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Parents, Here’s What Your Kids Actually Need to Care For Their Skin

Parents, Here’s What Your Kids Actually Need to Care For Their Skin

Have you ever heard the term “Sephora kids”? I hadn’t either until I recently came across an article talking about a new phenomena: kids and tweens purchasing and using luxury skincare products. The term comes from the increase of tween girls that seem to be wiping out their local Sephora’s stock of skincare brands like Drunk Elephant and Glow Recipe. The idea is also linked to a type of lifestyle and beauty content many influencers love–the ‘get ready with me’ or ‘do my skincare routine with me’ types of videos where multi-step routines filled with a plethora of different products are shared–which have been influencing a very young market to buy expensive skincare. 

Combine seeing influencer marketing like this on their phones everyday, a desire when you’re young to fit in and feel good about yourself (a feeling that many of us still relate to), and more accessible information about skincare formulation and ingredients out there online, and you get a generation of girls who are interested in skincare long before their skin actually needs many of the industry’s favourite ingredients.

Let me say this: there's nothing wrong with being interested in skincare and wanting to take care of yourself. In fact, I love that girls want to learn about how to care for their skin’s health from a young age. The problem comes when girls feel influenced to choose expensive, intensive products that actually can harm their skin more than help it!

So let’s talk about it.

What Makes a Tween’s Skin Different?

It’s important to understand that kids have skin that is already naturally resilient, and they don’t need complicated or expensive routines. They already naturally have a lot of cellular turnover, so when harsher, active ingredients are used (that cause even more cellular turnover), it can actually damage a young person’s skin health.

When I discussed the rise of gen alpha’s skincare obsession with my colleagues, we were all a little sad to see that such young girls felt like they needed such intense regimens, with active ingredients like retinoids or acids. 

When consulting our cosmetic chemist, Ivy Phung, she shared, “Children’s skin is not the same as adult skin. It doesn’t mature until later in life. A lot of skincare products have not been tested on children's skin and may cause more harm than good. Lotion and sunscreen are all they need at such a young age.” Skin therapist Seanna Cohen chimed into the conversation, agreeing “100%.”

Up to about the age of 12, children’s skin is actually thinner, less pigmented, and more susceptible to UV damage than adult skin. The self-protection mechanisms that teen and adult skin have–such as sebum production–is only partially developed at this point. That is why choosing gentle products for children and tweens is so important.

What About Teens?

Teenagers’ naturally resilient skin is just like their tween counterparts. However, with puberty and hormonal changes, teenagers will likely see new skin concerns appear, such as acne or oily skin. It’s around this age when young people might start wearing more makeup as well, meaning makeup removal becomes a new aspect of their skincare routine.

As a child or tween, cleaning, hydrating, and protecting the skin from sun damage is the main priority. With new concerns popping up as teenagers navigate both puberty and their skin’s structure developing to be closer to an adult’s, skincare at this point will expand. Cleaning, moisturizing, and protecting the skin are still the most important, but now things like acne treatments or products that specifically combat oily, sensitive, or dry skin might make an appearance in a teenager’s routine.

Some common skin concerns for teenagers are acne, eczema and dermatitis, sunburn, oily skin, and congested pores.

How Early is Too Early for a Skincare Routine?

I don’t think there is too young of an age depending on how simple you keep the idea of a “skincare regimen”. I think when children learn how to wash and care for their body in general, it also makes sense for them to learn how to wash their face as well. Kids under 10 really only need a face wash and a moisturizer, and often if you’re choosing clean, gentle shower products, the body wash or body lotion they’re already using can also work on their face. Our All Over Soap and All Over Lotion are perfect for face and body, and there are other hypoallergenic, gentle products out there that are good for young children to use.

It’s important for girls to form healthy habits and learn how to love and take care of their bodies at an early age. Incorporating washing and moisturizing the face during and just after shower time or after brushing the teeth is a continuation of these cleanliness habits they’re already learning.

Skincare routines teach girls how to love and care for their bodies. Beauty is a feeling.

Plus, the practice of touching your face and connecting with your skin can help girls develop a more positive self image and feel more comfortable in their skin. I think the intention behind incorporating skincare is important. Young girls should know that skincare is there for them because their bodies and skin are worthy of being protected, nourished, and taken care of–not because they have issues or flaws that an expensive serum or cream will “fix”.

I believe it’s always important to form healthy habits as early as you can, and that includes a skincare routine. Having a routine before hormones start to change your skin helps prepare the skin so it is able to better handle any changes that come with puberty.

