Being a teenager can be kinda stressful; it’s a whirlwind of AP calculus, curfews, and boy drama, so the last thing you need to be worrying about is your skincare regime. To save you the hassle, we’ve pulled together the ultimate regime that’ll help combat everything from pimples to oily skin, leaving you with a goddess level glow. Of course, we consulted with the experts for their top tips, so the only thing you’ll have to worry about is what you’re going to wear to senior prom.
Understanding teenage skin
The first step of any good skincare regime is understanding your skin. During your teens, your hormone levels spike, which in skin terms equals one thing: oiliness. The main aim of your skincare regime should be dedicated to balancing your skin and controlling oil production. The rising levels of testosterone also increase sebum (oil) production, making breakouts more likely as the buildup of oil blocks your pores and encourages blackheads and pimples to form. Plus, as you go through puberty, you start to produce more keratin (a protein that protects the upper layers of your dermis), which makes your skin thicker, and therefore it contributes to blocked pores.
Ingredients to look for: Clay to extract oil (check out our fave drugstore clay masks), Benzoyl Peroxide, which is proven to help break-outs, salicylic acid and AHAs, which clean deep into pores, and tea tree oil and witch hazel, which are naturally antibacterial.
Things to avoid: Food-wise, avoid cow’s milk, and rich and heavy creams (dairy) to help with hormonal breakouts.
Step 1: Cleanse
“As a teenager, the most important skincare step is cleansing,” Timm Golüeke, leading dermatologist and Founder of the Dr. Golüeke clinic in Munich, told us.
Cleansing properly will help remove impurities and any excess oil. Start your day with a cleanser that’s targeted for your skin type, like a foam or gel formula. However, at the end of the day, you should double cleanse to help remove any makeup residue, dirt, oil, or dead skin that’s sitting on your skin. It may seem counterintuitive to use an oil on oily skin, but a cleansing oil will actually remove sebum more effectively as oil attracts oil. Check out our full guide to double cleansing here. But first, here are you go-to cleansers:
Missha Blackhead Off, $33: This is a bit pricier, but it’s amazing, and the oil will last you months even with daily use. Use this as the first step in your cleansing routine to get rid of SPF and makeup, and follow with a gel cleanser.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Cleansing Gel, $9: This oil-free gel cleanser is super lightweight and will gently remove any dirt, oil, or makeup from your skin while hydrating with hyaluronic acid.
Step 2: Tone
Toning is another key step and helps to rebalance the pH levels of your skin, which in turn helps manage oil production. Plus, it’ll tone and tighten your pores, so they’re less likely to become blocked. A good toner will also help remove any lingering makeup residue – you’ll be surprised how you can miss makeup around your hairline! These are the products we rely on:
COSRX One Step Original Clear Pad (70pcs), $23: Pre-saturated toning pads soaked in willow bark extract, tea tree, and hyaluronic acid are the easiest way to sweep away leftover residue on your skin, hydrate, and detox. We’re in love!
Clinique Clarifying Lotion 3, $25: This toner will leave your skin feeling fresh, clean, and cool. The addition of witch hazel will help purify and gently exfoliate the skin.
Step 3: Exfoliate (2-3 times a week)
Dr. Jessica Wu M.D, L.A.-based dermatologist, Founder of Jessica Wu Cosmeceuticals, says it’s really important to “keep skin exfoliated” due to the hormonal surges that are occurring and leading to blocked pores. Dr. Wu recommends “Clay containing products, which have natural antiseptic and astringent properties,” and recommends the Skinfix Foaming Clay Cleanser, $20, to all her teen patients. Chemical exfoliators containing AHAs and salicylic acid are perfect as they clean deep into your pores, as they’re able to penetrate more deeply (than physical exfoliators) and dissolve the glue that holds together debris in your pore.
However, you should only exfoliate two to three time a week, and be sure to be as gentle as possible. The more pressure you apply when you use physical (grainy) exfoliators, the more likely you are to damage your skin and encourage breakouts (micro scratches on the surface of the skin encourage bacteria to enter). Check out these gentle but effective exfoliators:
Bioré Charcoal Pore Minimizer, $10: Charcoal is great for teen skin as it detoxifies and purifies. You’ll actually be able to see the oil being removed from your skin!
e.l.f Gentle Peeling Exfoliant, $10: This exfoliator will gently peel away dead skin and is infused with tangerine, papaya, and licorice extracts to brighten the skin.
DIY Exfoliator: Cook together 1/2 cup of hot water and 1/3 cup oatmeal. Leave it to cool and then mix in 1 tablespoon of plain yoghurt (packed with lactic acid, an AHA), 1 tablespoon of honey (anti-inflammatory and antibacterial), 1 teaspoon of turmeric, (an awesome antiaging and antibacterial powerhouse), and an egg white for a hit of zinc and vitamin B. Apply a thin layer of the mask to your face for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse with warm water.
