Girl to Girl: Honest Talk About Growing Up and Your Changing Body

CHAPTER ONE
Let’s Start at the Top!
Everything from Skin to Glasses,
Hair, and Your Happy Smile

Wash Your Face!

Now that you are going through puberty, you need to start washing your face every single night to keep it clean after a busy day at school or playing softball with friends. Most girls who wash their faces right before bedtime don’t need to worry about doing it again in the morning.

Skin care expert Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton, director of Ingleton Dermatology in New York City, says, “the most common mistake that young girls seem to make when dealing with skin care is they wash their faces too much. They think that every problem they have on their skin is due to dirt—so they wash and scrub and wash again.” Your skin needs some oil to be healthy. Don’t strip all the oils from it by washing your face too much or being too rough—no harsh scrubbing!

A regular bar of body soap is too harsh for most girls’ faces. Instead, Dr. Ingleton recommends using a “gentle soap-free liquid cleanser.” You can get effective, inexpensive cleansers at the drugstore. Don’t worry about whether it’s a name brand. Just make sure the label says “noncomedogenic,” which means it won’t block your pores. If you have more than a few pimples, talk to a parent about trying an over-the-counter acne cleanser with benzoyl peroxide. Just be careful, since this medication can dry out skin, causing itching and redness. You may want to apply a thin layer of lotion to your face after washing, especially if you have dry skin. (I do.) Again, you want to use noncomedogenic lotion, and there’s no need to go overboard. More is not better when it comes to your skin, and too much lotion will close your pores and cause break-outs.

Acne = Zits = Pimples = Blemishes = Breaking Out

When we talk about skin care, we have to talk about acne. It comes with the puberty territory. There’s no need to freak out about getting pimples or zits—they’re just a fact of life. Nearly everyone you know will get a few pimples. But what is acne? And what can you do about it?

Dr. Ingleton says that “acne is caused by a combination of three things: excessive oil production by the oil glands, an overgrowth of skin bacteria inside the pores, and clogging of the pores.”

Basically, during puberty, your hormones jump-start your oil glands and tell them to start pumping out oil. The oil production is all fine and good, until the extra oil becomes too much for skin to handle and it starts clogging your pores (tiny, nearly microscopic, “holes” in your skin). Mix the extra oil with the dirt and sweat that get into pores during a normal day, and your skin gets irritated. And that’s how you get pimples. Acne can also be hereditary, which means it might run in your family. Talk to your parents to see if they had acne problems when they were teenagers.

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Noncomedogenic = good for your skin!

Sarah’s Tip: No Picking!

It can be tempting to pick at or pop zits. But don’t do it! It can spread the bacteria that caused them in the first place, causing even more pimples, and can leave scars.

Pimples come in a few different forms:

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Swollen Lesions: These are typical zits, or pimples, which occur when pores become blocked and turn red or fill with pus.

Whiteheads: Whiteheads look like little white dots under the skin. They develop when oil and bacteria get trapped right below the skin’s surface.

Blackheads: Blackheads form when oil and bacteria are trapped below the skin’s surface. They look black because the bacteria have reacted with oxygen at some point. Even though blackheads look like little specs of dirt, they are deep under your skin, so don’t pick them. Just keep washing your face, and the bacteria will slowly work their way out of the pore.

MYTH BUSTER: Oil Is NOT All Bad!

Even though oil can cause acne, it’s not all bad. You can’t stop your hormones from producing oil, and you don’t want to. Oil is a good, natural thing in your skin and hair. It’s only a problem when it gets out of control. That’s why the #1 thing you can do to treat acne is keep your skin clean. And the best way to do that is to wash your face. Changing your pillowcase regularly and keeping your phone clean helps, too. Think about all the times you dial your BFF or text your mom—if you don’t wipe the phone down, all the germs from your fingers and hands just end up on your face!

If you wash your face daily and still get acne that’s painful or leaves scars, you might want to see a doctor. If your family doctor thinks you need special skin care, he or she will refer you to a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in skin conditions. Dermatologists often prescribe special face washes and medicines for serious acne problems. Even if your acne is mild, you might still want to get some acne medication or use a particular kind of face wash. A dermatologist can help figure out the best treatment and products for your skin type.

Carmindy’s Top Five Favorite Face Tips

Carmindy, a professional makeup artist, TV personality, creator of her own makeup line, and bestselling author, spends almost every day of her life talking to women and girls about their faces, so she really knows her stuff. And she shared a few of her top skin care tips for you!

