Want your tween to have healthy skin habits? Do this!

skin health skincare for teens skincare habits Mar 11, 2024

Who could have thought that the world of skincare and beauty has now permeated into the preteen arena? Nine-year-olds, with millions of followers on social media, are showcasing their anti-aging and complex skincare routines! It feels like I've entered an alternate reality, but nope, this is happening for real! As both a dermatologist and a mom of tweens, I have plenty of thoughts and concerns about this phenomenon. So, let's break down skincare for these young individuals!

Facts: Teens and tweens usually don't worry much about skin cancer. It's not that they don't care at all, but telling them to put on sunscreen to avoid it doesn't really hit home. They feel like they're invincible at this age, so thinking about getting skin cancer when they're older seems too far away to bother with.

Instead, tweens and teens want some luxury, just like many adults! My kids enjoy having their own 'beauty routine,' which includes soaking in a warm bath with aromatic bath salts and applying fragrant lotions (definitely not something they picked up from me!). They want a beautiful bottle and packaging, and a luxurious product! They want to feel fancy and grown up! And if they like the product they are using and it's #instagrammable, they are more likely to use it! 

Here are some tips to ensure skincare for tweens/teens becomes a habit:

1) Gentle cleanser

 Harshly scrubbing the skin as I did in the 90s, can lead to irritation and even damage. Encourage your tweens to opt for a mild cleanser that removes dirt and oil without stripping the skin of its natural oils.

2) Moisturizer

While I prefer fragrance-free products, stick with something non-comedogenic for acne-prone skin that absorbs quickly.

3) Sunscreen

Mineral-based sunscreens, such as those containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, can be gentler on young skin. Keep the sunscreen next to their toothbrush so it's easy to access and becomes part of their daily routine!

Pro tip: If your tween/teen is struggling with acne, look for products with beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid, as well as a retinoid or adapalene product to apply at night.

Do tweens/teens need an anti-aging routine?

Absolutely NOT! But by instilling healthy skin habits now, you essentially are helping them with anti-aging down the road.

Things your tween/teen doesn't need:

 a) A complicated skincare routine

I actually don't know a single dermatologist who recommends a complex skincare routine, so why should your tween have one?

b) Aggressive over-exfoliation

In my day, we over-exfoliated with St. Ive's Apricot scrub and harsh toners... today's tweens and teens use alpha hydroxy acids. For younger children, AHAs are just too harsh for their delicate skin barrier. If your tween/teen is struggling with acne, try a salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acid) instead.

c) Anti-aging actives

I can't believe this has to be said, but no, a 12-year-old does not need an anti-aging routine! Leave the retinoids and vitamin C for later. The only caveat would be if your tween/teen is experiencing acne and blackheads. If so, then a retinol/retinoid can be a powerful agent to help combat this.

d) Fragrances

Tweens and teens are especially attracted to a product's appeal both physically and how it smells. While lavender and botanicals may smell nice, it isn't always the best or safest choice for your skin. Many fragrances can cause irritation and, at worst, allergic reactions. And frequent use of fragrances can sensitize your skin to developing allergies down the road. Instead, opt for a fragrance-free product.

Beyond skin care, what can we do as parents to help instill healthy habits for our children?

  1. Model healthy skin and body habits. If you don't want your teen to have a complicated skincare routine, you shouldn't either!
  2. Help instill a positive body image.
  3. Encourage healthy habits like regular exercise.
  4. Promote a balanced, whole food diet while minimizing processed foods.
  5. Stress the importance of sleep for skin, body, and mind.

Tune in to this week's podcast episode with Dr. Angela Casey as we discuss how social media affects skincare choices in teens/tweens and share tips on promoting consistent skincare habits.

Find Dr. Casey here:

A new podcast episode drops every Monday!

For more great skin care tips, subscribe to The Skin Real Podcast.


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