Step 4: Moisturize
Don’t think that just because your skin is oily you can get away with skipping moisturizer. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you don’t hydrate oily skin, your skin will produce more oil in an effort to compensate for the lack of moisture. This means that the best moisturizer is one that can replenish and hydrate without sitting heavily on your skin. Look for gel moisturizers that are super lightweight and are water-like in texture, as these contain the lowest amount of oil, waxes, and emulsifiers. You can also look for labels that say non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic, as these mean the product will not clog pores or cause breakouts. Here are our fave moisturizers for teen skin:
Clinique Moisture surge 72-hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator, $20: This dewy gel moisturizer contains skincare hero ingredient hyaluronic acid as well as aloe vera, to plump, soothe and hydrate your skin.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water gel, $20: This award-winning oil-free moisturizer is highly absorbent and will nourish and hydrate, leaving your skin soft and glowing.
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Optional: Apply a serum
If you feel like one round of moisture isn’t enough, and you want to take your skincare regime to the next level, apply a serum before your moisturizer. Serums contain a high concentration of active ingredients, and the small molecular structure allows it to penetrate the skin on a deeper level. It’s super lightweight so it’ll absorb into your skin easily, lessening the chance of it blocking your pores. Here are our go-to serums:
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $11: Hyaluronic acid is the ultimate hydrating ingredient; it’s multi-depth hydration will plump your skin, leaving it feeling super soft.
Step 5: SPF
Dr. Timm Golueke says he always tells his teen patients “To use SPF daily because often when a pimple is healing and it’s exposed to the sun, it will leave hyperpigmentation.” 90% of how your skin ages is directly related to sun exposure and if there’s one thing all dermatologists agree on, it’s that wearing sunscreen every day is essential if you want healthy skin. While aging may not seem like the greatest skincare concern in your teens, if you get into this skincare ritual early on, you’ll be loving life and the way your skin looks when you hit 30.
The Sunscreen Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Spray SPF 50, $9: This water-resistant sunscreen offers UVA and UVB protection and features active ingredients that absorb damaging UV radiation before it even reaches the skin.
The Inkey List Zinc, $11: This sunscreen is a combination of mineral and chemical sunscreens and is SPF 50. It’s lightweight and absorbent so it won’t leave your skin feeling greasy, while the zinc content will help to balance oil production.
Do a weekly Mask
If you get into the habit of doing a mask once a week, your skin will seriously thank you. As Dr. Wu’s recommends, a clay mask is amazing for your skin, and we’re obsessed with L’Oréal clay masks, $13; they’re affordable, and they’re SO good. There are six masks in total that address different skincare concerns. However, they all contain three types of clay; kaolin, montmorillonite, and Moroccan lava, which extract oil and purify pores. You may also want to stock up on pore strips to help degunk your pores like the Tea Tree Oil-control Cleansing Nose Pore Strips, $3. Although, you’ll only need to use these very two weeks.
Our fave DIY Acne Mask: This mask is perfect for teen skin as honey is a natural humectant so it’ll draw moisture into your skin, yet it’s also antibacterial helping reduce any acne bacteria in the skin. Combine 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 tablespoon of nutmeg, and 2/3 teaspoons of cow’s milk in a bowl, then apply to your face using a brush; continue to layer the mask until it’s all gone. Leave it on your skin for 10 to 15 minutes and then either gently wipe away with a muslin cloth or wash your face with warm water.
Since teen skin is more prone to pimples, make sure you’re always prepared with a spot treatment to tackle a pimple as soon as you can feel one coming. Look for products that contain salicylic acid, witch hazel, or tea tree as these ingredients will help lower inflammation and reduce acne bacteria in the skin.
Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, $17: This drying solution is amazing at taking down pimples overnight as it helps to dry out blemishes and reduce redness and inflammation. Check out why we love it so much here.
Boots Tea Tree & Witch Hazel Spot Wand, $6: Witch hazel is ideal for treating acne as it’s a natural astringent, so it’ll help draw out bacteria, dirt, and oil in your skin. We love applying this wand as it has a day and a night formula for 24-hour control.
e.l.f. Acne Fighting Spot Gel With Aloe, $2: This features our fave acne fighting ingredients; salicylic acid, witch hazel, camphor, tea tree, green tea, and aloe vera, so it’ll reduce swelling and get rid of any lingering bacteria in the skin.
And, most importantly, remember to not pick at any spots, as this is more likely to cause scarring. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.