Image Remember to be gentle with your face. You will have it all your life.

Image Wash your face every single night.

Image Never pick at a pimple.

Image No harsh rubbing of your eyes.

Image When you look in the mirror, don’t EVER say anything negative. Instead, find a mirror mantra and focus on something you like about yourself, like “I have a beautiful smile.” It will make you feel good.

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Image GET CONFIDENT: Ads Don’t Matter! Image

There’s a lot of information out in the world, especially in ads and commercials, that might make you feel embarrassed by puberty. The girls in acne commercials are usually humiliated because they have a zit: “Oh, my gosh! A zit, right before the big dance!” But guess what? Everyone gets zits! So when you see or hear something like this, just remind yourself that they’re trying to convince you to buy their acne cream.

Although it’s not fun to get a pimple or pimples, try not to dwell on it. The more you think about it, the worse you’ll feel. And chances are, it’s not as noticeable to everyone else as it is to you. Being able to feel a zit on your face makes it automatically seem bigger than it really is. (Especially if it’s one of those pimples that kind of hurts!) The good news is that break-outs don’t last forever, so try not to make each zit the center of your universe.

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Fun in the Sun: Wear Sunscreen!

One of the most important things you can do for your face is to wear sunscreen. And not just when you’re at the beach. Get in the habit of applying it every day. Many moisturizers provide some sun protection and are great if you don’t feel like putting on an extra layer when you leave the house. Don’t be fooled if it’s overcast or rainy—you can get sunburned even when it’s cloudy out. Sunburns aren’t fun, and too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.

Use a sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection from both UVB and the entire UVA spectrum of rays and has an SPF of at least 15. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and a sunscreen marked SPF 15 will give you fifteen times the protection you would have with bare skin. There’s no need to get higher than an SPF 30, because higher SPF numbers don’t offer any additional protection. Sunscreens come in many different formulas—sprays, lotions, creams, gels, and even wet wipes! If you get acne, look for “oil free” or “noncomedogenic” on the label so your pores don’t get clogged. Be sure to put on enough to really cover your skin and read the directions to know how often to reapply it.

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Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer

When my sister Annie was a teenager, she would lie out for hours to get tan. Then, when she was in college, she had to have a melanoma (a group of skin cancer cells) removed from her back because of all the time she’d spent tanning. Now she has to be extra careful so she doesn’t get skin cancer again.

You don’t need to be afraid that you’ll get cancer from small amounts of sun exposure. It’s fun to be in the sun—swimming, playing soccer, even skiing in the wintertime—and it gives you an important dose of vitamin D. Simply wear sunscreen and cover up with a hat and lightweight clothing to protect your skin when you’re outside.

And never, ever, use tanning beds. The rays of light from tanning beds are even more dangerous than the sun because they are concentrated and come from a source close to your skin.

Although fair-skinned people have a higher risk, girls of all skin tones—from fair to olive to dark—can get skin cancer, so you still need to take precautions, no matter what your complexion. Take care of your skin and encourage your friends to protect theirs, too!

Fabulous Freckles

Freckles, little spots on your skin that have extra pigment (or color) can be found all over the body, including the face. They are usually seen on people with light or fair skin and are mostly hereditary, which means they run in your family. You can also get freckles from being in the sun, since the sun’s rays can darken the pigment in your skin faster.

There’s an old saying that freckles come from the kiss of an angel. Who wouldn’t want to be kissed by an angel? People with freckles tend to be more sensitive to the sun, so if you have freckles, take care of them (and the rest of your skin) by wearing sunscreen.

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Holy Moley: What Is a Mole?

Moles are similar to freckles. They look like dark spots on your skin and are made up of a tight cluster of pigmented, or colored, skin cells. Moles are usually brown or black, but sometimes they can appear reddish, pink, white, tan, or even bluish. They come in all shapes and sizes, and might be flat or raised, round or irregularly shaped.

Almost every single person on the planet has a mole, and most people develop new moles during childhood. Most moles are harmless—they are often called beauty marks. Healthy moles are usually symmetrical, which means that if you folded the mole in half, the two halves would match up. But if any of your moles change in shape, height, size, or color, you should see a doctor. Pay special attention to any moles that get a lot of sun, like the moles on your arms, neck, face, and legs, because some moles can develop into melanoma, a form of skin cancer.

You don’t need to lose sleep worrying about your moles becoming cancerous, but it’s something you should be aware of. Take a mental picture of your moles and then, every month or so, do a quick once-over in the shower to see if anything has changed.

