Skincare For Tweens and Teens: Everything You Need To Know From A Dermatologist

Introduction: What Is The Tween Skincare Craze?

In late 2023, a new craze emerged that swept the internet and captivated millions of tweens and teens, sending them into Sephora and Ulta stores across the nation. Skincare.

Overnight, it seemed the #sephorababies trend appeared as tweens sought out trending skincare products and brands raved about by their peers and favorite influencers on TikTok. In recent years, social media has given rise to numerous skincare content creators who share daily routines and "get ready with me" videos, often garnering millions of views. With the internet largely unrestricted, tweens and teens encounter this content, get recommended more of it through algorithms, and eventually feel influenced to hop on the bandwagon.
While developing a skincare routine isn't inherently problematic for tweens and teens, using anti-aging products and adopting complex regimens with exfoliants and retinoids poses risks. In nuanced situations like these, it's important to seek guidance from experts with specialized knowledge. Who better than Dr. Angela Casey, MD, seasoned dermatologist and authority on tween and teen skincare who even created her own product line for this unique and challenging age group?

In this information-packed and science-forward blog, we interview Dr. Casey and ask a series of questions to clarify best practices and reveal the truth about how tweens and teens should approach skincare.

How Is Tween and Teen Skin Different From Adult Skin?

Dr. Casey: When comparing skin among age groups, it's important to consider individual differences such as skin type (oily vs dry vs sensitive, etc), skin morphology, hormone levels, chronological age, biological age, ethnicity, and general health. When discussing "adult skin," there is a broad range of characteristics: 60-yr-old adult is very different compared to a 30-yr-old adult.

Differences in teenage skin compared to adult skin are typically rooted in the following causes:

  • Hormones: Changes in hormone levels occur during puberty and throughout the teen years; specifically, testosterone (along with other hormones) levels increase during puberty, in both males and females. Testosterone drives oil production in the skin. In our late 30s, estrogen and progesterone levels in women start to decline, rendering our skin less "bouncy" and vibrant; as a result, our skin may start to feel and appear dry, dull, lax, or sensitive.

  • Skin damage: Adult skin is generally more damaged from sun, environmental factors, pollution, and inflammation.

  • Diet: Teens usually eat more processed foods/fast foods/sugary foods compared to adults.

  • Resilience: Teen skin is more resilient and generally recovers more quickly from damage (sunburns, inflammation, injury) compared to adult skin.

  • Collagen and elastic fibers: Teen skin is full of healthy, robust, thick collagen and strong elastic fibers. Starting at age 20, collagen and elastin in our skin starts to break down, and our skin becomes more lax and thinner over time as a result.

  • General health: Teens are less likely to have other comorbidities such as diabetes, cancer, thyroid disease, etc that affect skin health. Teens are also less likely to be on medications that affect skin health.

Teens need to adopt skincare routines that "protect and preserve" their skin (i.e. prevent skin damage) while adults often need to take a "reboot and reverse" approach to address accumulated skin damage. Adults should also employ those protective (sunscreen) and nourishing (cleanser/moisturizer) skincare habits--it's never too late to start preventative skin health routines.

What About This Trend Is Harmful For Tweens and Teens?

Dr. Casey: Not all skincare trends are bad, but there is a significant amount of misinformation out there and the skincare space is becoming very noisy with marketing claims, "hacks," and content created by individuals who don't have a background or education in skin health. There are thousands of brands out there, each with a different ingredient story or "why" that sets them apart. And teens and tweens want to try everything! It's great to have options, but so many choices makes it difficult for teens/parents to sift through products and select the ones that will work best. Being bombarded with so much information has made teens and tweens very fickle in their skincare choices, always searching for "the next great thing" and failing to stick with a routine long enough to really see the results.

One trend that we see is complicated skincare routines: teens often think that more steps/more products will lead to more beautiful skin. In actuality, the more products that we pile on our skin, the more likely our skin is to become irritated, inflamed, and sensitive. There is an aspirational component to trends and influencers, whereby teens and tweens start to think that a very involved skincare regimen (think 10 steps) will make their skin look like the celebrity's/influencer's skin. As we all know, just because a regimen works for one person is not a guarantee that it will work for us. Many influencers that teens/tweens admire are significantly older than teens/tweens; as such, their skin composition and skincare needs are different.

