Skin Care

Skin Care for Tweens and Teens: Three Ways to Keep Skincare Safe and Fun

skincare trends among teens

Recently, there has been a real rise in the amount of interest in skin care products amongst the tween and teen set – coined the “Drunk Elephant skin care trend” given the popularity of so many of the brand’s products in tweens and teens. Girls as young as 8 or 9 years old are taking group trips to Sephora and Ulta to experiment with different skin care brands and products: lip masks, gua sha tools, Brazilian Bum Bum cream, Glow Recipe, Summer Fridays, and yes, Drunk Elephant. Brightly colored bottles and cute product names have them wanting to try three different kinds of serums, handfuls of moisturizers, and several different cleansers. What’s a parent to do in the face of such strong social pressures?

As board-certified dermatologists, and also mothers to young girls, we have some thoughts. But first, some disclaimers. In this article, we are talking about skin care, not makeup, which we feel is an entirely different discussion. And second, though we will make generalizations about ingredients that are safer for young skin, always do your own research. Always read the labels of what your tween or teen is using, and watch carefully to see how their skin reacts after starting a new product. Some skin care lines are formulated to be gentle and safe in all skin, but some contain fragrances, dyes or harsh ingredients that may not be suitable for young skin and may even cause a rash or skin outbreak.

Here are 3 tips for keeping skin care experimentation safe and fun in tweens and teens.

Avoid ingredients that may be too harsh for young skin.

Young girls who are not yet struggling with acne generally do not need to use products that contain ingredients like retinols or acids (glycolic acid and lactic acid are some of the most common exfoliating acids found in skin care products). Even higher potency vitamin C (which is also technically an acid) can be too harsh for young skin. In general, avoid any products that say “anti-aging”, “firming” or “brightening” on the label, as these will most commonly contain retinols and acids as the active ingredient.

Instead, help your tween or teen to choose products that focus on cleansing, moisturizing, and sun protection as a great place to start. If your child can get in the habit of using a daily SPF now, that is a real win for their future skin! Help your tween or teen to really understand the purpose of each product as well, so she understands how it fits into her routine. This will also help to avoid buying several different kinds of the same product.

Try new things, but slowly, and ideally 1 or 2 at a time.

There are so many beautiful brands with creative and colorful packaging to try, it is tempting to start many new products at once. The problem is that young skin (and even for many of us in our 20s, 30s, and 40s!) can be too sensitive for this onslaught of new products. Encourage your tween or teen to choose 1 or 2 products at a time to introduce into her routine, and to use them for 2 weeks before adding something new. This will give skin time to adjust to the products. And if she should develop an allergic or irritant reaction to something she is using, it will be much easier to narrow it down to the offending product if she has only started 1 or 2 new things at a time.

Keep your routine simple but fun.

Even after your tween or teen has tried many different products and (hopefully) not had a reaction to anything, encourage her to continue to keep her routine simple. A great starting routine for a young girl interested in skin care might include a gentle cleanser in the morning, followed by a hydrating serum or lotion, then SPF. At night, she can use a gentle cleanser followed by a slightly heavier or more hydrating moisturizer. Gentle masks – either sheet masks or clay masks – containing calming or soothing ingredients can be a fun addition once a week. Body treatments like smoothing lotions or hand creams can also be fun to experiment with and can be used weekly or daily depending on the product. As always, we recommend a visit with your dermatologist if you want help or advice about the best routine given any particular skin care concerns. And once acne becomes an issue, definitely make an appointment so your derm can help coordinate skin care products with any prescriptions or in-office treatments that may be helpful.


As dermatologists, we believe that taking great care of your skin can be fun, a great way to perform self care, and can boost self confidence and ownership of one’s body at any age. As parents, we believe that if you can stay involved in choosing the products, read the labels, set a budget (as skin care can be pricey!), and make sure your daughter’s skin is reacting well to her choices, then your tween/teen’s interest in skin care can be a great way to both foster independence and connect with your child. After all, they are emulating us and our skin care routines, even though they may be starting much earlier than we did when we were growing up. Given the right guidance, skin care for tweens and teens can be fun and a great way to learn about your skin!

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