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What skin care and makeup is really safe for your child's skin and what should be avoided?

Natural beauty: What skin products are safe for your tween

In previous generations, tween skincare consisted of basic products like acne cleansers, creams and the occasional exfoliating pad. But for our latest generation of tweens — in Generation A — it’s a different story. 

Born out of social media pressure on TikTok and other social channels, kids ages 9 to 12 are buying more and more skincare products. Proof of this is Piper Sandler’s annual "Taking Stock with Teens" survey, where beauty spending rose 8 percent year-over-year to $339 annually.

This trend even earned an official title: “The Sephora Kid Craze.” Tweens nationwide are buying face masks, anti-aging serums and even facial peels. What these young consumers buy and where they buy it could cause unnecessary harm. 

So, how do tween parents or caregivers navigate what’s helpful (or harmful)? Let’s dispel some common tween skincare questions.

What’s the recommended remedy for tween skincare? 

Good news: keeping a simple skin routine is usually the best policy for tweens. They don’t need a lot of skincare. In fact, they can use drugstore brands and see great results. 

  • If a tween has no acne, they can stick to washing their face twice daily with a gentle cleanser. Then, they can apply an oil-free facial moisturizer twice daily, ideally with SPF in the morning.

  • Hormone fluctuations during the tween years can cause acne. Once mild acne develops, tweens can start with over-the-counter face washes that contain salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. They can also apply over-the-counter adapalene gel.

  • If they have severe acne or other skin concerns, then a medicated regimen may be necessary. They should seek care from their primary care provider or a pediatric dermatologist.

What products can be more harmful than helpful to tweens?

In the excitement of seeing social media influences, your tween might want to start an anti-aging routine in addition to acne prevention. But do they need it?

In short, the answer is “no.” Tween skin tends to be more sensitive and naturally thinner than adult skin. For this reason, tweens should avoid using glycolic acid, retinol and lactic acids. These products can strip and irritate their skin. Also, anti-aging products are designed for mature skin and often contain more oils, which could worsen acne. 

Luckily, your tween’s anti-aging regime requires very little. Ultraviolent (UV) light is the greatest factor in skin aging, so sun protection is the best anti-aging remedy! At any age, you can protect your skin from aging with a few simple strategies like: 

  • Scheduling outdoor activities in the morning or late afternoon

  • Wearing wide-brimmed hats and sun-protective clothing

  • Seeking shade when able

  • Using broad-spectrum sunscreen  

What about cosmetics?

Buying trends reveal an uptick in tween cosmetic purchases as well. So, when is it acceptable for tweens to start wearing makeup?

There is no hard and fast rule. Tweens can wear non-medicated and gentle, oil-free makeup whenever they and their parents agree it is acceptable. Using a powder with sunscreen is also okay. 

Converse with your tween before you buy any cosmetic products. An important factor to consider is the tween’s level of maturity and responsibility. They will need to thoroughly wash off makeup at the end of the day and take care of brushes and other tools to prevent skin infections. Each tween is different in terms of when they are ready.

When to seek help

Parents should guide skincare discussions, not social media influences. Talk to your tween about what’s appropriate for them. If your tween needs skincare for the first time, you could even make it fun by going on a special shopping excursion to find age-appropriate products!

If your tween or teen has a more significant issue over-the-counter products can’t address, seek help. Request to schedule an appointment with a Children’s Wisconsin board-certified pediatric dermatologist to get an individualized treatment plan.