Teen and Tween Skincare: Building a Healthy Routine
Acne Rosacea

Teen and Tween Skincare: Building a Healthy Routine

It’s official: teens and tweens are obsessed with skincare. Spurred by TikTok skincare content, these “Sephora kids” are flocking to beauty retailers and convincing their parents to buy premium skincare products they’ve seen online. But just because a product smells good and comes in bright packaging doesn’t mean it’s good for young skin. Dermatologists caution that skincare products meant for adults often have active ingredients that are irritating to kids. And placing too much focus on the appearance of teens’ appearance can be harmful to their mental health. Here’s what you need to know about building an age-appropriate skincare routine for teens and tweens.

Understanding Tween and Teen Skin

Kids have thinner, more permeable skin than adults—their skin burns more easily and they’re susceptible to irritation. Some kids may develop eczema or other common skin conditions.

As kids enter puberty, hormonal changes can lead to increased oil production, resulting in acne symptoms like whiteheads and blackheads. But not everyone develops acne: some teens and tweens may have dry, sensitive skin. If you notice that your child has new skin symptoms, make an appointment with their pediatrician or a pediatric dermatologist, who can provide a diagnosis, discuss treatment options, and suggest a skincare routine that’s most appropriate for your child’s skin.

Kids shouldn’t have the same skincare concerns as adults. They don’t need to be worried about collagen production, fine lines, crow’s feet, or anti-aging. Age-appropriate skincare for teens and tweens is about forming healthy daily habits. Parents and caregivers can help teens and tweens develop simple skincare routines that promote skin health.

What Skincare Products Should a Teenager Use?

Kids may be consuming content from social media influencers who tout the benefits of complex, multi-step routines with lots of different products. But teens and tweens don’t need complicated routines or expensive products. When it comes to a teen skincare routine or a tween skincare routine, dermatologists recommend focusing on three primary building blocks:

  • Cleansing: teens and tweens can use a gentle cleanser to wash their face. They can also use a makeup remover if appropriate.
  • Moisturizing: Kids benefit from regular moisturizing no matter their skin type—just be sure to choose a fragrance-free moisturizer that’s compatible with their skin.
  • Sun protection: Protection from harmful UV rays is important at all ages. Teens and tweens can opt for a gentle sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.

What Ingredients Should Kids Avoid?

Many skincare products contain active ingredients designed to reduce the signs of aging. But these ingredients aren’t meant for young skin and can cause rashes and irritation in tweens and teens. That said, skincare isn’t one size fits all, and dermatologists may recommend certain ingredients in certain situations. In general, ingredients for teens and tweens to avoid include:

  • Vitamin C - Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects the skin from free radicals and boosts collagen production—neither of which are a concern for teens and tweens. It can cause irritation in young skin.

  • Retinol: Retinol is derived from Vitamin A and is used in skincare to promote cell turnover, boost collagen production, and reduce the appearance of fine lines. It’s also a common acne treatment. While retinol can be beneficial for anti-aging, it can cause irritation and increase sun sensitivity in people with sensitive skin, including kids. Some dermatologists may recommend retinol for adolescent acne. Teens with acne should only use retinol under the supervision of their doctor.
  • Peptides: Peptides are amino acids that boost collagen production and can improve skin elasticity. Teens and tweens have plenty of peptides in their skin already, so they don’t need more.

  • Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs): AHAs like lactic acid and glycolic acid and BHAs like salicylic acid are chemical exfoliants that remove dead skin cells. They’re designed for adult skin and are generally too harsh for adolescents. That said, some dermatologists may recommend AHAs or BHAs for acne. Teens should only use AHAs or BHAs if they’ve been expressly recommended by their doctor.

  • Fragrances - Fragrances are a common irritant for both kids and adults. Fragrances can sensitize the skin, trigger allergic reactions, and cause conditions like eczema and acne to flare. Teens and tweens should opt for fragrance-free skincare products.

Skincare and Body Confidence

Establishing a gentle skincare routine can be a positive way for teens and tweens to cultivate healthy self-care practices. But it’s important to find balance. Skincare is part of beauty culture, and fixating on the way skin looks can create insecurities and impact kids’ self-esteem and mental health. Filters, airbrushing, and concepts like “glass skin,” “flawless skin,” and “glowing skin” promote unrealistic beauty standards that are out of reach for most people.

It’s important to remind teens and tweens that when it comes to skincare, healthy skin is the ultimate goal. Pores, wrinkles, textured skin, and skin concerns and conditions are all normal. Parents and caregivers can help teens question what they see online and set realistic expectations for skincare. If you’re concerned that your child is struggling with body confidence, or if you’re noticing changes in their behavior, seek support from a pediatrician or mental health care professional.

Incorporate Gladskin Into Your Teen’s Routine

Gladskin products are designed to foster health while using as few ingredients as possible. They’re minimally formulated, microbiome-friendly, and appropriate for teen skin. Learn more about our fragrance-free moisturizers and cleansers.


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