Thursday Notes

Preteen & young-teen skincare

preteen skin care

There’s been quite a bit of talk lately about the intense skincare interest among preteens these days. Some of it is a little exaggerated, but — as the parent of a 12-year-old myself, shown here with me at the Barbie movie — I can tell you that much of it is not.

I was fascinated by skincare when I was 12, but I seemed to be an exception; now, it’s among the most common topics of conversation you’ll find in that age group (and, sometimes, even younger). Certain products have social currency, just like those Stanleys that might be taking up all the available space in your dishwasher.

So, in case you’re a parent of a preteen or young teen yourself and you’re wondering, “Do they really need that peptide cream?” I thought I’d share a few tips that might come in handy.

What preteen or young-teen skin could use

1. Sunscreen. No one likes to hear that they need sunscreen; everyone does, though. If you can find a way to channel that intense skincare interest towards the challenge of finding the best sunscreen, do it! You can quote me on this: regular sunscreen use is the best way to ensure great, healthy, youthful-looking skin for years to come. My daughter’s favorites (she’s tried them all) are Kosas DreamBeam SPF 40 and MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Crème SPF 30.

2. Cleanser. Generally speaking, a great cleanser is also a great idea. For those who are experiencing a few puberty-driven bumps, a non-drying but deep-cleansing formula like 27 Rosiers Fight Grime — a product I often share with my daughter — could be fantastic. Also excellent and possibly better for the shower, since it’s not in a breakable bottle: Elave Skin Balancing Cleansing Gel, an Ayla favorite since 2011.
If those bumps get more pronounced, a cleanser with beta hydroxy acid (often present in the form of salicylic acid or willow bark) will be the way to go: Marie Veronique Treatment Cleanser is an excellent one. Keep it on for 5 minutes as a mini mask, and stay gentle with that scrubbing action.

3. Lightweight moisturizer. Not every young person needs a moisturizer, but some might; the key here is to keep it as simple as possible. Elave’s Oil-Free Moisturizer is, hands down, my favorite one for preteen and young-teen skin, and it’s the one my daughter swears by. (More on this in a moment.)

4. Spot treatment. Eventually, if acne starts to develop, two products that have worked wonders for our young customers are The Organic Pharmacy’s Blemish Gel — the roll-on is key, because it makes it fun and easy — and Seaweed Clay Mask, which can be applied wherever needed (usually the t-zone).

What preteen or young-teen skin doesn't need

Generally speaking, preteen and young-teen skin is still developing and can be quite sensitive. There is no need for retinoids, peptides, strong alpha hydroxy acids, or heaps of hyaluronic acid — basically, none of those ingredients that you, as a parent, might look for in your own skincare products. On young skin, they’d likely do more harm than good.

An important note on mindset

One of the things our Guides try to encourage most, especially with those who book a consultation with us, is a sense of confidence — and even fun — in observing your skin and how it responds to products. I think this can be a helpful practice to encourage in our growing-up children, too, especially since they don’t always want to listen to what we have to say.

For example, when we were in Vienna last summer, my kids and I stumbled across a cosmetics store that looked pretty cool. I ran in, excited by the prospect of finding sunscreens that weren’t yet sold in the US; my daughter ran in, too, excited about anything skincare related; my son tolerated the visit after I promised to visit the boba café next door when we were done.

And while I tried to get my daughter excited about sunscreens, all she really wanted was a Korean cream that she’d heard about on YouTube. I told her, “I think that’s going to be too rich for your skin,” “I think we can find one that’s even better,” and “Look, I actually know what I’m talking about with this stuff,” but I could see she really, really wanted it. And she suggested that she pay for it with her own money, which is often the clincher.

So I let her, and even though I knew she didn’t need that cream, it was fun for me to see the joy with which she opened it and smoothed it onto her skin for the first time. That joy is why I do what I do.

But, two days later: little bumps. Mournfully: “I think that cream is too much for me.” I said, “Yeah, that happens sometimes,” and gently nudged her towards the Elave moisturizer. “Just see what you notice,” I advised. She saw her skin calm down, and she’s never looked back. (She experiments more these days with lip products and hair products than with skincare; I’m all for that. Especially since she inherited my rebellious hair, which requires a lot of experimentation indeed.)

That process of trying things out, seeing how they work, and going with what’s right for you — even if it’s not the cool thing that everyone’s talking about — is so important. It’s something that many of us could continue to get more comfortable with in all aspects of our lives. And the sooner that practice begins, the better.


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