Get Your Teen Weekly Newsletter in your inbox! Sign Up
YourTeenMag Logo

Skincare For Teens

Navigating the teenage years can be tricky enough, and for many teens, it’s also when skin concerns like breakouts, oiliness, and dryness first appear. Hormonal shifts bring about changes to the skin, making it important to establish a simple and effective skincare routine early on. However, knowing where to start and what products to choose can feel overwhelming for parents. Let’s examine the three skincare essentials for your teen, review how to read a label and choose the best products, and take a look at some of our favorite recommendations!

Why is Skincare Important for Teens?

Teen years bring about a surge in hormones that drastically affect the skin and can lead to acne, blackheads, oily skin, dryness, and increased skin sensitivity. Establishing a skincare routine during these years is crucial because it helps prevent breakouts, establishes healthy skincare habits for a lifetime, and promotes a confident self-image. Also, teens are often outdoors, making sun protection an absolute necessity. Daily sunscreen use protects from premature aging and reduces the risk of skin cancer later in life. Even if a teen doesn’t struggle with major skin problems, a basic skincare routine promotes overall skin health and sets a strong foundation for their skin’s future.

So, what are the essential components of a skincare routine for teens? Dermatologists recommend the following three steps:

  • Gentle Cleanser: Washing the face twice a day with a gentle, non-stripping cleanser removes dirt, oil, and impurities. Look for formulas designed for sensitive or acne-prone skin, as those tend to be the most well-tolerated.
  • Oil-Free Moisturizer: Every type of skin needs hydration! A lightweight, oil-free moisturizer helps keep skin healthy and balanced. Look for options labeled “non-comedogenic,” meaning they won’t clog pores.
  • Sunscreen: Protecting the skin from harmful UV rays is crucial for preventing premature aging and skin damage. Make sure your teen uses a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every single day, even when it’s cloudy. Trust me, they’ll thank you later!

Tips for Navigating the Skincare Aisle

Whether you’re shopping online, at your local drugstore, or at Sephora, the skincare aisle can be a daunting place. Here are our tips for a pleasant and productive experience:

  • Figure out your Teen’s Skin Type: Our skin comes in all types – oily, dry, combination, normal, and sensitive – and certain products are targeted at different skin types.
  • Check the Label: The following ingredients are commonly found in skin products marketed to teens, but which ones you opt for depends on your teen’s skin. Potentially irritating ingredients that teens should avoid include alcohol, harsh fragrances, essential oils (for sensitive skin types), witch hazel, and heavy oils (for oily/acne-prone skin).
Ingredient Type Key Benefits Best For
Salicylic Acid Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Unclogs pores, reduces acne, controls oil Oily, acne-prone skin
Benzoyl Peroxide Antibacterial Kills acne bacteria, reduces inflammation Moderate to severe acne
Hyaluronic Acid Humectant Deep hydration, plumps skin, reduces wrinkles All skin types
Ceramides Lipids Repairs skin barrier, reduces dryness, protects Dry, sensitive, all types
Niacinamide Vitamin B3 Reduces inflammation, brightens, evens tone Most skin types
Azelaic Acid Dicarboxylic Acid Reduces inflammation, acne, hyperpigmentation, evens skin tone Oily, acne-prone, rosacea-prone
Zinc Oxide Mineral Sun protection All skin types, especially sensitive


  • Determine Your Priorities: There are many products available to choose from a variety of brands and in a range of price points. Talk with your teen about what’s most important to them, whether it’s finding a product that is cruelty-free, highly rated by EWG (contains clean, safe, and low-hazard ingredients), or fits within your budget.
  • Start Simple: A basic routine with cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen is a great place to start. Teens can always add additional products later. It’s also best not to overwhelm your teen’s skin with too many new products at once.
  • Patch Test: Before applying a new product to the entire face, have your teen test it on a small area of skin (like the inner forearm) to make sure there’s no allergic reaction.
  • Seek Professional Help: If skin issues are severe or persistent, a visit to the dermatologist is the best course of action.

