Show of hands, who among us can relate to the following 90s teen skincare routine: Bioré pore strips, followed by Noxzema pads and finished off with St. Ives scrub. And maybe even a step or two of the Clinique cleanse/tone/moisturize collection? Purchased at the mall, of course.
Let’s take it a few steps further. You apply all of it while belting out Alanis Morissette lyrics blasting from your CD player while attempting to outsmart your uninvited acne. Nostalgia aside, if this scenario rings a bell, it’s possible that you’re the parent of your own angsty teen or tween. But instead of using Seventeen as their beauty bible, they turn to TikTok, YouTube, and “skinfluencers” touting top-shelf products. Instead of letting your easily influenced teen fall down the internet skincare trend du jour, consider offering a bit of helpful hand-holding.
Feature image by Winnie Au.
I get it: Maybe you’re in the phase where your teen no longer trusts your judgment in the “what’s cool” department. But your years of experience does give you seniority—in a good way. By introducing your experimental teen to expert-recommended cleansers and moisturizers, you’ll know they’re using products that actually support their hormonal teenage skin. Plus, you can save the entire household a lot of unnecessary behind-the-bathroom-door tears.
I sat down with Austin’s clean-skin guru, esthetician Rita Marroquin of Calm Skincare Studio, to get the scoop on the best skincare routine for teens. Keep scrolling and learn how to help your kid keep their skin and confidence glowing from the inside out.
When do teens need to start a skincare routine?
That’s so personal to the teen. I hesitate to even use the word “routine” when it comes to adults. I prefer “habits” because skin is ever-changing. Starting to practice healthy skin habits can happen early on. As hormones and life (sports, extracurricular activities, etc.) start to introduce changes to the skin, your teen can hone in on different habits more carefully.
How many times a day should a teenager practice their skincare routine?
This is really subjective as well. Healthy habits would be washing 1-2 times daily, depending on the condition of the teen’s skin. It’s also important to hydrate skin with a toner/hydrosol and moisturizer (or facial oil) twice daily.
What are the steps should their skincare routine involve?
For tweens and teens, it’s best to start with something that’s simple and doable. They’re usually in the shower at night, so getting them to use a gentle cleanser while in there is key. Sometimes, a separate step at the sink is too much! Following the cleanser, hydrating with a moisturizer right after is key.
What would you consider non-negotiables in their routine?
Cleansing! Especially if sports are a part of their lives. They’re likely sitting on a bus or in the car after a game with sweat, so it’s best to cleanse the skin as soon as possible.
What are key things to look for in cleansers?
Ensure that they’re gentle. An oil cleanser is best, because it regulates oil production. Jojoba oil is great, too.
When it comes to acne-prone skin, what’s important to keep in mind?
Breakouts are almost inevitable for a teen’s skin. Oftentimes, teens don’t want to moisturize (I see this most often with boys), so the result is angry, red, and inflamed skin. We want to nourish and support the skin, so moisture is imperative.
Any don’ts to be aware of?
I see a lot of teens who LOVE to buy skincare off Instagram or TikTok. But they’re stripping their skin’s barrier function by using 6+ products a day! More is just more, not better.
A cleanser and moisturizer are key. IF treatment is needed, a cleanser with salicylic acid is great. Balancing a teen’s sebum production is a challenge (hormones are real at this age). It can be counterintuitive, especially if the teen is breaking out, but providing the skin with moisture and hydration will help regulate the body’s sebum. Inflammation is something I see in teen skin due to overexfoliation and stripping.
Thoughts on retinol and benzoyl peroxide and Rx topical treatments?
I’m not a huge fan of benzoyl peroxide for teens. It’s incredibly harsh and can make the skin more vulnerable to extrinsic factors. Bacteria is all around, especially on teen’s hands, and they tend to touch their face a lot. Again, I think supporting the skin’s barrier function with moisture is key; its biggest job is to regulate the skin’s water content.
Dehydrated, angry skin is common because the teen isn’t feeding it moisture! During a teen facial, it’s not uncommon for me to see many blackheads. But it’s very difficult for me to extract them due to the tight, dehydrated condition of the skin. Sometimes a retinoid can help (I like Differin, which is available over-the-counter), but even then, following up with moisture is imperative!
The cause of acne is so multifactorial, and it’s very difficult to pinpoint how or why. Genetics plays a part, as does the gut’s microflora. If your teen eats a lot of dairy or sugar, it can show up on the skin. I also see a LOT of stressed-out teens. That definitely contributes to the condition of the skin.
Tips on what to do with a zit that won’t go away?
Don’t pop ’em. Doesn’t really end well, and the chances of bruising or creating lingering post inflammatory pigmentation (redness) is high. Spot treating with Manuka honey is one of my fave tips!
What’s your fave natural skin mask?
I love a yogurt mask. Lather on full-fat, organic PLAIN yogurt. It’s such a great mask. Loaded with gentle lactic acid, it exfoliates without stripping the skin’s microbiome and is full of probiotics. Love! Do it once or twice a week.
What’s the best sunscreen for teens?
Regularly applying sunscreen is a really a good habit to have. Remember: sun damage is cumulative. That bad burn your teen gets at 14 will absolutely contribute to hyperpigmentation down the road in her 30s and 40s. I like a broad spectrum mineral block—look for a physical block (zinc or titanium dioxide) rather than chemical.
When should a teen see a professional for skin support?
Again, starting with healthy habits is key. Healthy skin is the goal, not perfect skin. There is a huge influx of hormones at this age—breaking out is very normal. Continue to reiterate and talk about habits with your teen. A dermatologist can help when the habits are there, but the breakouts are more prolific.