Although I was a teenager half of my life ago, I still remember the nightmare of acne, blackheads and nothing working to solve them, I also remember all the things I did wrong.
Firstly - You can't scrub away spots or acne, this will only make it worse. By scrubbing at your skin with creams containing nut kernels you can cause little tears in the skin as well as aggravate any spots you may have. Use a gentle toner containing glycolic acid, lactic acid or salicylic acid or if you do like to feel like your exfoliating, go for the safer option and use a Dermaflannel.
If you are going to keep exfoliating or using a sonic cleansing brush, please limit their use to 3 times a week.
Cleansing - This is essential, see my guide on cleansing HERE. If you don't cleanse twice a day then your skin will never get better.
Strong isn't best - I remember using acne products that were so strong they not only irritated my skin but made my eyes burn! These really aren't good, if you dry out your skin, your skin will create extra oil which is going to make your spots even worse, spotty, oily, flaky skin is even worse than just spotty skin.
Blackheads - Scrubs won't work and stay away from the pore strippers! The best thing for blackheads is an amazing cleansing routine and either a product containing 2% salicylic acid or a Dermaflannel, if you're under the age of 16, be sure to have adult supervision when using these products.
Don't coat your face in powder - If you get shiny through the day, using layers of face powder is not only going to clog up your pores but you'll end up with orange patches (yes talking from experience) use blotting papers, these absorb any excess shine.
Moisturise - Yes even problem skin needs to be moisturised, choose a light cream that's designed for problem skin. If you don't like shine, opt for one that has a matte finish but only use this in the day.
Make-up - Make-up is fine as long as you not only cleanse your skin well at night but that you also regularly wash any make-up brushes that touch your face. Although most schools have a no make-up policy, they are understanding and know that teens with problem skin want to cover it up. There are thousands of tutorials on YouTube, learn how to apply your foundation to look as natural as possible and you may find your school is more lenient (foundation always looked orange on my very pale skin, hence the reason I was always sent to wash my face).
DO NOT POP - Seriously I know it's tempting, that disgusting whitehead is there and you just want it gone! But you know what could replace that whitehead? A scar that you'll never get rid of. Imagine that zit is some bubble wrap, when you pop the bubble there's a tear in the surface, that's your skin. Now go on google and search in the pictures for acne scars, that whitehead doesn't look so bad anymore does it?
A little pure tea tree oil applied with a cotton bud directly on to a whitehead can help to dissolve the puss (sorry) and kill any bacteria.
Red spots - If you have very inflamed red spots, take an ice cube, wrap it in some cling film and hold over the spots for a minute or two, this will calm the redness down. Don't put the ice cube directly on to the skin or you could get an ice burn. To cover up any redness, use a green concealer under your make-up, green cancels out red.
Face flannels are your friend - Cotton face flannels are wonderful, they give a much deeper cleanse and also gently exfoliate your skin. Use a fresh one in the morning, leave it to air dry (don't crumple it in the corner of the sink) and then use it again in the evening, then leave it to dry overnight and pop it in the wash. Always use a clean flannel daily, if you don't, bacteria will breed on the flannel and will then be transferred to your face.
Water - drink drink drink, I know it's boring but make it a little fun. My hubby and I have water apps on our phone, you record how much water you've drunk and it helps you reach your goal, although we've never actually made this an official competition, we do check in with each other "how much have you drunk? Oh really, I've drunk 200ml more". I know, we're a bit sad but hey, it works.
One the note of bacteria - consider what's touching your face, make sure you use a clean towel to dry your skin and always make sure your pillow case is clean. If you have a fringe (bangs) make sure you wash it daily and if possible, clip it up and off your face when you sleep. Avoid touching your face throughout the day and always make sure your make-up brushes are clean. If you use concealer DO NOT apply directly to the skin, put a little on the back of your hand and then apply to the spots. And never share make-up, especially lip products, once you get a cold sore you'll have them for life.
Take supplements - There are so many supplements that help skin, the main ones are B12 and Omegas as these can balance your hormones. Maca powder is also a great hormone balancer but don't use more than ½ - 1 teaspoon a day.
Check your diet - If you have terrible acne or eczema and also suffer with problems such as headaches or stomach complaints, you could have a food intolerance. The main culprit is dairy, ask your Dr for a food allergy test.
Visit your Dr - If you've tried everything and really have stuck to a good skincare regime for a few months and you haven't seen an improvement, go and see your Dr, they may be able to prescribe something to clear up your skin.
Note to parents - If you're reading this on behalf of a child that's suffering with their skin, please act now. I wish my parents had known how to help me before my skin scarred. It really is trial an error, my 11 year old suffers with her skin and we've tried a few things, thankfully we seem to have a good routine going on now.
I know I've mentioned the word "acid" a few times and you may be thinking I sound crazy, but acids which are liquid exfoliators, dissolve the dead skin rather than scrubbing it away which really is a lot better for your skin, as a rule, glycolic acid should be no higher than 10% and salicylic acid no higher than 2% (unless the product has been partially neutralised, then they can be slightly higher but not much).