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A Winning Skincare Routine for Teens

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It, Dermatology Author: Jessica Newman,MD

Skincare is a trendy topic on social media — and some of the advice you get from influencers online can be extensive and spendy. The truth is, everyone has something that makes their skin unique — whether it is acne, moles, eczema, psoriasis, birthmarks, etc. Perfect airbrushed skin does not exist in real life. Curated, edited images online lead to unhealthy expectations of perfection and feelings of disappointment or unworthiness.

If you’re wondering what an effective skincare routine looks like for a young adolescent — it’s simple.

Winning skincare routine

Teenagers do not need to spend a lot of money on a good skincare routine. Most adolescents will benefit from gentle non-soap cleanser and daily face lotion with broad spectrum SPF 30+.

Sunscreen does not cause skin cancer. Rather, we know that not using sunscreen can lead to skin cancer later in life — there’s no such thing as a “safe tan.”

In addition, teens with dry skin may find an advantage in a non-comedogenic face lotion, which just means it doesn’t cause acne.

What if I have acne?

Mild acne can be treated with an over-the-counter acne wash that contains benzoyl peroxide, such as AcneFree or Panoxyl, and adapalene 0.1% gel.

It’s important to keep in mind benzoyl peroxide bleaches fabrics when wet, so use this product in the shower. Follow the steps below.

  • Lather your face
  • Allow it to sit for five minutes
  • Rinse off
  • Use an old or white towel to dry off completely before getting dressed to avoid bleaching clothes

If you have acne that is cystic, scarring or that’s not responding to over-the-counter treatments, you should speak with your primary care provider to discuss if you need a referral to see a dermatologist.

How can I get a “skin glow?”

If you’re looking to get a nice skin glow and decrease whiteheads, blackheads and hyperpigmentation, adapalene is a good option. This is a vitamin A-based acne gel that normalizes the way skin cells grow out. It can take up to three months to start working and you may notice things get worse before they get better. This product can dry your skin and make it more prone to sunburn.

It’s important to follow the structure outlined below when using adapalene:

  • Apply at bedtime
  • Use this product every other night for two weeks
  • After two weeks, increase use to every evening if tolerated
  • Layer this product with face lotion before and after applying adapalene to help with dryness
  • Using daily sunscreen with this product is a must

I do not recommend the online trend of “slugging” where you use Vaseline on your face. That can cause acne.

Should I be using an anti-aging product?

Sunscreen is the only anti-aging product that teenagers need. It helps prevent skin cancer and keeps the skin looking young. Make sure you also use a lip balm with SPF 30+. Contrary to what online influencers say, retinol is not necessary for teens, and collagen either topically or orally is not effective and not worth the money.

Makeup doesn’t age your skin. If you do wear a lot of makeup, I recommend using powder foundations such as Bare Minerals, or foundations that are relatively light such as Neutrogena Hydro Boost hydrating tint to decrease the risk of acne.

When wearing makeup, follow this routine:

  • Wash your face in the morning
  • Apply sunscreen
  • Apply makeup

For makeup removal, I recommend Cetaphil liquid cleanser or micellar water. Some people have adverse reactions to makeup removal wipes, so I generally don’t recommend those.

Can my diet affect my skin?

There’s not a lot of strong evidence that eating or avoiding certain foods helps the skin. Some people with acne benefit from eating more fish and omega-3 fatty acids, olive oil and foods found in the Mediterranean diet. Some people find decreasing their intake of milk, sweet foods or foods that quickly spike their blood sugar helps manage their acne.

Don’t forget skincare for your whole body!

A good skincare routine for the rest of your body includes using an unscented cream or ointment-based moisturizer right after a bath or shower. If you suffer from dry skin don’t use soap or body wash on your whole body. All that’s needed is a gentle cleanser for dirty areas. I recommend the use of Cetaphil or the generic equivalent.

Where can I find trustworthy skincare information?

Board-certified dermatologists provide the most accurate skincare information. The American Academy of Dermatology has representatives on most social media platforms using the tagline “Your Dermatologist Knows,” where teens can get trustworthy information.

If you have more questions about skincare, contact your primary care provider to discuss if you need a referral to a dermatologist.