Makeup: To Wear or Not to Wear

Wearing makeup is definitely part of growing up for some girls, but nobody needs to use it to feel and look beautiful. Some of the most beautiful girls I know go au naturel. And it’s not just a looks thing—some girls don’t like makeup because it feels gunky on their faces or makes them break out.

But say you want to give makeup a try. Chances are, if your mom is anything like mine, you have family rules about when you can start wearing it. Believe it or not, makeup doesn’t just go on perfectly. Learning to apply it takes practice, which is another reason you want to wait until the time is right and your parents are okay with you wearing it.

Makeup can be a fun way to express your style, but a good general rule is that less is more. Here’s the thing with makeup: It might look light in the package, but on your face, the color can turn out darker and more intense. You don’t want your makeup to look like it’s wearing you. So start slow and use a light hand.

Using tinted lip balm or clear lip gloss is a good first step. I always loved flavored Lip Smackers (Dr. Pepper was my fave because of the color and the taste). Try to get one that moisturizes and has SPF to protect your lips. Then, when you’re old enough, you can try a light mascara or a soft blush.

After you experiment with makeup, you might find that you don’t even like wearing it. My sister Jennie loves playing with different looks for different events, while my sister Katie, who used to beg my mom almost every day to let her wear makeup, now prefers being fresh-faced. Either way, keep it light so people can see you and not just the makeup you’re wearing.

Most makeup is made to stay on all day, which means you have to take some extra steps to remove it at night. Not taking off your makeup can result in clogged pores and acne. Liquid eye-makeup remover or removal wipes make it easy to clean off mascara or eye shadow.

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Image Girl Talk: Am I Too Young to Start Wearing Makeup? Image

Dear Sarah,

When do you think it’s okay to start wearing makeup? I’m almost thirteen, but my mom says I’m too young. When did you start wearing makeup?

Ally

Dear Ally,

I remember feeling the same way when my mom said I wasn’t quite old enough to wear makeup. So we struck a deal. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup outside, but my mom would let me play with it when I was at home. I didn’t get to do it all the time, but on special nights she gave me permission to try different looks with her makeup, and sometimes she would even do my makeup for me. It was really fun! And it helped me get the hang of applying lip gloss for when I was allowed to wear it. When I talked to Carmindy about this, she said that toenail polish can also be a fun way to try different looks without wearing makeup on your face.

When I was fourteen, my mom let me start wearing colored lip balm and gloss to school, but that was just the age at our house. Talk to your parents about what age they think would be right for you to start putting on makeup or nail polish. Until that time comes, ask your mom how she feels about you playing with some light makeup at home. It’s a fun way to prepare for wearing makeup for real and is something you might be able to do together.

Good luck!

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At Home Spa: Oatmeal Face Mask

Every few months, I treat myself to an oatmeal face mask. Oatmeal is a great natural ingredient that calms and moisturizes skin. You don’t need fancy or expensive products to feel great! Plus, you can do this at home. Just be sure to get a parent’s go-ahead if you make it using a food processor or blender.

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

1/2 cup (40 grams) oatmeal

1/2 cup (120 milliliters) plain yogurt

2 tablespoons honey

WHAT TO DO:

Image If you’re using a food processor or blender, grind up the oatmeal to make it a fine powder. If not, you can just skip this step.

Image In a small bowl, combine the oatmeal, yogurt, and honey. Mix with a fork until it’s a smooth paste. It’s going to be thick!

Image Pat the mixture onto your clean face, avoiding your eyes. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. It will get cakey and dry.

Image Using a damp washcloth, wipe the mask from your face and then rinse over the sink to get the last pieces off.

Voilà! Clean and calm skin.

Smart Mouth

Your skin isn’t the only part of your face that needs taking care of. Your mouth sees a lot of action during the day. It helps chew, talk, smile, and laugh. It’s a busy body part!

You might remember losing your first baby tooth (plus all the rest after that!), and getting your permanent grown-up teeth. These teeth need to last the rest of your life. If you lose one, there’s not another that will grow in. And that means you’ve got to take care of them.

The most important thing you can do to take care of your teeth is brush them regularly. Brush twice a day—once in the morning when you wake up and again before you go to sleep—for at least two minutes. Try listening to a song or timing yourself to figure out how long two minutes really is . . . it’s longer than you think!

