How Young is Too Young for a Skin Care Routine?   

How Young is Too Young for a Skin Care Routine?

Skin Care Routine

February 22, 2024

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Emily Berger, M.D.

It’s well-known how influential social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram are — especially for young people. Social feeds have been flooded with “skin care advice” from Generation Alpha influencers (those under age 13). Many of them are promoting expensive, anti-aging skin care products and brands.

But should adolescents and even teens be using anti-aging skin care products already? And how young is too young for a skincare routine?

Emily Berger, M.D., a pediatric and adolescent dermatologist at Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital, chimed in on the trend.

"Although complicated skin care procedures are popular, a basic approach is often best," says Dr. Berger.“I recommend a simple routine that includes a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.”

This goes for people of all ages, including young children. Cleansing the face, moisturizing it and protecting it from the sun are best practices that apply to everyone.

But if simple is best, why are so many young people overcomplicating how they clean their faces?

The Age of Influence

Social media influencers promote elaborate routines and luxury products as essential for achieving flawless skin. There's also a misconception that anti-aging products are necessary even at a young age, driven by societal pressure to maintain a youthful appearance.

The truth? Products with retinol, vitamin C and other anti-aging ingredients often do more harm than good to a young person’s skin. They create dryness, irritation and even disrupt the natural balance of the skin. 

“Anti-aging skin care products aren’t needed until you reach your mid-20s or later,” says Dr. Berger. “Until then, it's best to stick to gentle, hydrating products to avoid potential damage and maintain a healthy complexion.”

What to Do for Young, Supple Skin

So, what’s the dermatologist-backed, best way to protect your skin from aging and keep it looking fresh? 

“You want to protect your skin from the sun and be reasonable about sun protection,” says Dr. Berger. “That’s the most important thing. It’s crucial to take care of your skin from a young age.”

If you don’t protect your skin from the sun now, you may regret it later. Sun damage to young skin can lead to various long-term effects. When people don’t use sunscreen during their childhood and adolescent years, they often grow up to experience:

  • Premature aging: Sun exposure can cause wrinkles, fine lines and sagging skin at an earlier age.
  • Hyperpigmentation: Dark spots, freckles and uneven skin tone can develop due to sun damage.
  • Increased risk of skin cancer: UV radiation from the sun can damage skin cells' DNA, leading to a higher risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
  • Weakened skin barrier: Prolonged sun exposure can weaken the skin's natural barrier, making it more susceptible to environmental aggressors and moisture loss.

Along with sunscreen, a gentle cleanser and moisturizer are the other 2 components of a daily skincare routine. For the average young person, these steps are all that’s needed to keep skin healthy.

What Kind of Skin Care Products Are Best for Young People?

Contrary to what social media says, some of the highest quality products aren’t “luxury” brands. Many dermatologists, including Dr. Berger, recommend brands like Cerave, Cetaphil, La Roche-Posay, Neutrogena, and Aveeno.

Having a skincare routine is great, but educate yourself before forking out hundreds of dollars on fancy brands just because social media says so. Pay close attention to a product’s ingredient list before making a purchase.

If you’re an adolescent, teen, or young adult, Dr. Berger suggests to steer clear of products containing the following ingredients:

  • Alcohol-based products
  • Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
  • Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) or salicylic acid (in high concentrations)
  • Essential oils (in high concentrations)
  • Fragrances and dyes
  • Retinol
  • Vitamin C

If your teen is concerned about acne, the best course of action is to see a dermatologist – if deemed necessary, they can recommend an over-the-counter retinoid, or provide a prescription.

Keep Your Skin Looking Young The Right Way

Dr. Berger’s patients often bring new skin care products to their appointments and ask for her review and approval. You can take this approach, too. If you’re ever unsure about whether the product you’re using is safe — or if it’s actually harming your skin — confide in a dermatologist.

“Remember that just because it’s a beauty counter brand doesn’t mean it’s better,” says Dr. Berger. “Educate yourself on which ingredients are harmful and always check the ingredients before purchasing a product.” 

Next Steps & Resources

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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