Lynda Hamilton, 37, lives in Fife, Scotland, with her partner David, 38, and her three children, aged 16, 8 and 16 months. Her daughter Hannah, 16, has suffered from acne since the age of 14.
Teenage girls can be so cruel. Aged 14, like so many girls her age, Hannah started to get spots. Her acne was quite severe and that, combined with braces, meant that a group of girls at school started to tease her incessantly, brushing past her with comments such as, ‘You look horrible. Nobody will ever fancy you.’
Lynda (left) watched her much loved daughter Hannah (right) cry every day over the bullying she suffered because of her acne. She has now re-built her confidence and has started studying to become an actress
So in addition to the self-consciousness of spots, my sensitive daughter became a target for bullies. It was an unbearable situation for me and her. She was isolated, shy, hardly left her room, and of course her school work was suffering.
She used to cry every day, but what could I say to comfort her? I was effectively sending her into the lions’ den by forcing her to go to school, who were very unsupportive of the situation. I tried to help her with over-the-counter remedies, which I left in the bathroom, and her grandmother, to whom she is very close, bought her little witch hazel sticks.
One day last year I walked into her bedroom unannounced and saw cuts on her arms. To my horror I realised that she had been self-harming. She looked up at me piteously. ‘I just can’t face school any more,’ she begged. And that was it. She refused to go and I home schooled her for a few months.
During that time she barely left the house. Her acne hadn’t cleared up, and if she walked down the street and heard someone laughing, she assumed it was at her. A lot of her time was spent on the computer making online friends, which of course has its own dangers, but I held my tongue and just kept an eye on her. I knew that she needed to rebuild her confidence, but I still had many sleepless nights worrying over her.
Then, to my astonishment, she announced that she wanted to be an actress and applied for a course in Theatre Arts and Performance at the local college. On her first day I felt as though she was a child going to primary school for the first time. I couldn’t do anything all day. But she came home bouncing with joy. The people were lovely, she has made loads of friends, and although she still has acne, drama school wants lots of diversity. She fits in at last.
Tracey (right) says she didn’t realise how uncomfortable acne can be until her son Conor (left) developed it in his late teens
Tracy Bailey, 45, lives in Sidcup with her husband, Richard, 48. They have two sons, aged 15 and 17. She blogs about life with teens as muminmeltdown.co.uk
My elder son Conor and I have a close relationship, and he is very mature about his acne. He’ll never refuse to go to work or have fun with friends. But sometimes, when it’s really bad, he’ll ask me: ‘Can you really see it?’ I’ll play it down, but it breaks my heart to see him so concerned. As a mother I feel that I have to wait for him to discuss it rather than making him more self conscious by directly offering advice or help. It’s a stealth situation.
Whilst his friends have worried about their complexions for years, Conor initially appeared to have got away without spots. But frustratingly, last year, he suddenly started to develop acne. It began as just a few spots, and then flared up all over his cheeks, forehead and the back of his neck.
Clearly, he has been fortunate not to go through his early teens with spots, and I think that by 17 boys are old enough to be upfront about it. Most of his friends are now in the clear, but his comes and goes. He’ll have three weeks with a full face of spots and then it’ll calm down for a week. The unpredictability of the condition makes it even more stressful.
I believe that in some ways, it’s even harder having spots in your late teens. Conor is shaving now, and that irritates his skin. I hadn’t realised how uncomfortable acne can be. If I touch his face where a spot looks ready to appear he flinches, as though he’s bruised. He got his first part-time job just before Christmas in a computer games shop. He’s by far the youngest employee, and the spots on his face mark him out as such. I know he suffers, but I just try to be as supportive as I can when he needs me.
Harry Holt has had acne since the age of 13
Sarah Hoult, 49, lives in Frome with her husband Richard, 49 and their three sons, aged ten and sixteen. Harry has had acne since the age of 13.
It’s devastating to see old photos of Harry. Not because I wish he was still a little boy, but because of the joyful beam on his face. He hasn’t properly smiled in pictures since he became an adolescent and developed acne.
Whatever age your children, you never stop feeling protective of them. I rapidly realised that Harry was aware of his spots when he started to cover the lower half of his face with his hand when he spoke and he’d avoid eye contact. He spent lots of time in the bathroom and emergde with the spots looking angry and weeping as he went off to the school bus. Starting senior school with spots is particularly hard.
But we’re very close, and I’ve always tried to talk to him and make sure he knows that Richard and I are there if he needs any help. ‘Are there any girls you like?’ I’ll ask. ‘Who’d like someone with these spots?’ is the usual retaliation. But then at least I can reassure him that he’s great fun and that the spots won’t last for ever.
Tiona Bowyer, 54, lives in Worcestershire and is married to Simon, a farmer. They have three daughters. Lucy, 19, is studying chemical engineering at Swansea university. She suffered from acne from the age of 13.
Things came to a head when Lucy was 16. She went on a school trip to Spain and came back very upset about her complexion. Teenagers just don’t want to stand out from the crowd in any way. Even though she was at a girls school, which I think protected her a great deal from teasing, she had been horribly conscious of her back acne when lounging by the pool and when wearing t-shirts. As well as itching and bothering her physically, she was distressed by how it looked to her peers. I felt for her, as I’d suffered the same skin condition as a young woman.
Tiona (right) found it difficult to watch her beautiful daughter Lucy (left) become distressed over her spots
Lucy has always been a beautiful child. (As her mother I am allowed to say that!) Every year, we had pictures taken of her and her two sisters. We used to call her photos the China Doll pictures because of her lovely flawless skin.
She isn’t vain, and once teenage years hit, and spots started to pop out, they didn’t initially appear to be a problem. Let’s face it – most teenagers get at least a few spots and they don’t necessarily become an issue.
Having had spots in my teens and twenties, I knew that they could become distressing. I warned her not to pick, squeeze or fiddle with them. Rather than bring it up, I used to pop things in the bathroom for her to use – oil-free make-up and cleansers.
But it was hard for me to watch her becoming bothered about her spots, and not feel I could say much. She hated looking in the mirror, but would fly off the handle if I so much as mentioned them. Let’s face it, you’re treading on eggshells the whole time anyway as the mother of teenage girls!
After the Spanish trip we went to a dermatologist to talk about medication. I was loath to put my child on something which might have side effects, but if it was necessary, my mothering instinct meant that I’d be there every step of the way with her.
PSYCHOLOGIST LINDA PAPADOPOULOS SAYS:
Dr Papadopoulos says you should never dismiss the psychological effects acne can have
People underestimate how traumatic acne can be. Don’t ever dismiss the condition.
They might be feeling silently devastated. In fact a recent study suggested that up to 25 per cent of those with severe acne have suicidal thoughts.
Your children are at an age where not only are their hormones completely out of kilter and their bodies changing enormously, but they are also becoming self aware and thinking about how others perceive them.
Of course social media doesn’t help as they can edit and airbrush themselves in Instagram pictures and then think that they ought to be perfect in real life.
Don’t forget that stress exacerbates bad skin, so it all becomes a vicious cycle.
Mothers know their children so well, and it’s hard to see them suffer (and deal with the mood swings of adolescence!).
But try to bring up the subject and let them know that you’re aware of it and there for them should they want help.
If they don’t want to talk, then fine, but clearly send the message, even if they think you’re being annoying!
BPO/016/0316 Date of preparation: March 2016
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