You know that beauty pageant question “If you could go back in time and change anything , what would it be?” – and of course the matching cliché answer is “I wouldn’t change a thing” yadda yadda. Well, if I were asked that question, I would say—plenty! Knowing what I know now, I would totally undo a lot of things pertaining to the way I treated my skin and hair if I could go back to my teenage years. It would certainly save me a lot of trouble undoing the damage. So as an act of generosity, I decided to write this piece for teen girls, just some tips to invest in your future beautiful self. Hope you take this to heart!
- Never prick a pimple. When you’re a high school sophomore sporting oily skin and blackheads and dying to bust that zit sitting on your nose, I know it’s easier said than done. But trust me, you’ll pay for it big time in the future via large pores, acne scars and craters. So not worth it. Therefore, if you have problem skin, just go to the dermatologist every weekend and get a professional facial to rid yourself of the blackheads and pimples. Then religiously follow a skincare regimen in the morning and at night to manage the oiliness and prevent more havoc from appearing on your face. Now, for those of you who are all grown up and already suffering from large pores, scars, etc—you can remedy that by getting Fraxel treatments or dermabrasion to smoothen out the craters, or IPL to remove the scars at the CRB clinic in SM Northwing. A product like Skin Doctors Gamma Hydroxy cream (found at Rustan’s Essenses) helps too.
- Put on sunblock every day. I know that you will not feel the benefits of faithfully using a sunblock moisturizer for many years, and it is easy to skip this step when you’re in a hurry. But when you see people who develop ghastly sun spots on their face, ranging from freckles, small blotches to huge birthmark-like discolorations that are nearly impossible to take out, it won’t be funny. Never leave the house without cleansing, toning and moisturizing your face with a strong SPF under your makeup base. And if you can, avoid exposing your face to the sun. Wear a wide brimmed hat at the beach and bring an umbrella when taking a walk on a sunny day. You won’t regret it. If you have sunspots already, see a dermatologist for treatment. Some lightening creams can do the trick, and some may require IPL treatment as well.
- Never shave. I was 13 years old and alone at home when I suddenly got curious and decided to shave my legs (and I barely had any hair on my legs then). Epic fail. The hair grows back coarser, then you develop all sorts of problems like ingrown hairs and chicken skin after a few years. When you need to remove hair—whether it be on your legs, underarms, or bikini area, better just use a depilatory like Veet (at any Watson’s branch) or get waxed by pros at the Lay Bare salon (in SM and BTC). It hurts more but the hair grows back finer and takes longer to build up. Better yet, just invest in laser hair removal early on and you’ll never have to worry about it again. For fuzz on your eyebrows, avoid using a razor and go for regular threading sessions once a month instead.
- Do not over-treat your hair. There was a time when my friends and I went crazy on hair color. It was highlights for a couple of weeks, colored cellophane the next, plus relaxing or rebonding or a digital perm. Not to mention blow drying and using a hair iron or curling iron fairly often. With this kind of routine, it’s no wonder your hair will look as dry as a broom and develop ugly split ends and a weird color and texture. Stop messing with your hair. In your teens, you really don’t need to color your tresses so just shampoo and condition daily and use a deep conditioning treatment (I like the Loreal Elseve or the Pantene pot) at least once a week. You can also use a leave-on night treatment like Loreal Elseve with Royal Jelly. As much as possible, just towel dry your hair and leave the blowouts for special occasions. Also, visit your salon every month for vitamin infusions and every 3 months for a trim. For those into hair coloring already, do not retouch more than every 3 months or your hair will get thin, sad and brittle.
- Don’t rub your eyes. Rubbing your eyes will cause wrinkles! Do not touch the area around your eyes if you can help it. In fact, when drying your face, don’t rub the towel on it—just pat dry or use facial tissue. Yes, there is tissue distinctly made for the face that is more delicate. Cleansers should be mild and soap-free, toners should be alcohol-free, and serums and creams should only be lightly applied around the eyes with your ring finger. Avoid rough facial scrubs that can hurt your skin. Also, get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night so you don’t turn out into a zombie-like creature with dark undereye circles and need to cover up with concealer for the rest of your life. If you’ve already got that though, Strivectin (found at Rustan’s Essenses) can help bust the eyebags away.
- Take good care of your teeth. Oh I can’t emphasize this enough. Yes, brushing after every meal is SOP of course, but you must also floss regularly to take care of your gums and remove any buildup leading to plaque and tartar. As my baby nephew would say– Eeeewiiii. See your dentist twice a year at least for a prophylaxis and to put an early end to any cavities you might have. Also, avoid getting hooked on too much coffee, red wine or tea, and most especially smoking because it stains your teeth really bad and you’ll end up spending thousands on laser whitening or veneers (unless of course you’re ok with looking like an old hag).
- Exercise regularly. Woe to those who hit their mid-twenties and above without ever learning the discipline of regular exercise (like myself). It is that much harder to get started and sustain, and by then your metabolism has already slowed down significantly—so it’s a lot more difficult to burn all the sinful things you’ve eaten. So, as early as you can, get active! Join the dance team, the cheer squad, the volleyball team, track and field, swimming, whatever. And make it a part of your life so that when you get older you’ll always crave for physical activity and will never turn out to be a lazy couch potato.
- Eat healthy. I can only shake my head at the junk I used to stuff myself with back in high school and college. Fastfood, soda, instant noodles, hotdogs, chips, anything deep fried—that was my regular diet. And you feel great. Then a few years later, you find that your skin and hair need help, plus your cholesterol and sugar levels are starting to elevate. It won’t be pleasant to be on maintenance medicines forever, plus feeling bloated and unhealthy. Therefore, while you’re young, learn to eat healthy. Stay away from the fried stuff and choose roasted, steamed or boiled food instead. Choose fresh instead of canned or processed food. And switch to healthier, more satisfying snacks. Then you’ll never have to diet a day in your life!
- Don’t have your cuticles removed. Here’s another pet peeve. Early in my teens I started going to salons to get mani-pedis, and they ended up cutting out my cuticles, causing thicker coarse skin to grow around the nails. So when getting your nails done, always specify you don’t want the cuticles cut and should just be pushed back instead. Then always use a hand cream (I love L’Occitane’s super rich formula) and apply cuticle oil regularly to keep your hands soft and your nails healthy.
- Moisturize all over. Again, another easy-to-skip step when you’re raring to go but truly important for good skin in your adult life. Right after a shower, always moisturize with a body oil (Neutrogena’s is a classic) or lotion to keep the skin soft and supple all day. Then at night, use a body butter and sleep with socks and gloves to lock in the treatment for your hands and feet. If done without fail, you’ll never get stretch marks and rough, scaly skin!
Of course, the best advice of all to give to teens is—enjoy every minute! Be young and happy and fabulous. And keep that joie de vivre and wide-eyed wonder with you always.