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Brushing keeps your mouth feeling fresh and your breath smelling good. The bacteria that form cavities and plaque don’t smell (or taste) very good. You know how your mouth feels dry and your breath feels thick when you wake up in the morning? The bacteria in your mouth have been going at it all night, coating your teeth, gums, and tongue. A good brushing stops the bacteria in their tracks.

2 × 2 = 2 times a day for 2 minutes each

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And, here’s another Rule of 2 for you! You should really visit the dentist two times a year (every six months) to get your teeth cleaned and checked out.

Brushing 101

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1) Use a small dab of toothpaste, about the size of your pinkie nail.

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2) Start in the back of your mouth with your molars and move the toothbrush in small circles around the top and sides of each tooth. Do both top and bottom rows, lightly brushing the gums, too.

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3) Next, give your tongue a turn! That way, you’re cleaning out your whole mouth, which is good to do since the bacteria on your tongue are what cause bad breath.

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4) Rinse your mouth with water (you don’t want to swallow toothpaste!). If you want, you can also rinse with mouthwash, which helps kill any extra germs.

Do You Know . . .

the Difference Between Plaque and Tartar?

Plaque is a white, yellow-tinted, or transparent layer of bacteria and other particles that forms on your teeth after you eat and drink. If left alone, it will eventually turn into tartar. Tartar is a hardened, more advanced form of plaque that causes decay. It will literally kill your teeth. Brushing regularly will keep plaque and tartar off your pearly whites.

Keep Cavities Out!

Cavities are teeny tiny holes in the hard enamel of your teeth that are formed by the acids produced by bacteria. Once they are there, they won’t go away on their own. You have to have a dentist fill them up, or they grow and eventually, rot out your entire tooth. Ouch! To avoid cavities, start by making sure your toothpaste has fluoride in it. Fluoride is a mineral that fights bacteria and strengthens the enamel coating on the tooth so that the acids produced by the bacteria cannot eat through. Your city might put fluoride in its water (that’s how important it is!), but if it doesn’t, you can get the fluoride you need from your toothpaste or fluoride rinses.

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How to Spot a Cavity: Dr. Joseph Checchio of Genesis Dental in Utah says a warning sign of a cavity is a quick, sharp sting on a tooth when you eat something sugary or a jolt of pain when you take a bite of hot food or drink something cold. If you feel any tooth pain, get your dentist to check it out right away.

Brush Up! Finding the Right Toothbrush

Traditional Toothbrushes: Most dentists recommend using toothbrushes with soft bristles. The package label will tell you if a toothbrush is “soft,” “medium,” or “hard.” The soft types are less likely to scrape and damage your gums when you brush. Remember, you want to brush firmly, but you don’t need to push hard to make a difference.

Electric Toothbrushes: An electric toothbrush rotates the head in circles so you don’t have to!

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It’s a good idea to get a new toothbrush (or a new head for your electric brush) about every three months, because after a while, the bristles get worn down and aren’t as effective.

Flossing

Brushing gets the bacteria from the tops and sides of your teeth and gums, but what about all those tiny spaces in between your teeth? That’s where dental floss comes in. Flossing is a good habit to get into now, since you probably have most of your permanent teeth. You need to floss once a day to keep your gums healthy.

Flossing 101

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1) Pull out a new piece of floss thread (about the length from your wrist to your elbow) every time you floss. Wrap one end of the floss a few times around a finger on each hand, leaving 2 to 3 inches (about 5 to 7 centimeters) in between. Your fingers will hold the floss tight like a violin string. Most people like to use the index or middle fingers for this, but experiment to see what works best for you. (You can also buy floss picks. These look like plastic forks with two tongs and floss in between, already pulled taut for you.)

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2) Ease the tight section of the floss between two teeth (keeping one finger in back of the teeth and one finger in front), and wrap the floss around a tooth. Gently slide the floss up and down in a sawing motion. Use the edge of the floss to pull any plaque (gunky clear or white stuff) away from each tooth near the gums. Remember to be gentle! Flossing too hard will make your gums bleed.

3) To get the most out of your floss, rinse it off in the sink every few teeth. When you’re done, rinse your mouth out and throw away the floss.

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While I’m flossing at night, I like to think about my favorite parts of the day. It’s like keeping a mental journal, and it prevents flossing from getting boring.

Image GET CONFIDENT: Whiter Isn’t Always Better Image

Have you noticed all the ads and commercials for products that are supposed to make your teeth whiter? The truth is, your teeth aren’t supposed to be as white as snow. But by making you unhappy with your appearance, these companies get you to buy their products, and that means they make more money.

