When should you start your child on a skincare routine?
It's never too early—or too late—to begin a regimen.
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You may not remember your first pimple or the first time your skin stung from dryness, but you (or your parents) most likely sought out remedies to fix the problem at the time. Your search may have yielded a zit-stopping face wash in one hand and an ultra-hydrating moisturizer in the other and given yourself a staredown in the mirror, determined to perfect your skin. OK, it may not have been quite as dramatic as that. But in any case, there was most likely a turning point when you decided to take your skin’s health into your own hands (literally or figuratively). And now, you may wonder when you’re supposed to teach your child the same skills you learned.
To explain when and why you should implement a skincare routine into your child’s life, we spoke with Dr. Farah Moustafa, a dermatologist and the director of laser and cosmetics with Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
What age should someone start a skincare routine?
Good news: Whether your child is a pre-teen or a full-on teenager, you don’t have to worry you’re too late. There’s no defining age for starting to use skincare products. In fact, you probably started their skin regimen for them when they were a baby and required products for sensitive skin and moisturization, then continued it with regular sunscreen applications throughout their childhood. But eventually, the task becomes determining what they need as their skin gets more complex.
For making the right call, you want to focus on the lifestyle habits and skin ailments that your child faces. Do they have acne that they’d like to clear up? Are they starting to wear makeup and need a way to remove it? These factors are more important indicators that someone should create a skincare regimen than their age.
Due to hormone fluctuations that occur throughout puberty, teenagers most commonly deal with oily T-zones and acne, particularly closed comedones, a.k.a. whiteheads, on the forehead. “That’s when you may start to become savvy about your skin and may, for a lot of people, be the first time you see a dermatologist,” Moustafa says.
What’s a good skincare routine for a teenager?
For someone just starting out with skincare, simple but effective is the goal. For this, Moustafa recommends picking up three things.
Cleanser: Ideally, you want to wash the face in the morning and at night. If your child does not have acne, they can use a gentle, no-frills cleanser that removes dirt and excess oil, such as the Cerave Hydrating Facial Cleanser that contains hydrating hyaluronic acid and skin-protecting ceramides. If combating acne is the goal, Moustafa says you’ll want to look for a face wash that contains either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide and claims to decrease oil production in the skin. Try the Cerave Renewing SA Cleanser that uses salicylic acid to unclog pores and exfoliate dead skin cells that can lead to acne. Go with the Panoxyl Acne Foaming Face Wash for a cleanser that contains benzoyl peroxide, an antimicrobial ingredient that kills bacteria that leads to acne.
Sunscreen: After washing the face in the morning, sunscreen is key for moisturizing the skin and protecting it from the sun’s UV rays. “Sun damage is cumulative. [The] sun damage you have when you’re 10, when you’re 15, when you’re 20, it all adds up. And that’s what leads to more skin issues down the line and that includes your skin cancer risk and wrinkling and brown spots and all that stuff,” Moustafa says. For an SPF that’s non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores), suitable for all skin types, and reef-safe, try the Supergoop Mineral Sheerscreen with SPF 30.
Moisturizer: At night, a moisturizer is a necessary post-cleanse step to replenish the skin barrier, or the outermost layer of the skin that prevents dirt and bacteria from penetrating. You’ll want to look for a gentle, non-comedogenic option that works for your child’s skin type (normal, dry, oily, or combination). If your child has acne or reports their skin feeling slick throughout the day, go with a moisturizer that targets oily skin, such as the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel. It contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin but a lightweight gel texture. If your teen’s skin leans more normal to dry, try the Cerave Daily Moisturizing Lotion that has a thinner consistency but contains hyaluronic acid and ceramides to retain hydration.
These three types of products make for a great skincare routine, but if your child still notices acne, dry patches, or any other skin plights, consult a dermatologist, as they can provide individualized recommendations and prescription treatments.
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