Some truths about being a teenager are universally acknowledged; adults (in particular parents) “don’t understand” them, everyone around them is “embarrassing” and, when looking in mirrors, all they can see is “fat” or “zits” (their words, not mine).
As a cosmetic doctor with over 30 years of medical practice, I’ve been consulted by many teenaged patients who take their appearance concerns very seriously indeed. My view is that it’s patronising for professionals to dismiss the concerns of our younger patients. “Nothing to worry about” and “just something you’ll grow out of” are not very helpful responses.
It is a big deal to feel that you are unattractive and that your body is morphing out of control. What’s more, teenagers and their parents need to know that there are plenty of very effective specialist treatments that cosmetic medical doctors can prescribe to help solve appearance concerns and restore confidence levels.
So when any teenaged clients tell me they think they look “awful”, I take time to listen properly, to discuss any problem areas as tactfully as possible, and I always acknowledge how they are feeling. Firstly, let’s clarify the legal issues for anyone working in our sector with teenagers seeking treatments. If your client is under 18, your professional insurer will insist you gain written parental consent before you treat them. The parent or guardian will need to accompany the teenager to all their appointments and act as their chaperone, if required. Up-selling products and additional services to under 18’s are absolute no-no’s in terms of professional ethics, so always err on the side of caution and under-sell treatments and products but be generous with free advice and guidance.
In my experience the three appearance concerns that top the list for teenagers are; how to treat acne, unwanted body hair and managing their (perhaps changing and wrongly perceived) body shape or weight. Sometimes the symptoms of active acne can be treated very effectively with specialist topical products alone. I find myself deeply cynical about and unwilling to recommend most “off the shelf” products, but I am always happy to prescribe the specialist Cosmedix and Skinceuticals ranges as they work quickly and safely to help manage blemished and damaged skin. Other patients may first need a prescription for a course of antibiotic drug therapy, or even a light chemical peel, in order to see fast results and to minimise any chances of acne scarring.
Teenagers with unusually excessive body hair may have an underlying hormonal issue that needs careful medical assessment and possibly treatment by a doctor. Generally for unwanted body hair, IPL treatment is still the best method to get rid of it quickly and permanently. Our practice always invests in the latest technology so we can offer fast and pain-free treatment outcomes for our patients.
When working with teenagers who are still finding the confidence to grow into their own “look”, beauty therapy treatments and makeovers that gently enhance their natural appearance are the best bet. We take a “whole person approach” at Wimpole Aesthetics and choose treatments that enhance the patient’s wellbeing.
For example, in the case of a teenager who had concerns about her body shape and who sought treatment for the removal of alleged body fat, upon examination we found no medical evidence of obesity. Her weight was ok, considering the typical student diet, rich in processed fast foods and chocolate bars! However, the very low nutritional value of her overall diet did affect her energy levels and therefore her mood changed rapidly and her self esteem plummeted.
I prescribed a course of nutritional therapy sessions with our in-house specialist, Robyn, who helped that teenager to understand “mood foods” that enabled her busy lifestyle. No cosmetic medical treatment was necessary and the patient felt, and looked, a lot better after just a few weeks of applying what they had learnt.
If like me, you can’t look back at your own school photos without cringing at your pimples or puppy fat, you’ll be able to empathise well with today’s teenagers. Although the world of cosmetic health and beauty has moved on fast since I first came into this sector, empathy remains the most useful professional tool, especially when working with younger clients.