One of the most dangerous trends that we're seeing in our dermatology practices is teens gravitating toward more mature skincare brands that are designed to reverse skin damage. These products can actually cause redness, inflammation, and sensitivity in tween and teen skin. We even see acne breakouts as a result of certain products that drive inflammation and occlusion of the skin.

Additionally, teens love trying at-home devices (rollers, microneedling tools, hair removal devices, light-based devices) that are promoted on social media. These devices can wreak havoc on tween and teen skin skin (really, skin at any age) by irritating or traumatizing the skin. If teens are interested in device-focused procedures, I strongly recommend that they see a trained Dermatology expert or aesthetician that can guide their treatment plan.

Finally, teens and tweens are often of the mindset that "more expensive" equals "greater quality" and that simply isn't true. Teens and tweens don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on beauty products to get a result. Nor do they necessarily want to choose the cheapest option out there. There is a happy medium of high-quality, elevated skincare with gentle formulations and ingredients that are specifically tailored to teen and tween skin. Bright Girl is one of those options.

Is There a Positive Side To The Tween Skincare Craze?

Dr. Casey: There is much more awareness and interest among teens relative to their skincare and skin health; access to information is certainly a positive effect of social media. There are many expert dermatologists and dermatology providers that have a strong presence on social media, and they are sharing evidence-based information with their communities in an engaging way. Another positive is that there are so many more options for tween skincare available now compared to when I was growing up.

Tweens LOVE a good skincare "hack." Actually, some of these hacks are practical and helpful. Examples of my favorite skincare hacks:

  • Mixing moisturizer and foundation so that your foundation isn't as thick, and your skin gets that hydration from your moisturizer.

  • Wiping down your phone/glasses with alcohol periodically to remove germs, oil, makeup before placing these objects against your skin

  • Mixing a serum or oil into your moisturizer for added benefit before applying to skin

  • Placing your sunscreen next to your toothbrush so that you always remember to apply sunscreen in the morning; or placing your sunscreen by your door so that you apply before heading out for the day

The tween skincare craze demonstrates curiosity about skincare...and this is a good thing. We want tweens to seek information about why and how to care for their skin. We want them to be educated on ingredients and the importance of consistent routines. The key is making sure that they are receiving factual, evidence-based information and not anecdotal stories of why something is good for their skin. And making sure that we have skincare products that are appropriate for tween skin. When counseling tweens on skincare routines, I always circle back to the basics: cleanse, moisturize, protect. In other words, choose a gentle and pH-balanced cleanser, an effective moisturizer, and a mineral-based sunscreen. The routine doesn't have to be more complicated than that, despite what the social media influencer or celebrity is telling you.

What Ingredients Should Tweens and Teens Avoid In Skincare Products?

Dr. Casey: Teens and tweens are all too anxious to "grow up" and love the idea of a mature skincare regimen. They will try brands and products that are really designed to correct and reverse skin damage because they've seen these brands on social media. I believe that the solution is offering tweens and teens the option of elevated, high-quality, clean skincare that is truly tailored to skin at their age. This way, they are still getting to experience self-care but with products and ingredients that are appropriate for skin at their ages.

Tweens and teens should avoid products that contain exfoliating beads, scrubs, grounds, or particles . These physical exfoliants can actually create microscopic tears in the skin barrier, causing irritation and redness and potentially allowing harmful bacteria and other irritants to enter the skin.

They should also stay away from strong antioxidants, such as high concentrations of vitamin C, that are designed to combat skin damage in more mature skin: youthful skin does not require these intense and powerful treatments to reverse skin damage.

Generally, they should steer clear of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic acid, malic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid. These ingredients are often used in chemical peels or products designed to strongly exfoliate and fight skin damage in more mature skin. These formulations can strip the skin barrier and lead to blotchiness in young skin. Overuse can lead to redness, irritation, and inflammation of the skin. However, AHAs can be helpful or harmless when used in lighter concentrations or small amounts: with the guidance of a skincare professional, certain AHA-containing products may benefit acne-prone skin.

