How to Talk to Tweens & Teens About Skincare

So when it comes to broaching skincare with your tween or teen, what are the key message points to focus in on? Here, Vogue breaks it down.

Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse

“The basic building blocks of a good skincare routine are cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. It’s great to get a handle on this from an early age,” says Dr Granite. “You’d also be surprised at how many people (adults included) do not wash their face! On the flip side, it’s also important that tweens and teens do not overly wash and/or exfoliate their skin. There is a healthy balance [to be found] for sure.” Fidler had a simple and brilliant technique: “I started talking to them about skincare at the first signs of congestion or the odd spot (before that, it was simply a clean flannel and warm water). I did my best to show them how to cleanse and treat any spots gently. Children have to be taught, in the same way you teach them to brush their teeth. Even if they think they are pros already, you need to teach them how to do it properly. I’d put their cleanser by their toothbrush, so that it was part of their daily routine. And I’d nag them to cleanse in the same way that I’d nag them to brush their teeth.”

Know which actives to use—and which to avoid

It might be obvious, but for the purposes of absolute clarity, tweens and teens do not need to use buzzword ingredients such as retinol or niacinamide, but there are some active ingredients that can help soothe early hormonal skincare flare-ups. “Not all active ingredients are an issue per se,” explains Dr Granite, “but most are simply not needed at that age. Salicylic acid or mild AHAs can be used, in particular for tweens and teens who are acne-prone. Hyaluronic acid, glycerin and vitamin B5 are likely not necessary but can be used for very dry skin or sensitive skin. Really, though, most actives are geared towards adult skin issues such as pigmentation and fine lines and wrinkles (including vitamin C, niacinamide, retinol, and peptides) and do not need to be a part of a tween or teen’s skincare routine. Products with these types of ingredients can not only be pricey but also have the potential to sensitize more delicate younger skin.” Fiddler also sings the praises of salicylic acid: “It is something that can clear out blocked pores and downsize spots, but even with that, you need to show them how to use it and build up the use gradually, and you need to find a brand that has the salicylic acid ‘buffered’ with plenty of moisturizing, soothing ingredients to avoid irritation. It took us almost three years to develop our Gentle Exfoliating Liquid because that effectiveness/gentleness balance is so crucial.”

Be savvy when it comes to social media

Dr Granite admits consuming skincare content on the likes of TikTok and Instagram can be tricky to navigate. “On the one hand, the world of beauty can provide such an engaging and enthusiastic community (there are many worse rabbit holes to fall down on the internet!), and it’s great to set up healthy skin habits from an early age. On the other hand, we want to make sure younger audiences are not overly focused or critical of their appearance due to a hyper awareness around skincare and beauty trends. It’s important for younger consumers to use products that are appropriate for their skin. I think it comes down to everything in moderation, which is a philosophy I always come back to. It’s boring because it’s true and stands the test of time.”

You can still have fun with your skincare, but buy wisely

It doesn’t have to all be boring; there are still good times to be had when trying skincare products for the first time. “My kids still like to have a bit of fun with products, especially hydrocolloid patches for spots and hydrating sheet masks,” says Dr Granite, while Fidler suggests looking for products and brands that are specifically targeted to an early teen demographic. “This is a new category,” she says, “but it’s growing, so there is choice out there. Even with these brands, though, stick with the basics: cleansers, moisturizers, spot treatments, and SPFs. Your tween or teen doesn’t need toners, serums, most masks, etc. You should always buy products based on their needs, not on what’s trending. And what they need is pretty simple.”

Be supportive

When tween/teen temptation to try a trending product takes over, or your child experiences a flare up from overzealous masking, be a sympathetic ear. “One of my daughters is a Tiktok native and completely up on all the latest drops, spending a lot of time in Space NK and Sephora,” says Fidler. “We have regular ‘lively’ discussions about the ingredients and effectiveness of the products she wants to buy. She knows my concerns and has learnt the hard way when she’s tried some trending brands–it’s that classic thing of never being a prophet in your own country, but sometimes they have to make the mistake to learn.”

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