blanket bans.
Start with lip gloss and nail polish, for special occasions, then down the track add mascara and maybe a gold eyeshadow. Teach them how to put it on properly and how to remove it. If they're not interested, count your blessings - and the savings - for the longer they think of makeup as merely an optional extra, rather than an essential, the better. It should be for fun, not a disguise.
With the skin breakouts of puberty - which in young minds assume gargantuan proportions - comes the tendency to coat their faces in ways that will only worsen any irritations. Try to discourage this, or steer them towards BB creams which have the added benefits of sunscreen and skin conditioners as well as light camouflage. Young skin doesn't need foundation, especially not heavy ones, it is better to simply spot treat problem areas with clearing gels or medicated concealers. Avoid heavy moisturisers
or night creams, instead opt for light daily hydration and leave skin to "breathe" overnight.
Cleansing is the area that offers the most everyday help and also potential problems. Over-washing and exfoliation can actually encourage excess sebum production, causing a vicious circle of breakouts and combination oily skin with dry patches. Ensure scrubs are gentle and get over the idea that "squeaky clean" skin is healthy, more likely it has been stripped of its protective barrier. Salicylic acid is a good ingredient to look out for to help fight breakouts. Anyone with persistent serious acne should be taken seriously, not only is there a risk of physical scarring it's psychologically damaging to go through your formative years feeling excessively self-conscious. Ask your doctor for advice or a referral to a dermatologist, or see a specialist skin clinic. Prescribed topical medicated creams and lotions, light therapy and drug treatments are all options. Chemists can also help with product selections tips. Soap-free cleansers such as Cetaphil, which they sell, are ideal in the shower.
If shopping off the supermarket shelf look for specialist youth ranges, but bear in mind that some products can be abrasive or contain a lot of filler ingredients, so tread gently using them or seek out those labelled for sensitive skins. Natural skincare is mostly simple in formula and thus free of a number of potential irritants so it can be a good choice, but it may not be active enough to target some issues.
The other great obsession of teenage years is hair: be it on the body, the brows or on their pretty little heads. That's a whole other column for another day . . .
Specialist youth ranges Viva likes include:
- Dermalogica's Clear Start, which helps with mild to moderate acne and has an extensive line-up of products, see dermalogica.co.nz
- Auckland-made Scarlett & Greene for 13-25-year-olds and whose range features a handy zit zapper, see scarlett-greene.com
- The no-nonsense teen line from Nelson natural company Oxygen, see