You should always be careful before trying anything that changes your appearance, and that includes tooth whiteners. Some treatments can weaken the enamel on your teeth (which leads to cavities!) and even damage your gums.

To keep your teeth’s natural whiteness, avoid foods and drinks that are very acidic or high in sugar, like soda, since they can actually stain the enamel, making your teeth appear slightly yellow, brown, or just dull.

I understand wanting to have whiter teeth, but make sure you don’t go overboard. Having teeth that glow in the dark can look almost alien, and you still want to look like yourself!

A Little Lip

Your teeth aren’t the only part of your mouth that you need to think about. Your lips also need some TLC—dry air, both hot and cold, can cause them to chap and peel. If you get chapped lips, apply some lip balm or petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) to keep them from cracking and hurting. You can reapply until your lips heal. Usually your body does a fine job of keeping your lips as moist as they need to be, so you don’t always need lip balm, but it’s not a bad idea to wear a version with SPF when you’re outside. Your lips get sunburned just like the rest of you!

Brace Yourself: All About Braces

Straight teeth look nice, but that’s not the only reason for braces. Having your teeth aligned properly, so the top teeth meet the bottom teeth in just the right way, is important for chewing, talking, and avoiding dental problems (like tooth decay) when you’re older. Not all kids who need braces get them. The truth is, your parents will have to pay quite a bit of money for them. If you need braces and are fortunate enough to be able to have them, remember that the process doesn’t take forever. They’ll be off sooner than you think. In the meantime, just think about the hard work they are doing: Every day, your teeth are moving a microscopic amount. When your braces are off, your teeth will be straight, you’ll have a good bite, and you’ll be able to talk, chew, and smile more easily than before.

There are several different kinds of braces. The traditional metal kind are made up of small metal brackets that are glued to the front of each tooth and connected by a wire. Tiny rubber bands (which come in a bunch of different colors!) help hold the wire in place. Over time, the wire pulls your teeth straight and into position for a good, healthy bite. An orthodontist will usually do a checkup about once a month to make sure your braces are still in line and to adjust, or “tighten,” them. Your teeth might ache for a few days right after an orthodontist visit because they move the most when the wire is at its tightest.

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A lot of orthodontists also offer “invisible” braces, but these are only for certain types of mouths, depending on what kind of straightening and realigning you need. Invisible-style braces aren’t actually invisible. They are clear, plastic molds of your teeth that cup around each row, one for the top set of teeth, another for the bottom. You wear the “braces” all day, every day, except when you are eating, brushing, and flossing. Your orthodontist may also be able to offer you ceramic brackets that blend in with your tooth color better or braces that attach behind your teeth instead of on the front. Your dentist or orthodontist will be able to tell you which kinds of braces are best for your mouth.

When I got my braces off, I had to wear a retainer for another year, to keep my teeth in place. Your braces have done a lot of work, and the retainer prevents your teeth from moving back. A retainer is a piece of plastic formed to the top of your mouth with a wire that wraps around the front of your teeth. How long you wear a retainer, and whether you even need one, depends on your teeth, but it’s pretty standard to wear one for a while after having braces.

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It’s easy to keep your retainer clean by brushing it with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Be sure to brush it when you brush your teeth every morning and night.

The most important thing you can do to take care of your teeth while wearing braces is to brush and floss at least twice a day. (You should floss more than usual while you have on braces.) Good dental hygiene is always important, but it’s even more important when you have braces. You’ll be happy you did when you get those braces off and your teeth are straight and healthy!

Image Girl Talk: Will Braces Leave Spots on My Teeth? Image

Dear Sarah,

My orthodontist says I have to wear braces for two years, and I heard that if you don’t brush your teeth a lot when you have braces, the rest of your teeth get yellow, and when you get the braces off, there are white spots on them from where the braces were. Can this really happen?

Jami

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Dear Jami,

It’s true that if you don’t take care of your teeth, sugary or acidic foods (think candy bars or soda) will stain the enamel, making the exposed areas darker and leaving lighter spots in the places where the metal brackets of your braces were attached. To make sure this doesn’t happen, brush and floss twice a day, and really spend time with the floss to clean out the spots around the metal brackets.

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Sarah’s Tip: Braces Before and After

Since braces don’t move your teeth overnight, you won’t be able to see a difference from day to day. So, to remind yourself why you have the braces in the first place, take a picture of yourself before you get them on. Over the months, look back at the pictures. After a while, you will start to see tiny changes. It’s nice to see that your braces are actually working!