Likewise, beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) such as salicylic acid may be used as an effective acne treatment. Other BHAs such as tropic acid and beta-hydroxybutanoic acid are often geared towards treating fine lines and wrinkles...definitely not necessary for tween or teen skin.

I do not think that young people need to avoid retinoids or retinols if they have acne-prone skin. Retinols and retinoids have long been established as an effective treatment for acne.

The key is making sure that any "actives" such as AHAs, BHAs, and retinols are paired with the proper skincare regimen that hydrates the skin, feeds the skin microbiome, and strengthens the skin barrier. This ideal regimen includes: a gentle pH-balanced cleanser, effective moisturizer, and a mineral-based sunscreen.

What Are The Best Ingredients For Tweens and Teens?

Dr. Casey: Products for tween and teen skin should be pH-balanced, nourish a healthy skin microbiome, and support the skin barrier. Skincare for teens/tweens should incorporate actives that are clinically-proven to hydrate, settle inflammation, and balance oil production. Examples of moisturizing ingredients include humectants such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and urea help draw water into the skin. Emollients such as ceramides and squalane oil help form the "mortar" between skin cells and strengthen the skin barrier. Occlusives such as petrolatum, argan oil, and jojoba oil help seal moisture in, forming a protective barrier on the surface of the skin (think of products that are used for "slugging."

Anti-inflammatory "actives" such as aloe (which also acts as a humectant), chamomile, turmeric, rosehip, or bilberry to name a few will perform beautifully in young skin. Teen and tween skincare should focus on "preserve and protect;" children are typically born with beautiful and healthy skin...the key is maintaining that skin health, lifelong.

There is a lack of high-quality skincare brands that speaks to Gen Z and Gen Alpha. Recognizing this, and drawing on my own experience as a double-board certified dermatologist and mother of 3 teens/tweens, I developed Bright Girl skincare. Bright Girl formulations incorporate clinically-proven actives, pH-balanced formulations, and are backed by science.

What Age Should Tweens or Teens Start Following a Skincare Routine?

Dr. Casey: We start skincare routines for our children at birth: baths, lotion, diaper care. And this forms the foundation of a lifelong association of routines with comfort and connection. If you are a parent, you probably have a certain time that you bathe your baby, and specific skincare products that you applied to care for your baby's skin. When your baby was exposed to sun, you likely applied sunscreen or implemented sun protective measures. In the earliest stages of life, we are typically imparting a skincare routine for our children. It is these preliminary memories for children that start to shape their relationship with their skin and how to care for it; it's upon caregivers to establish this foundational practice.

The earlier that children start a habit, the more likely they are to stick with it long term. Think of brushing and flossing our teeth, or washing our hands before meals. We start these routines for our children at very early ages. At age 7-8, children can begin to take ownership in their skincare practices and start skincare routines. This simply involves bathing themselves and washing their face with a gentle cleanser. They can apply lotion or another moisturizer to their skin. And, perhaps most importantly, they may use sunscreen to cover sun-exposed areas of skin when they are outside. In those younger years (ages 7-10), parents really need to guide their children in selecting skincare that is safe for young skin.

As children reach the tween years (ages 10-12), they become a bit more discerning about products that they use. They will note the initial changes of puberty as hormones alter the landscape of their skin. Their skin might be more sensitive, develop clogged pores or show early signs of acne, becoming more oily. It's very important that tweens have a basic understanding of how to care for their skin, and the importance of selecting products that are geared toward young skin as opposed to skincare for mature skin. Daily habits of face washing, moisturizing, and sunscreen really become important at this stage when children are active in sports and other activities.

During the teen years, we start to see the hormonal changes of increased oil production, acne, and differences in skin hydration. At this stage, teens are craving guidance on a tailored and effective skincare regimen. This is one of the reasons that it's so important for parents to step in and support those choices and seek the resources to obtain expert advice that's tailored to the teen's particular needs. Otherwise, teens will turn to influencers, friends, or celebrities for advice, and that can lead them down the wrong path. 

Parents With Skincare-Crazed Tweens, How Should They Get Involved?

