Great Skin at Every Age: How to Build a Routine for Teen Skin
If you’re a teen, have a teen, or have been a teen, it will come as no surprise to learn that the most common skin concern that affects this age group is acne. “Acne can present as comedonal acne (blackheads), inflammatory acne (papules and pustules) and cystic acne (deeper bumps and often with scarring),” explains Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, an NYC-based board-certified dermatologist.
While it’s too early at this stage to start worrying about fine lines and other signs of aging, it’s not too soon to start the prevention process in the form of sunscreen.
To learn how to build the perfect routine for teen skin, plus what not to do, keep reading.
A Skin-Care Routine for Teens
“Keep a simple routine and be consistent,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. “There are so many fun beauty and skin-care products marketed to this age group, but great skin care can (and often should) be very simple.”
Removing makeup, sunscreen and impurities from skin morning and night can help prevent acne. If you have normal, sensitive or dry skin, look for a gentle formula. For teens, Dr. Caren Campbell, a San Francisco-based board-certified dermatologist, likes to recommend soap- and fragrance-free products like the SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser. If you have oily, acne-prone skin, she suggests using a cleanser that contains an acne-fighting ingredient like benzoyl peroxide a few times a week. Try the CCMD Benzoyl Peroxide Wash from Dr. Campbell’s own line, or the CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser.
If you’re dealing with acne, Dr. Murphy-Rose recommends using a salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide spot treatment as needed. Another option is to use a product that contains a retinoid such as the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel. Dr. Campbell advises using a pea-sized amount one to two times a week initially and then upping the frequency by adding another day every two weeks after that if your skin is tolerating the ingredient. Because it can be harsh on skin, speak with a dermatologist before use.
If your acne does not improve after four to eight weeks with consistent cleansing and spot treating, Dr. Murphy-Rose suggests consulting with a dermatologist for an alternative approach. “Your doctor may prescribe a higher-strength retinoid or an oral acne medication, or take a different approach like manual extraction, in-office chemical peels or light treatments,” she says.
Moisturizer helps keep your skin barrier healthy and can help counteract the drying effects of acne products. Look for a light, non-comedogenic and gentle option that contains ingredients like ceramides. Dr. Campbell is a fan of the CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion, which she says can be used morning and night.
“Most older men and women who did not protect their skin well when they were younger regret it today,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. In addition to wrinkles, wearing sunscreen from a young age can help prevent you from developing hyperpigmentation, sagging skin and skin cancer when you’re older. Dr. Murphy-Rose recommends that teenagers stick to a mineral sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide because these formulas tend to be less sensitizing and pore-clogging than chemical-based SPFs. One of our new favorite formulas is the Unsun Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen.
Skin-Care Don’ts for Teens
You may want to avoid oils and ointments at this age because these ingredients and products have the potential to clog pores, says Dr. Murphy-Rose. She also recommends avoiding abrasive scrubs. “They often irritate the skin and make it more prone to inflammation rather than improving the texture,” she says. According to Dr. Campbell, alpha-hydroxy-acids, a form of chemical exfoliation, are also a no-no for this age group. “They are drying to the skin and don't provide much benefit for teens,” she says.
Finally, never pick at your pimples. “Doing so increases the chance of leaving marks or scars on your skin,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. “It’s easier to prevent scars from forming in the first place than to treat them after they develop.”
Photography: Chaunte Vaughn, Design: Hannah Packer