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Eye See You: Glasses and Contacts

I got my first pair of glasses in fourth grade. I didn’t realize I needed them until one day at school I asked my teacher if she could write something a little bigger on the chalkboard because her writing was too small for me to read. It turned out that her writing wasn’t too small at all, but that my vision was changing, and suddenly I couldn’t read everything on the chalkboard. I needed glasses! If you ever have a hard time seeing things, whether far away like a movie screen or close like a book, it’s worth getting an eye test to check your vision.

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If You’re Nearsighted: You see things better when they’re close up. But your eyes don’t focus correctly on faraway objects, so they look blurry.

If You’re Farsighted: You see things better when they’re far away. Your eyes can’t focus properly on objects that are up close, like words in a book.

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My mom and I went to the eye doctor, and sure enough, I was nearsighted. We ordered dark purple, almost black, frames (so chic!) and picked them up a few days later. When I put my glasses on for the first time, suddenly there were all these things I’d never noticed before! I saw little tiny flowers on a tree and a stop-light I’d never really paid attention to. I didn’t realize what a difference it could make to see well.

Even though I really liked my glasses, I was worried that kids in my class would call me “four eyes” or some other mean name. But nobody even noticed, and I almost wished they had at least said something about my cute new look.

When I was fifteen, I got contacts. Most doctors recommend that you wait until you are a teenager to get contacts because they require a lot of cleaning, and they are fragile. Not to mention, it takes a few weeks to get the hang of putting them in! It’s a weird sensation to poke little pieces of plastic into your eyes on purpose.

There are some benefits to wearing contacts. For me, they were better for playing sports and doing things outdoors because I didn’t have to worry about breaking my glasses, and I didn’t have the edges of the frames of my glasses to limit my vision. For a few years, I wore my contacts almost every day. But then I decided to go back to my cute purple glasses—they just added more to my look! I still wear my glasses more than contacts, not just because they are more comfortable, but because they are part of my style!

Fab Frames 101

Pick a style of glasses that’s as stylish as you!

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Cat Eye: These frames slant upward near the temples, kind of like a cat’s eyes, and were very popular in the ’50s.

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Round: Round glasses were worn by a lot of ’60s rockers, and by Harry Potter.

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Big Plastic Frames: This style is kind of geek chic. Back in the day, they used to be a little dorky, but now they’re totally cool among the college kids I see in New York.

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Wire: Wire frames are more delicate than plastic frames, and are usually lighter, so they aren’t as heavy on the bridge of your nose. They can make you look smart and hip.

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Rimless: These glasses don’t have plastic or wire around the lenses and they give off a creative feel.

Even if you don’t need glasses to correct your vision, wearing polarized sunglasses when you’re outside can protect your eyes from the sun!

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Pierced Ears or Not?

If we move over from your eyes, we come to . . . your ears! I couldn’t wait to get my ears pierced, but my sisters and I weren’t allowed to get our ears pierced until our twelfth birthdays. There’s no right or wrong age to get your ears pierced. It just depends on your family rules.

If you do get your ears pierced, make sure that the holes heal correctly and don’t get infected. Keep the starter earrings in your ears for at least a month, and during that time, put some rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or cotton swab and rub it on the front and back of your piercing twice a day, to keep the hole disinfected. You should also twirl your starter earrings a few times a day while they are in your ears.

If your pierced ears get infected, keep the holes clean with disinfectant and antibiotic ointment. Talk to your doctor if the infection doesn’t go away after a few days, if it seems to spread, or if you develop a fever.

One of my friend’s pierced ears were always inflamed. The doctor told her that she was allergic to metal, so she let her holes grow back in. I didn’t even notice, until one day, when we were shopping together, I showed her some earrings that I thought would be cute on her. She showed me she didn’t have any holes and said she thought everyone had noticed. But she was the only one! It just goes to show you, pierced ears are fun but not necessary. Do what’s right for you. If you don’t pierce your ears, you can always choose to wear cuffs, stick-on, or clip-on earrings.

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NEVER pierce your own ears! One of my sisters attempted piercing at home, and the hole ended up infected and deformed. Piercing is something you need a professional for. You’re poking a hole in your body—technically, that’s surgery!

Can You Hear Me Now?

