Being a teenager is about learning, growth and friendship, navigating your emerging personality and testing how the world around you reacts to everything you and others are doing. When you learn more about life than ever before, experiencing its wonders and stresses fully for the first time ever.
Oh, and acne.
Teenagerdom is the best time to get ahead on setting basic personal care habits. Until now, you’ve probably gotten away with a quick shower or bath in the evening and otherwise not thinking much about your appearance. As friendships and social interaction before more important, you’ll probably start to care more about how you look – and building your first basic skin care routine is a big part of that.
Why teenagers need to learn about skin care ASAP
When I was a teenager, in my health science class we were taught only the absolutely bare-bones basics about how to look after our skin. I think it was mentioned as a 10-minute side note when learning about the body’s organs. The basic advice was “wash your face or you’ll get acne”.
When a lot of basics of self care are skipped over or just aren’t taught at all, it’s not surprising then how many people manage to get to adulthood without understanding their body and mind, and become overwhelmed by new responsibilities and neglect to care for themselves.
I think every pre-teen and teen should learn about how their skin works and start a skin care routine as soon as possible. If you can get ahead of hormones, increased stress, and acne and get good skin care practices underway, you’ll get a headstart on being equipped to deal with breakouts quickly and with confidence.
If you don’t learn now, you could end up at university or in your first full-time job and trying to balance a lot of new responsibilities in your 20s and letting your self care slip behind. There’s nothing worse than trying to catch up on learning hygiene as an adult! But if you had already built your core routines as you grew up, you’d already be in the mindset of caring for yourself on autopilot.
A great set of tools for maintaining your hygiene and mental clarity will keep you balanced and proud of your appearance and your dedication to your health well into the future.
Luckily, skin care is super easy! All it’s about is choosing the right 3-5 products and using them regularly.
How to choose the right products for teen skin
I can hear some of you already wondering how you’re going to be able to choose and buy the right skin care. Don’t worry, I’ve broken it down to the basics for you.
It’s important that the products you choose are suitable for teen mindsets, teen skin and a teen budget. The routine must be simple, effective and affordable. Together, these encompass the values of personal care – keeping everything you do within your financial, mental and energetic means.
The first key for teens is simple: keep it simple! There’s enough going on in teenage lives with friendships, school, family, growing up, and making life choices, that we don’t need to add a whole lot of time-consuming skin care steps and product confusion on top to boot. Time and attention is a precious resource. Let’s choose as few products as possible that are quick and easy to use, so you can get on with your day. Don’t get swept up with all the latest product fads or try to work in 15 products into your 5 minute morning routine before swim practice. Less is more.
Teen skin is unique in that it’s usually pretty oily and acne-prone, even if it was dry before and will become dry again in your adulthood. This means for a lot of people, we’ll need to find an anti-acne product that’s highly effective against pimples. Can do.
Next most important, but not to be ignored, is affordability. Many teens are relying on pocket money and/or a part-time job around school, and they or their family don’t have the money to buy elaborate or luxury routines. That means that for you, cheap is best. You want your money to go far so you can get the best results while having something left over to spend on activities with friends.
So what are we waiting for?! Here are my best simple, effective and affordable teen skin care product recommendations for you to add your your shopping list.
The skin care products teens need (and don’t need yet)
- Makeup remover
- Acne treatment
- Moisturiser x 2 (one with sunscreen, one without)
What’s it for?
If you’re a makeup-wearing person, chances are your cleanser isn’t enough to remove pesky mascara, deep-down blush and sparkly highlighters. A makeup remover is a special product that is designed to dissolve and dilute makeup so that when you go in and wash your face it’ll come right off with no problems!
What’s it for?
You’ve still got the day or night on your face (and lots of makeup removers leave behind some residue too). As much as a quick splash of that lemon-blast icy-cool 3-in-1 shampoo-body-face wash hybrid seems like it might be working, it really is worth it to just buy a basic cleanser. Your face is a lot more delicate than your body and needs its own dedicated product. It will gently clean your skin without removing all the deep-down natural oils, fats and waxes (yes, really!) that you need to protect against infections (like acne) and very irritated, flaky skin.
What’s it for?
Acne isn’t usually caused by poor hygiene or eating bad foods. It’s when natural skin bacteria get a bit overexcited by all the new oils on your face and start to make homes in your pores. It’s one of the most common skin problems of people of all ages, but especially teenagers.
If you want to prevent acne or treat mild blackheads and whiteheads, you can’t go wrong with salicylic acid. Salicylic acid (also called ‘BHA’) is an ingredient that can make its way through the oil on your skin and deep down into your pores, and helps dislodge old skin, built up fats and waxes. This keeps the pores clear. Full pores can become spontaneously clogged. These blockages lead to a build-up of oils that can’t escape, and harden and dry out into blackheads or stay trapped under the skin as whiteheads. So salicylic acid can gently prevent and treat these kinds of minor acne from ruining your day.
(If you’re skin’s already nice and clear, great! By using salicylic acid regularly, you’ll be clearing out the pores to prevent new pimples ever popping up. And if you already have some, it’ll reduce the swelling of any current pimples you might have.)
If your acne is already pretty bad, you might want to try a adding a slightly stronger acne treatment – benzoyl peroxide. That sounds scary, but really it’s just a cream that kills acne bacteria. It can dry your skin out, but it will work better against cystic and deep acne than salicylic acid will. It seems like a stronger percentage would work better, but actually the lower percentages work just as well and won’t burn your skin like the stronger ones can.
