Teen Skincare Advice From a Board-Certified Dermatologist

The teen years are often synonymous with blemish-prone skin, but with the right teen skincare regimen, you can be well on your way towards smooth, gorgeous skin.

FamilyApp gets the real scoop from a Board-Certified Dermatologist on product recommendations and acne-fighting tips. Best of all, we also found an easy three-step dermatologist-approved tween skincare routine.

Skincare Tips for the Tween Acne Years

Let’s face it; skincare can be confusing for adults. For the teen brain, it can be overwhelming. Whether your skin type ranges from oily skin to sensitive skin or even combination, there are beauty tips that can benefit all types of young skin.

If you don’t know how to advise your teen on exfoliating, removing a blackhead, or even what lotion to use, you aren’t alone! We sat down with Dr. Apple Bodemer, Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin in Dermatology and a Board Certified Integrative Dermatologist, to discover her skincare secrets.

Over-the-Counter Teen Skincare Routine

“Teens are relentlessly marketed to. They are exposed to a huge number of products that they have to navigate through. My rule is to keep skincare simple,” says Dr. Bodemer. “You don’t need to spend a ton of money on teen skincare. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes I see teens make is using too many products and the wrong ones on their face.”

But what are the right products to use? And what else should you consider when it comes to dealing with teen skincare? Read on for more wisdom from our Q&A with Dr. Bodemer.

Teen Skincare Basic

What’s the biggest mistake you see adolescents make while taking care of their skin?

Honestly, teens are exposed to so much marketing nowadays. There is a huge number of products that they have to navigate through. Using too many products can be detrimental to their skin. Also, piling on skincare products all at once can irritate the skin, which can cause more problems.

Why are teens more susceptible to pimple prone skin at this age?

Hormone fluctuation is pretty wide in the teen years. Acne is a disorder of the oil and hair follicles. An overgrowth of bacteria causes inflammation. When there is extra sebum, the bacteria can start multiplying under the skin and cause acne. Extra oil production can lead to a proliferation of bacteria.

What do you see as a problem when it comes to maintaining healthy skin for teens?

Aside from using too many products all at once, one of the biggest problems for teen skin is under-moisturizing because they are stripping oil on top of their skin, so the oil glands start making more oil. Just because you have acne does not mean you don’t need to moisturize.

Teenage girls are starting to wear makeup, which can lead to clogging their pores. What do you advise when it comes to cleansing their skin?

First off, I recommend not using a toner. The marketing around toner is really aggressive—a vast majority of teens overuse toners and astringents that can cause more oil production.

Less is more when it comes to teen skin. Wash your face no more than twice daily. In general, only use your fingertips in a slow circular motion. Avoid abrasive cleansers like an apricot scrub, which can cause trauma to the skin and stimulate oil glands.

teen skincare

Simple Teen Skincare Tips

Aside from not using toner and finding a non-abrasive cleanser, what steps do you recommend for adolescent skincare?

Dr. Bodemer: Keep it simple. I recommend cleansing, then putting on spot treatment if needed, wait 10 minutes for the product to absorb into the skin, and then use a moisturizer. There are a lot of high-quality products that you can get over the counter. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have glowing skin.

What spot treatments do you recommend for acne-prone skin?

Dr. Bodemer: Look at the main ingredient. More is not always better. I recommend 2.5% to 5% benzoyl peroxide or 1% to 2% salicylic acid for the main ingredients. Don’t use 10% benzoyl peroxide because studies show that 2.5% has been equally effective on acne and less irritating on the skin. You can also use the product Differin, Adapalene 0.1% Acne Treatment. It is an effective over-the-counter retinoid acne treatment that you can get at the drugstore.

Are there any skin hacks for teen boys who can’t be bothered with a three-step skincare routine?

Dr. Bodemer: For boys who can’t be bothered with a cleanser, I recommend Dove Beauty Bar for boys because it’s hypoallergenic and a very basic way to take off extra oil and dirt. However, I advise against being too aggressive scrubbing your face. You want to maintain the natural oils on the skin. Regardless of gender, teens should follow with a spot treatment and moisturize with a non-clogging moisturizer.

Teen Skincare Product Recommendations

Can you recommend anti-blemish products on a CVS budget?

I recommend the brands Cerave, Cetaphil, and the Dove Beauty Bar that is hypoallergenic for a cleanser. You want to stay away from foaming cleansers with a surfactant, which can strip the oils out of the skin and be too astringent. Besides looking at the main ingredients and concentration of spot treatments, teens need a good moisturizer. Cetaphil, Cerave, and Vanicream are products you can find at your local drugstore.

What products do you recommend if you are more holistic and don’t mind spending a little more on more natural ingredients?

Dr. Bodemer: For the more holistically minded, I recommend the brands Nena, Pipette, Burts Bees cream-based cleanser, and Derma-E also makes a high-quality cleanser. Also, clean ingredient moisturizer brands include Avalon Organics, Nourishing Foods, and my favorite, Jojoba Oil for teen skin. You only need a few drops, and it absorbs really well. Teens can also use Apricot Kernel Oil. Jojoba oil is inexpensive and absorbs into the skin really well. These two oils are the lightest oils that teen skin can tolerate.

Are there holistic spot treatment products that you recommend?

Tea tree oil is a good topical medication for spot treatment. You must dilute with water or aloe gel. Use 12 drops of tea tree oil for 1 tablespoon of water. If you have acne in the skin and back, you can use a sulfur soap like Natural Elephant. Look for a sulfur soap that contains up to only 5%  to 10% active ingredients.  Most people with acne have sensitive skin.

suggestions for teen skincare
cetaphil teen skincare
cerave teen skincare

Skincare Philosophy

Though you are a Board Certified MD, you also consider yourself an Integrative Dermatologist. Can you tell me more about your philosophy of skincare? 

I believe that lifestyle changes can benefit people’s skin and health. The teen skin barrier is the same as an adult’s, but their hormones are wildly fluctuating during this chapter.  Furthermore, if you google high glycemic foods and the effect on acne, several scholarly articles illustrate that dairy, insulin, and high glycemic foods are growth factors that interact with oil glands and increase androgens, which stimulate the overproduction of oils.

Skin Problems Start With Lifestyle

Dr. Bodemer suggests taking a close look at your teen’s lifestyle as the first step to dealing with acne.

“If your teen is really struggling with acne, first see if cutting dairy and processed and high glycemic index foods out will help. Secondly, if your child is suffering from problematic skin, seek the help of a qualified dermatologist,” says Bodmer.

Dr. Bodemer recommends looking at your teenager’s diet, stress level, and sleeping patterns. In fact, sleep has a huge impact on sex hormones, which affect the skin.

“Less is more, be more gentle on your skin, says Bodemer. It’s better to err on the side of being gentle. Stay away from exfoliators on teen skin. Remember, your lifestyle matters.

For more family beauty tips and advice check out the Beauty Category on FamilyApp.

About Dr. Bodemer

Dr. Apple Bodemer

Dr. Bodemer, a dermatology professor, also serves as Adjunct Faculty at the University of Arizona in the Integrative Medicine Program. She is also part of the core faculty at Learnskin.com. She is passionate about how lifestyle choices can impact chronic skin conditions and overall skin health.

Outside of the medical field, she loves to spend time with her four children and two dogs. She likes to stay physically active and loves to cook – especially whole foods plant-based!!!!!

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