Ask Apothaka: Teen skincare - what products should they use?

Posted by Natasha Dauncey on

I've had several queries asking for product recommendations for teen skincare recently, and it seems timely to write about this, as there has been a lot of social media interest in this topic at the moment. Sadly, for the wrong reasons - plenty of mentions of teens using completely inappropriate products seen on TikTok for their needs, including the use of "anti-ageing" products / aggressive exfoliators, along with overly elaborate 10-step routines. So what should teens be using? I know it can feel like a bit of a minefield, not to mention overwhelming with the amount of options available, but let's try to keep things simple yet effective!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a skin barrier-first approach is also hugely relevant when it comes to teen skincare. If skin barrier health is prioritised, this will not only aid in the tolerability of any actives that may be required if you have a teen with acne, in some cases, it may minimise the amount of active treatment you need to incoporate. As the mum of a teen daughter myself, I also feel that it's important to keep things simple and streamlined so the routine can become an easy habit to maintain.

At this age, teens may see a lot of hormonal changes reflected in their skin. Blemishes and acne with varying degrees of severity can start to appear, but also dry flaky skin (which may be a by-product of the harsh acne products often aimed at teens OR a disruption in the way the skin is functioning if it's dehydrated / not being moisturised). Having suffered acne myself in the past I totally understand how self conscious it can make you feel, but the good news is that there are plenty of options if your teen wants to do something about it!

So here's a basic teenage skincare routine that any teen could follow:

  • Cleansing -
  • Moisturising - 
    • oily/combination and balanced skin (if lighter textures preferred) - skin quenching moisturiser with ceramides, urea and sodium PCA
    • dry/combination and balanced skin (if richer textures preferred) - comforting moisturiser with ceramides, colloidal oat and omega oils
  • Sunscreen - 
    • ideally every day to protect the skin from sun damage (great to make it into a habit from an early age!) - SPF30 (or SPF50 if using actives for acne). EVY is a great option as it's very lightweight and is unlikely to clog pores

This is a great starting point for all teens and will provide a solid foundation even if they subsequently require some actives (to manage acne if it's bothering them) - these products are gentle and have been formulated to support skin health without any inappropriate actives in them. Even if you have a teen who's blessed with unproblematic skin, it's still a good time to set them up with a basic routine like this. I would give this routine at least a few weeks to see how their skin responds before adding actives to manage spots / acne (bear in mind that spots take several weeks to form before they even appear on the surface so don't expect improvements overnight!). If there are no signs of improvement in blemishes / acne, the next step would be to try a cleanser or leave on product with benzoyl peroxide which works on the bacteria that cause acne. This is available in cleansers as well as in leave on products. It can dry out the skin, so it's important to make sure the skin is kept well moisturised when using it, and perhaps start with "short contact therapy" with a cleanser formulation so the product doesn't remain on the skin (thereby helping to reduce the risk of dryness / irritation). Alternatively, salicylic acid - an oil-soluble exfoliant may help by cleaning out pores. I don't recommend physical exfoliants (scrubs) as these can be quite harsh - especially when used on active acne, as they may worsen existing inflammation. When looking for salicylic acid products, check carefully that they're suitable for teen skin and don't contain other exfoliating acids (like glycolic acid) - as these can make the skin very sun sensitive.

For moderate to severe acne, I recommend consulting a healthcare professional and/or an advanced aesthetician with experience of dealing with teen acne, as there are other options that can be explored (topical or oral retinoids, topical antibiotics etc which can be prescribed by a GP, and/or skin treatments offered by aestheticians which focus either on treating acne, calming down inflammation or building up the skin barrier).

If I can leave you with one final tip - it's important to resist the temptation to pick spots as this can cause pigmentation and / or scarring which can be harder to treat. 

Hopefully this helps provide some guidance on how to approach teen skincare. If you have any further questions about the products mentioned and their suitability for teens, please get in touch! At Apothaka® we offer a gentle, well formulated approach which can help to support both ends of the hormonal spectrum (teens vs peri-/menopause) as well as in between!


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