Dermatologist Weighs in on Teen Skincare Trends

Article written by:
Dr. Brandie Metz, MD
Pediatric Dermatologist
Founder, Pediatric Dermatology of Orange County


As a pediatric dermatologist, I have seen an increasing number of young girls asking for advice about skin care, toting bags full of fancy or expensive products. There has been a recent trend amongst teens and tweens to purchase high-end skin care products typically designed for more mature skin. These beauty-obsessed pre-adolescents have been nicknamed “Sephora kids.” As young as 9, you can find them in cosmetic store aisles or posting their multistep skin care routines online.

How did we get here? Young people are increasingly exposed to beauty and skincare trends through social media, where they are inundated with videos by influencers who share their beauty routines and are paid to promote products.  In addition, the fun, colorful packaging makes these products seem “cooler” than common brands carried in drug stores.

But piling on too many active ingredients might do more harm than good.  Ingredients like retinol, exfoliating acids and vitamin C can overdry the skin and damage the skin barrier (the outermost layer of the skin), causing skin irritation, breakouts, and even long-term damage. I have seen young patients who are using the wrong products for their skin, resulting in rashes, allergic reactions, or even worsening of the acne they were trying to treat. For example, retinoids can be used for both acne and anti-aging, but anti-aging products contain additional ingredients such as oils which can clog pores and exacerbate acne.

I would like to think that there is a positive side to this trend… young people are taking care of their skin earlier and are more willing to adhere to a skincare routine. I see this interest in beauty and skincare as a great opportunity to educate younger generations about their skin, and to encourage them to build healthy habits, especially sun protection. 

Let’s talk a little more about sunscreen, a favorite subject of all dermatologists!  Sunscreen should be part of an everyday morning routine. I tell patients, “It is never too young to get in the habit of applying a daily sunscreen.” If you are going to spend the day outside, such as at the beach or for sports, sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours.  My son plays baseball, and one of my favorite sunscreens for reapplication between games is the Colorescience Sunforgettable® Total Protection® Brush-On Shield SPF 50. The mineral formula provides instant broad-spectrum coverage, and the brush makes it easy to apply.

For children, I generally recommend physical, also known as mineral, sunscreens which contain zinc oxide, as these give the broadest UV coverage and work instantly. Chemical sunscreens take about 30 minutes after application to be effective and are more likely to irritate sensitive skin. One complaint I often hear about mineral sunscreens is that they look white on the skin after application.  However, there are formulations which contain zinc oxide yet go on sheer, such as Colorescience Total Protection® No-Show™ Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50. Colorescience makes it easy for me to choose the best sun protection because all their SPF products are all-mineral actives only and they go on sheer, leaving no white residue. 

Young people starting a skincare regimen don’t need pricey products or overly complicated routines. In the morning, they should wash with a gentle cleanser and apply a noncomedogenic (which means it won’t clog pores) sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. In the evening, they can use that same gentle cleanser and apply a light, oil-free moisturizer. **

Teens or tweens should avoid products with words like “antiaging”, “wrinkle-reducing”, “brightening” and “firming”, all of which may be signs of active ingredients not meant for young kids.  It is best to stick with a simple skincare routine with age-appropriate products and consult a dermatologist if they have specific concerns.


** Colorescience offers a “Healthy Skin Habits” bundle that is appropriate for all skin types including teens and tweens that includes their Barrier Pro™ Cleanser, Barrier Pro™ Moisturizer, and  Total Protection® No-Show™ Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50.