The outsides of your ears aren’t the only parts that need care. Your eardrums matter, too. It’s important to protect your hearing, so when you’re using headphones or earbuds, don’t have the music turned up too loud. This is especially important with earbuds, since they fit right inside your ear and force your eardrum to absorb most of the sound.

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A good rule of thumb when using any kind of headphones is to keep the volume level at 60 percent of maximum. That way, you’ll be able to hear your tunes but won’t do any permanent damage to your hearing. Listening to music for long periods of time can be unhealthy, too, so always be sure to give your ears a rest after listening to music for a while.

Hair Care

We’ve finally reached the top of your head, and what do we find there? Your hair! Long hair, short hair, curly hair, straight hair, wavy hair, kinky hair, frizzy hair, thick hair, fine hair. There are so many different textures of hair, not to mention the colors! Blond, red, brown, black . . . these are the general words that describe hair color, but what about all the combinations? Golden blond, strawberry blond, auburn, chestnut brown, deep black. Between your hair texture and color, you’ve got a combination that was created by your genes just for you.

Caring for your hair is a lot like caring for your skin. You want to keep it clean, but you don’t want to wash it too much and strip its natural oils, drying it out. What’s the best way to keep your hair healthy? Regular haircuts every few months to trim the ends, regular washing, and for some girls, conditioning, are all important. But most girls don’t need to wash their hair every single day, unless it’s dirty or overly oily.

Hair Care 101

Here are some basic hair-washing tips:

Image You only need a nickel-size drop of shampoo. Just work it into a lather in your palms and then rub it into your hair.

Image There’s no need to repeat! The label on your shampoo might say that you should wash, rinse, and repeat, but one shampoo is plenty to get your hair and scalp clean.

Image Don’t scratch your scalp. A little massage is fine, but remember, your scalp is sensitive, and you need to be gentle with it.

Image If your hair ends up in knots after a shower or you have really curly hair, you might want to try conditioner or detangler.

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Brush Happy

When you first get out of the shower, gently pull a wide-toothed comb through your hair to avoid tangles. If you pull too hard, you can break your hair. If you have curly hair, you can use your fingers to gently comb through your curls and then let them go!

Don’t brush or comb your hair too much—brushing a lot can activate the glands in your scalp and make your hair oily. It can also break the ends of your hair, causing split ends. If you are going to brush your hair, wait until it’s dry. Girls with curly hair might find it’s best to avoid brushes altogether. Brushing curly hair can damage it and make it frizzy.

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At Home Spa: Avocado Conditioning Treatment

Avocados have a lot of wonderful natural fats and essential oils, which make them yummy to eat and also great for your hair. That’s right! You can use avocados at home to make a special conditioning mask for healthy, shiny hair. Just be sure you have permission and apply the mask in the shower to avoid making a mess.

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

1 ripe avocado

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

WHAT TO DO:

Image Cut the avocado, remove the pit, and peel away the skin. (Be sure to follow house rules for using knives and ask for help if you haven’t done this before.) Then, mash the insides of the avocado in a bowl.

Image Add the oil and honey, mashing and mixing until everything is creamy smooth.

Image Take the mixture into the shower or bathtub (just to make sure it doesn’t get everywhere as you apply it) and rub it all over your hair, from the scalp to the ends. Read a book and relax for 15 to 20 minutes while you wait for it to soak in.

Image Rinse thoroughly with shampoo and warm water.

What to do if your hair is . . .

Dry

Oily

Symptoms

If your hair has lots of static energy, gets frizzy, or feels brittle, it’s probably dry. If your hair is dry, your scalp might be dry, too, and feel itchy or tight.

Oily hair feels slick and might look greasy, even just a few hours after washing. But believe it or not, your hair isn’t what’s oily. It’s your scalp!

Treatments

Cutting back on how often you wash your hair can help you keep the natural moisture in your scalp and hair. You can also try a shampoo and conditioner made especially for dry hair. These products can help add essential oils back into your strands.

The best thing you can do for oily hair is to keep it clean. You might try a “clarifying” shampoo made for oily hair. Since conditioner basically adds oils to your hair, don’t use it on your scalp (hello, oil overload!). Just apply it to the ends—or you might want to skip it all together. Keep in mind that gel or hairspray might add to the oiliness, too.

Sarah’s Tip: Stop Static Hair Cling

Sometimes, when you pull a sweatshirt over your hair or it’s really dry outside, your hair picks up static electricity and seems to stand straight up and out! If this happens to you, rub a dryer sheet gently over your hair. It takes out the static cling, and your hair will lie flat. How cool is that? Just be sure you aren’t allergic to dryer sheets before trying this one!