Recommended Products + Ingredients for Kids, Tweens, and Teens

Before I go into my recommendations for each age group, I have some general advice for everyone when it comes to skin health.

Beyond what products you use, how you apply them matters, too. To effectively clean dirt and debris from the skin, some form of gentle exfoliation is required. That can come in the simple form of a damp washcloth, whose fibers will exfoliate the skin. My personal favourite is a bamboo sponge, as it's biodegradable and feels so soft on the skin–even more so than a washcloth. That’s why our bamboo charcoal sponge is one of my all-time favourite skincare tools.

I also want to remind everyone of all ages that your skin can be fed from the inside out just as much as it can from the outside in. On top of having a skincare routine, intentionally incorporating nutritious foods into your diet makes a world of difference for your skin’s health. And many foods that nourish your skin aren’t rare or expensive. Ingredients like broccoli, oats, quinoa, and chickpeas are all good for your skin (and your overall health)!

For Kids (Under 10)

For young kids, the only must-have products for them are a soap and a lotion, and they can often be the same ones they use on their body if you’re selecting the right product. Choosing multi-purpose products is a great starting point for kids, as skincare can be a natural extension to cleaning their bodies. 

Kids need sun protection, and as it can be difficult to get young ones to put on SPF, an easier way around this can also be wearing a hat and choosing lightweight protective clothing like a long sleeve shirt and pants made of breathable material.

As I mentioned before, I'd recommend All Over Soap to wash the face + body, and All Over Lotion to moisturize. They're gentle formulated so they're appropriate for young skin.

Recommendations: All Over Soap, All Over Lotion, and sun protection.

For Tweens (10-12)

Tweens, like kids, just need the basics. But, if your tween is already interested in skincare, they might want something more than a multipurpose face + body wash and lotion. This is a great time to introduce a gentle face cleanser and moisturizer. It’s also when your tween can start learning how important it is to use SPF. In fact, many SPF products contain moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, and could be used as both moisturizer and SPF in one. 

When it comes to products for your tween, you should choose ingredients that nurture rather than actives that can irritate the skin. Gentle and formulated for sensitive skin is the way to go when it comes to skincare products for tweens. Cleansers like Aloe Milk are good for cleaning dirt and debris and are suitable for skin young enough to not yet have a defined “skin type” such as oil/acne prone or dry. 

For moisturizer, I’d recommend something like Skin Stuff, which protects the skin barrier (a great thing to look for in your skincare products if you’re interested in skin longevity and overall health) as well as hydrates. It’s great for sensitive skin and is hypoallergenic, a good choice for all young people from child to teen.

For SPF, there are tons of great options out there. Mineral sunscreens–which get their protection from ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium oxide–are a great choice because the minerals don’t need to be absorbed into the skin to protect it. This means there’s a much lower chance of your tween’s skin reacting to the ingredients in a mineral sunscreen.

Ingredients that support the skin barrier and protect against environmental damage are what you should be looking for. These types of ingredients and products lay the groundwork for tweens to have healthy skin throughout their entire lives. Some ingredients I recommend are colloidal oatmeal, cocoa butter, raspberry oil, rosehip oil, and probiotics.

Recommendations: Aloe Milk, Skin Stuff, and a mineral sunscreen.

For Teens (13+)

When it comes to what kind of skincare products a teenager needs, teens really don't need any harsh or active ingredients– and they certainly don’t need exfoliating acids or anti-aging products like retinol that can sensitize the skin. If anything, these ingredients actually end up stripping oils from the skin, forcing the skin’s sebum production to overcompensate, causing oily skin–a challenge many teens are already dealing with. These ingredients can also weaken the skin barrier, allowing the daily bacteria and dirt to irritate your unprotected skin, leading to problems like redness, infection, and acne.

Here are my must-haves for teens (spoiler! It’s the same as for tweens): a cleanser, a moisturizer, and SPF. Plus, for a refresh throughout the day, a facial mist like Face Food is a great skin-boosting addition.

If makeup is part of a teenager’s routine, they can also avoid the stripping effects of harsh makeup removers by removing their makeup with an oil. Coconut oil is fantastic for this and for removing grime, dirt, and sweat because it is antibacterial and is a surfactant, which means it has cleansing properties. Just hold off on using it on super congested skin, as it is comedogenic. A good non-comedogenic alternative is jojoba oil. After using it, follow it up with a gentle cleanser like our Aloe Milk cleanser or Face Foam. These cleansers can also be used together to double cleanse.