Product Guide

Best Gentle Cleansers for Teens

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

  • Why it’s great: This drugstore staple is beloved by dermatologists and skincare enthusiasts of all ages. It’s formulated with ceramides to protect the skin barrier, hyaluronic acid for hydration, and niacinamide to soothe.
  • Best for: Normal to oily skin, but gentle enough for most skin types.
  • Dealing with acne? Check out CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleaner

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

  • Why it’s great: This creamy cleanser is incredibly gentle and leaves skin soft. Like CeraVe, it contains ceramides, niacinamide, and hydrating ingredients, making it a safe bet even for those with sensitive skin.
  • Best for: Normal to dry skin, or anyone with sensitive or reactive skin.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Gel Cleanser

  • Why it’s great: This lightweight gel formula features hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate the skin. It cleanses effectively without leaving skin feeling tight or dry.
  • Best for: Normal to dry skin, or any teen looking for extra hydration without a heavy cleanser, but may not be enough for those with acne.

Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel

  • Why it’s worth the splurge: Dermalogica is a trusted brand among skincare professionals, and this cleanser is one of their bestsellers. This soap-free gel cleanser is gentle yet effective and removes grime and excess oil without stripping your skin. It contains calming balm mint and lavender extracts, making it particularly good for skin that’s easily irritated.
  • Best for: Most skin types, though especially those with normal to slightly oily skin and those looking for a clean, refreshing feel with a touch of luxury.

Best Daily Moisturizers for Teens

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

  • Why it’s great: This lightweight lotion is a true MVP. It contains ceramides to strengthen the skin barrier, hyaluronic acid for hydration, and niacinamide to soothe. It’s non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores.
  • Best for: Normal to oily skin. It can work for drier skin types too, especially in warmer weather.

Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 50

  • Why it’s great: This lightweight moisturizer offers essential sun protection with SPF 50 and features a fragrance-free formula ideal for sensitive skin.
  • Best for: All skin types seeking a simple daily moisturizer with reliable sun protection.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost GelCream

  • Why it’s great: The star ingredient, hyaluronic acid, delivers a serious boost of hydration without feeling greasy. Its gel-like texture is refreshing and absorbs quickly.
  • Best for: Normal to dry skin. Especially great for those wanting a lightweight feel, even if their skin needs additional moisture.

Best Sunscreens for Teens

EltaMD UV Clear BroadSpectrum SPF 46

  • Why it’s great: A top recommendation from dermatologists, this oil-free and lightweight sunscreen helps calm acne-prone skin. It also comes in a tinted version for those who prefer a little coverage.
  • Best for: Normal, oily, and acne-prone skin.

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

  • Why it’s great: An innovative, completely invisible sunscreen that also acts like a makeup primer. Its smooth, velvety texture and universal finish make it appealing to teens.
  • Best for: Most skin types, particularly those who dislike the feel of traditional sunscreen.
  • Want a hint of color? Consider Supergoop! Mattescreen

Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30

  • Why it’s great: Formulated specifically to leave no white cast on darker skin tones, this moisturizing formula is also infused with natural ingredients.
  • Best for: All skin tones, but particularly those with medium to deep complexions.

Best Personalized Skincare System for Teens

Curology is a skincare service designed to help anyone (including teens) get clear, healthy skin. Instead of a trip to the dermatologist, you fill out an online questionnaire and send in some photos of your skin. A licensed dermatologist will then create a custom formula containing different active ingredients to target your specific skin concerns, whether that’s acne, oiliness, or something else. Your custom formula, along with Curology’s cleanser and moisturizer, will be shipped right to your door. However, it’s important to note that Curology might not be the right solution for everyone, especially those with severe skin conditions. It’s always best to consult with a dermatologist in person for those cases.


Finding the perfect skincare routine takes some trial and error. Encourage your teen to be patient, listen to their skin, and remember that healthy skin comes from the inside out, too! A balanced diet, proper hydration, and managing stress all contribute to a glowing complexion.

Related Articles