Mothers of Daughters with Skin Blemishes

Article Conference CoverageFrom 2nd Controversies in Gynecology and Obstetrics, Paris, France - September 2001


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Barbara Nesbitt: “Hi, I’m Barbara Nesbitt, Publisher of, and I’m at COGI in Paris, France. I have the pleasure of speaking with Dr. van der Doef about skin eruptions in adolescent and full-grown girls, and I’m going to take the grandmother approach and gain a lot of knowledge for all of us in how to deal with our daughters with this problem. Dr. van der Doef, it’s a pleasure to meet you and to be educated.”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “Thank you. What is your question?”

Barbara Nesbitt: “I have a thirty-year-old daughter that still has skin irruptions and she has a ten-year-old daughter. I think we have all heard things like – “don’t worry about it, it will go away” and “it’s no big deal everybody has this.” I had them when I was young and I listened to your previous interview for physician training and I’d like you to give me and our audience a little advice on how we can be sensitive as a mother or a grandmother.”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “First of all, what you should realize as a mother is that only a few pimples on the face can be a huge problem for the teenager herself. What we as mothers tend to do is tell our child that the best thing that he or she can do is not make a big problem of it. That it is a period in his life, they will grow out of it, that we all had pimples in our life, and we became happy adults. But when we do this we don’t take the youngster seriously, we don’t take his or her problem seriously, and it’s much more of a problem than we know as an adult. We forget, for us it was a long time ago that we had a few pimples and we forget how upset we were at that time. The best thing that you can do as a mother is to be empathetic with your child and realize that it will be a big problem. Even though the youngster will not tell you that it’s such a big problem, we know from our research that it has a huge negative effect on the self image, especially in young women.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “As a psychologist there’s a time when someone should go to you because it has reached a point where it’s taking over and ruining their life so as a mother or grandmother, I think, we should be aware of the signs. What are the signs - maybe not wanting to go to school because of the ugliness of it?”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “Or not wanting to go out - withdrawal.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “Anger?”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “Also anger but especially problems with going out.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “Shame?”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “Yes, and this is what we saw in the research. The girls said to us that they were afraid to have a boyfriend because they were afraid the boyfriend would think she was ugly and this is a girl with so many pimples even though there are only two or three pimples. They were afraid that the boyfriend would think this is a ugly girl, and I don’t want this girl.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “Another thing is, and I think I had this problem when I was a teenager, and that is that time of the month when our estrogen is racing in our body and we break out. I used to feel that everyone knew that I was going to have my menstrual period and I felt ashamed that I had this badge. So you’re saying if a girl is withdrawn, she doesn’t want to go out, and if you say to her how pretty she looks and she says she’s ugly, you should be picking up on this that this girl needs a little bit of counseling.”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “Yes, and maybe not professional counseling but counseling from her mother would do a girl or a boy very good.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “So tell me what I should say. Now obviously we’re all going to say it in our own voice but give me some pointers, some nice little things, that I can put in my head that instead of the next time saying – “oh, I had those pimples, it’s no big deal,” tell me what I should put in my head so the next time I hear those words I can say the right thing.”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “Take the problem seriously, that’s the most important message I would say. Take it seriously, you can tell her that you had pimples in your teenage period also but don’t say I had them and it goes away, just say you had them and that you had a problem at that time too, and that you felt very ugly and awkward also. Then she will recognize and see that her feelings will be recognized, and that is important for someone at that age. Then she will feel that you take her feelings seriously and then she will go to you with her feelings and want to go to you for help. Then you can talk with each other about it.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “Then I could say things like, “do you want me to look and see if there’s any special diet that would help this” or “is there anything that we can maybe work together on and get some products.”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “We could choose some products as a mother and daughter and try it. We can try and see if some diet would help, and we can do a lot of things together. This is better.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “And the key is together. Now we’re working on this together.”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “That’s it.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “It’s that estrogen rush, is it not, in our oily skin and all those things which I’m not a dermatologist obviously?”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “Nor am I.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “And eventually that teenage skin that had all those problems way on in life becomes a gift because you don’t end up with that terrible dry skin, not that a child wants to necessarily hear it but you’re not going to have these all your life, right?”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “No.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “It’s a period of time.”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “It’s a period. Most of the girls and boys will get the normal skin condition in their twenties.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “It’s that puberty and all those changes that are going on.”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “Hormonal changes, a dermatologist can tell you exactly what is happening and when it goes away but it is a period.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “So mom should be able to recognize that her daughter or son needs some loving, kind words.”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “Yes, that’s it.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “And talk to them, and you correct me if I’m wrong, talk to them and ask them would you like to look at other ways of eating or would you like to go to a dermatologist?”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “Because I know that it must be a problem.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “That’s the key thing to recognize and work together.”

Sanderyn van der Doef, MD: “Their feelings, yes.”

Barbara Nesbitt: “I appreciate it. I think this is good for moms and good for older grand-moms too. Thank you very much, doctor.”



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