Salicylic Acid (BHA): Stridex Single Step Acne Control Pads
Benzoyl Peroxide: Touch 2.5% Gel Cream
Moisturiser x 2 (with SPF for the daytime, without for the evening)
What’s it for?
After all those other products, we’ll need to add some hydration back into your skin. It’ll prevent it from getting itchy, flaky or dry, and make makeup sit better and look more natural.
I can’t stress how important it is that you wear a sunscreen (SPF) every day. Not just if you’re fair-skinned or going to spend some time outdoors, but every day no matter what! The sun causes invisible skin damage and speeds up ageing. So while you might not notice a different now, down the road a little you’ll be wishing you remembered!
Being a busy and forgetful teenager, I’d recommend you try a sunscreen/moisturiser combination product. It’s one less thing to remember in the rush out the door in the morning and makes your morning routine go faster. A tinted or luminous moisturiser always goes down well as it gives an extra nice finish to skin, even in schools where makeup isn’t allowed.
For the evening though, you’ll need a moisturiser that’s free from SPF, because the sun is already set! You can also use this opportunity to choose something nice and rich, which might seem a bit greasy for the day time but it’ll sink right in overnight while you’re asleep.
You DONT need:
- eye cream
- cleansing tools
Products like these are redundant (you don’t need to use them and won’t see any super special results for it). As discussed, we’re trying to keep it simple, affordable and effective! Once you hit your 20s, you can start to really explore all the ins and outs of more complex skin care treatments. Until then, save your time and money and focus on this basic routine first!
How to do your skin care routine
Every day, twice a day, you’ll need to go through those products we just talked about to clean and prep your skin for the day or night ahead. This is the order to use them in:
- Remove makeup
- Cleanse face
- Apply acne treatment
- Moisturise/protect face
Get your hair out of your face and let’s get started!
STEP 1 – Remove makeup
First, take off the makeup from the day/night before. Depending on the makeup remover you choose, you can apply it to a cotton pad or just use your fingers to rub it in. Give yourself a minute to work on the areas where you wear the most, especially around the eyes.
STEP 2 – Cleanse face
Then, dampen your hands and lather up a pump of your cleanser, then glide it around your face for 30 seconds. Gently rub your hands over your skin and let the cleanser do the work. Don’t miss the corners of your jaw and between your eyebrows, where we tend to skip over.
Then, run some lukewarm water and cup your hands in it until they’re half full, and gently lift them to your skin several times to rinse.
Pat your face gently dry with a small towel that you only use for drying your face (don’t use a hand towel or body towel that’s already dirty!).
STEP 3 – Apply acne treatment
Check out your skin for any spots and if needed, apply your acne product. I recommend doing this once daily only.
Most importantly, apply it as a spot treatment to currently active acne spots. You can also use some as a preventative where you know you tend to break out a lot. Only in severe cases do I recommend applying your acne treatment all over your face, because often times we just don’t need it everywhere. For milder acne, I’d also suggest trying to use your acne treatment every other day rather than every day, to prevent overly drying out your skin and causing irritation.
Wherever/whenever you choose to apply your acne treatment, let it dry for a minute before moving onto the next step.
STEP 4 – Moisturise/protect face
Finish up with a generous amount of moisturiser (either SPF or SPF-free, depending on time of day) all over.
Do this routine twice a day – one when you wake up and sometime once you’re home for the night before you go to bed (any time in the afternoon-evening is fine).
Tips, advice, habits to get into, and mistakes to avoid
When you wash your face at the sink, a fluffy headband is a good way to keep the hair out of your face ands otp it from getting wet.
Benzoyl peroxide bleaches hair and fabric, so if you’re someone whos uses it, be super careful to wash your hands straight away and keep your hair out of your face while it dries. I highly recommend getting some benzoyl-peroxide-proof towels and sheets to protect your mum’s precious linens.
Never go to bed without removing your products from the day. That means removing makeup if need be, and always cleansing. Otherwise, you’ll be taking all the dirt, grease, sweat and products from the day and getting them all over your pillow and leaving it to sit and develop bacteria night after night.
But if you just tend to completely forget your routine otherwise, try keeping your cleanser in the shower so you can just use it while you’re washing your body (which is every day, right?!). It’s better than nothing!
Don’t pick at or squeeze minor blemishes. If you have to use force to make a pimple burst, it’ll not only come out the surface but also potentially down into the lower layers of skin and to neighboring areas, spreading the infection. It also causes a surprising amount of redness and swelling, and will make things look 100 times worse.
Pamper nights are basically an invention for teenagers. There’s nothing that can distract you more from the social pressures of high school than having your friends over for a sleepover (or taking a minute to relax on your own) and doing all the silly, glamorous self-care routines of face masks and scrubs, painting your nails, and makeovers. The classic combination of a scrub and mask is a lot of fun. The key is to use the right products and to not go overboard – once a week with this kind of thing is plenty.
A good exfoliation session makes your skin feel lovely and smooth. Swap out the grainy walnut or DIY lemon face scrub for something finer which won’t make you bright red and it’ll also better polish the skin.
And as for a face mask, pretty much anything is fine so go for it! There are clay masks for the oily among us, or hydrating sheet masks if you’re more of a dry skin type. Masks go great on a Christmas or birthday wish list, because then you can build a collection try a few different things out and swap them out as you like.
Most of all, enjoy and experiment with your routine while you’re a teenager. Your skin will change all the time in the next few years, and will likely never be perfect, but just treat it as best as you can and you’ll be miles ahead of the rest!