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Natural Hair: Rock What You’ve Got

The key to having healthy hair is appreciating it and working with what you’ve got. It’s fun to use hair dryers, curling irons, and flat irons sometimes—I have stick-straight hair, and I like to get a little curl every once in a while. But treating your hair with too many products or tools will damage it, so you don’t want to use them every day. The best way to have healthy, natural hair is to let it be!

Overheating with a hair dryer, curling iron, or flat iron often causes split ends. A split end is a piece of hair that splits or peels at the bottom. Conditioning can help prevent split ends from forming, but the only way to get rid of them is to cut them off. Regular haircuts keep your ends in tip-top shape!

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A Girl Who’s Been There:

Don’t Worry About Oily Hair

“My hair was oily as a teenager. Actually, I felt like everything about me was oily—my skin, my sweat, my hair. But I couldn’t stop touching my hair, and I was constantly pulling it back and brushing it, and then I would touch my face, which probably made my acne worse. The thing is, my hair felt oilier than it looked. I should’ve just left it alone. No one notices your oily hair but you!”
—Erika

Dealing with Dandruff

Dandruff is a common skin condition in which the skin on your scalp sheds more frequently and in larger pieces than normal. If you have dandruff, you might see white, oily flakes of skin in your hair or on your shoulders. Your scalp will probably feel tight, dry, and itchy. It’s normal to see a few flakes in your hair every once in a while, but if the flakes are noticeable on a day-to-day basis, you will want to take action.

If you have dandruff, first try washing your hair normally. If that doesn’t help, you might need an over-the-counter medicated shampoo. That should help most cases, but if not, a doctor can give you something stronger or check for other skin conditions that might require more care.

Dandruff isn’t something to be embarrassed about. It’s easy to take care of, and most people get it at some point.

Girl Talk: Help! Chlorine Turned My Hair Green!

Dear Sarah,

I have blond hair, and I’m on the swim team at my school. Last year, the ends of my hair turned green from the pool. How can I keep that from happening again?

Caitlin

Dear Caitlin,

Swim team is such a fun way to get exercise and make friends. But it’s not fun when your hair changes color! Your hair absorbs a small amount of the chemicals and minerals in the swimming pool water every time it gets wet. After a while, these minerals build up and give your hair a greenish tint. It’s more likely to happen to lighter hair, but even darker hair can turn green. There are some easy steps you can follow to make sure it doesn’t happen again this year.

Wear a swimming cap when you go in the pool, which can keep your hair from drying out. It also helps if you wet your hair in the shower first—hair that’s already wet is less likely to soak up the mineral-filled water from the pool. Be sure to rinse off with fresh water after you get out of the pool, too. There are also special shampoos for swimmers, designed to help combat the problem. Swim on!

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Lice

Dandruff isn’t the only thing you might be worried about when it comes to your scalp. Head lice are tiny insects that live on the scalp. These nearly microscopic bugs bite your skin, make your scalp itch, and lay eggs, which hatch into more lice and make things worse!

It’s incredibly common to get head lice at least once in your life, which means it might happen to you. If your scalp feels itchy or if lice are going around at school, have an adult or nurse check your scalp. If you do get lice, you can buy a special shampoo that kills the bugs. You’ll also want to wash your clothes, sheets, and anything else that you’ve been using.

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Be smart about protecting yourself from lice by not sharing hats, brushes, combs, barrettes, or anything else that is in direct contact with someone else’s hair. You don’t want to be paranoid, because lice aren’t the end of the world, but it never hurts to play it safe.

The Best Beauty Secret: Smile Big and Think Happy Thoughts

Every once in a while, you will probably have a day when you are stressed about how you look. Maybe you are too focused on a zit or you feel like your hair doesn’t look quite right. Maybe you just got your braces tightened, and feeling them is making you self-conscious. (I always hated that dull ache after getting my braces tightened. It made me think about them more than usual.) No matter what is making you think about your appearance, remember that you are focused on the negatives more than anyone else. Instead of letting small things ruin your day, put a smile on your face and turn your focus to something positive. Everyone will notice your shining, happy smile and not the little things that you are worried about. And wearing a smile will make you happier, too! There are scientific studies that prove your brain takes cues from your facial expressions. Really! So the next time you want to feel and look confident, think about something that makes you happy and put a smile on your face. Your brain should follow suit.

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