If your teen is starting to show concern over certain skin issues such as ance or dry patches, then exploring the options that target specific skin types can be helpful. If your teen needs help figuring out their skin type, they can take out Skin Quiz here.

However, like I’ve said plenty of times in this article, any skincare products your teen uses that target specific skin concerns should be hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested, and formulated for sensitive skin (like all our products are). You don’t want your teen to apply any products that might compromise their skin barrier.

For ingredients, the recommendations would change based on each teen’s skin concerns. If teens are dealing with acne, oily skin, or congested pores, I would recommend they make sure any oil ingredients they use are non-comedogenic, which means they won’t clog the pores. Some oils like this are rosehip, squalane, safflower, and meadowfoam.

Recommendations: Aloe Milk and/or Face Foam, Face Food, hypoallergenic/sensitive moisturizer, coconut or jojoba oil, and SPF/mineral sunscreen.

Share a Love of Healthy Skin Habits, Not Over the Top Routines

The skin is our body’s largest organ. It is the way we can touch, sense, and interact with the world around us. Taking care of it is important. When it comes to expensive products and questionable trends, sitting down to talk about where the desire to participate comes from can help you understand why your child feels like taking part. Young girls deserve to feel confident in their skin, and no trend or influencer should leave them with the impression that the very skin they’re in is wrong and in need of fixing. Talking through those expectations can help.

Part of the allure of certain skincare trends is that they feel somehow sacred or special. It’s that feeling more than the actual results or products that drive young girls to partake. By making skincare accessible for your kids, you’re taking that allure away and reminding them that skincare is a simple, wonderful, and affirming way of caring for yourself and your body. 

Skincare is a simple, wonderful, and affirming way of caring for yourself and your body.

Leave skincare out on the bathroom counter, keep something beside the sink in the kitchen, or in the basket by your front door. Let it be a normal part of life rather than treating skincare like an elaborate, multi-step ritual that needs to be performed with expensive products. Show skincare as an easy, worthwhile habit as instinctual as brushing their teeth before bed.

When it comes to ensuring what products are safe and effective, it helps to take the time to research products, ingredients, and skin health. Navigating the increasingly complicated world of skincare is much easier when you give yourself a basic, working knowledge of what your skin needs, and how ingredients meet those needs. There are so many resources out there that have real scientific research backing them and knowledge from dermatologists that you can use as trusted sources for learning more about skincare. Plus, all our articles here are researched using reliable sources, which we cite at the bottom of each article. Want to see what I mean? I’d start with this article about skincare routines for teens or this one about biomimetic skincare.

How to Make a Simple Routine Feel Special

While it can feel fun to have a luxurious, multi-step skincare regime, especially when you see so many content creators sharing their elaborate routines, the truth is that simple is better unless you have skin issues that need a dermatologist’s help.

When you’re young, your skin doesn’t have complex needs and is naturally incredibly regenerative. So if a younger person still wants the feel of a special skincare routine, it is better to choose simple ingredients to add on to the usual skincare routine. 

For example, I recommend adding rosehip oil. It can feel like applying a luxurious serum and is an incredibly nourishing and effective oil… but it’s still just one ingredient, and a fairly inexpensive one at that.

Your young kids might also enjoy a simple spray bottle filled with distilled water if they see you using a similar product and want to join in on your routine. A few drops of oil like rosehip in that can be a nice addition.

Tips to Keep in Mind

There are a few general rules of thumb you can share with your tweens + teens to help them find the best skincare products and practices for their skin.

  • If their skin feels tight after using a cleanser, the cleanser is too harsh. Many cleansers contain foaming agents that dry out the skin and strip it.
  • If their pores feel clogged, encourage them to continue to moisturize even if it feels counterintuitive to them. Dry skin actually causes pores to tighten, allowing more dirt and debris to get trapped there.
  • If they’re using a product containing retinol or alpha hydroxy acid, talk to them about how these ingredients can have long term damage on the skin barrier when used too young.
  • If they’re wearing makeup often, look for oils or balm cleansers to help them get all their makeup off at the end of the day. They might also find double cleansing helpful.
  • If they aren’t sure how often to use their skincare products, encourage them to, at minimum, apply SPF in the morning, then cleanse and moisturize at night. At most, SPF throughout the day, and cleansing and moisturizing AM + PM.
  • If they’re really worried about their skin, especially if they have problems with skin irritations or acne, take them to a dermatologist for extra guidance and expertise.

Here’s to healthy skin and healthy habits, at every age and stage of your life!

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