700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Trendy Skincare: Why Pre-teens and Teens Should Stick to the Basics

Mar 21, 2024
Teen girl shopping for skincare

The influence of social media, viral products and “GRWM” (get ready with me) videos has spurred many pre-teens and teens to overhaul their skincare routines, often incorporating products traditionally reserved for adults. While the desire for clear skin is understandable, it is imperative to understand that not all trends contribute positively to our skincare journey.

Pre-teen and teen skin have different needs than adult skin. With ample collagen, rapid cell turnover, and minimal damage, youthful skin naturally boasts a vibrant and resilient complexion. However, the allure of achieving flawless skin by stopping into a store and picking up trendy products containing active ingredients like Vitamin A, AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), BHAs (beta hydroxy acids), niacinamide, and retinol can sometimes lead to unintended consequences, leaving their skin worse off than before. These products should only be used by young people when they are under the care of a licensed clinician.

Potential Pitfalls

In the pursuit of healthy skin, many trendy skincare ingredients are not suitable for every pre-teen and teen. Products containing powerful ingredients like Vitamin A, retinol and niacinamide are often touted for their anti-aging, wrinkle reducing and hydration enhancement properties. Although these ingredients are sometimes used for treatment of acne under the care of a clinician, they are typically not necessary for adolescent skincare routines and can lead to unintended skin complications when used without a clinician’s supervision. Excessive use of skincare products or engaging in skincare trends like “skincare smoothies” can disrupt the natural protective barrier and microbiome of young skin, leading to further problems.

Common problems include:

  • acne flare ups
  • redness
  • irritation
  • perioral dermatitis- a rash characterized by red bumps and pimples around the mouth.

Basic is Best

For most pre-teens and teens, adopting a basic skincare routine can help significantly improve and sustain overall skin health. Adolescents should find a skincare routine that prioritizes hydration and protection without the need for advanced ingredients.

  1. Cleanser: use a gentle cleanser morning and night to remove debris and excess oil.
  2. Moisturizer: apply a moisturizer morning and night to hydrate and strengthen the skin’s protective barrier.
  3. SPF/Sunscreen: apply sunscreen every morning, after moisturizing, to protect against harmful UV rays and reduce the risk of skin cancer.

As teens age and their hormones fluctuate, there may be a need to add acne spot treatments and a light exfoliator into their routine to prevent or treat breakouts.

When to See a Dermatologist

Persistent acne, unusual symptoms or adverse reactions to skincare products are red flags that warrant a trip to a dermatologist. Additionally, if your teen expresses a desire to see a dermatologist or experiences hives, rashes or other concerning symptoms, seeking help from a dermatologist can help address underlying skin concerns.

Dermatology at Nationwide Children's
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Featured Expert

Brittany Kozy
Brittany J. Kozy, CPNP-PC

Brittany Kozy, MS, RN, CPNP, is a nurse practitioner in the Division of Pediatric Dermatology at Nationwide Children's Hospital. She received her undergraduate degree from Bowling Green State University and her Masters of Science in Nursing from The Ohio State University. Brittany worked in a primary care office for two years before arriving at Nationwide Children's. Her clinical interests include disease prevention and patient education. Brittany is a member of the Dermatology Nurses Association and an associate member of the Society of Pediatric Dermatology.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.