Dr. Casey: No tween wants mom or dad step in and tell them how to care for their skin. As a mom of 3 tween and teen daughters myself, I know this all too well! What we can do is provide a safe space for tweens to ask questions about skincare. We can take them to the store and ask them about which brands they like and try to understand how they are feeling. Ultimately, parents typically have the spending power, and they should keep the guardrails on when buying (or allowing their tween to buy) certain skincare products. Be honest with them about why certain products are not appropriate for young skin. And listen to them when they communicate why they want products that feel or smell or look a certain way. Try to honor that with products that hit that sweet spot of being appealing to tweens, but safe for their young skin. Tweens really seek those boundaries; they may try to push them, but ultimately, they find comfort in consistency and limitations set by parents.

As parents, it's our responsibility to be educated about what products are safe for tween skin. There's no doubt that the number of options out there can be confusing. That's one of the reasons why I founded Bright Girl skincare: to assist parents choosing skincare that's safe for young people, with a brand that is fun, clinical, and engaging to tweens.

How Does The Self-Image of Tweens and Teens Shape Their Skincare Habits?

Dr. Casey: One thing that has remained constant since I was a teenager (many decades ago) is awareness and self-consciousness about how our skin appears. Most of us are bothered when our skin is broken out, red, and inflamed. And when we have that huge pimple on our chin, we feel like that's the only thing that anyone sees when they look at us! One of the biggest changes in today's teens vs 20 years ago is that they are constantly bombarded with images of themselves (selfies, photos with friends, etc) as well as filters and images of the "ideal." It's hard for them to escape this, and as a result, they are constantly looking at, examining, and nitpicking themselves and their skin.

There is also a big difference in how teens today feel connected with their friends/communities and how this reflects on their self-image. Again, most of us are affected by how our skin appears, and this self-image is magnified in our teen years as we are growing into ourselves and our confidence and self-esteem are building. With the invention of filters, selfies, and editing, our teens are growing up in a world where they must distinguish between actuality and perceived reality. 

Dr. Angela Casey Bright Girl Skincare Brand For Tweens and Teens

Introducing Bright Girl: Skincare Made For Teen Skin

The Bright Girl brand and product line is the first dermatologist-developed line created specifically for young skin. The formulations are gentle, safe and effective for girls entering the “tween” and “teen” years, as they embark upon years of skin changes and the heightened need to protect and take care of their skin.

All Bright Girl products are pH-balanced and formulated to work specifically with young skin. The products contain no parabens, sulfates, or phthlates, and are free from an extensive list of other potentially irritating ingredients. Each ingredient within the Bright Girl skincare collection was carefully researched by Dr. Casey and selected based on her years of clinical practice as a double board-certified dermatologist. Dr. Casey worked closely with a team of cosmetic chemists to create the ideal skincare for tween/teen skin. Understanding the role of the microbiome and inflammation in common skin conditions such as acne and eczema, Dr. Casey included clinically-proven soothing botanicals as actives, along with well-established gentle moisturizing and cleansing ingredients.

Each day, Dr. Casey evaluates skin at the cellular level while curing patients of skin cancer. Under the microscope, she sees the uneven pigment, breakdown of collagen, and inflammation that come from irritants in our environment and everyday sun damage. This professional experience inspired the mother of three daughters to create a skincare line that would teach young girls to establish a skin care routine and build a habit early in life in order to avoid skin problems as they get older – including skin cancer and many of the premature aging effects of the sun and other pollutants.

As a brand, Bright Girl’s mission is to help young people understand their skin and how to care for it. The products are gentle, non-irritating and easy to enjoy using as a complete three-step or four-step regimen. Through the Bright Girl website and social media, Dr. Casey shares unbiased, informative content on how our skin works, specific ingredients, and caring for skin. Future growth plans include additional products and content to educate and empower young people to benefit from a lifetime of proper skin care.


As teens and tweens navigate the noisy world of social media skincare advice, having an authoritative voice like a Dermatologist helps cut through the hype. While adopting a simple routine with sunscreen, cleanser and moisturizer can benefit tween or teen skin, overcomplicated regimens and improper products can cause more harm than good.

Dr. Casey advocates taking a minimalist approach focused on hydrating, soothing ingredients tailored to teen skin’s needs. She cautions against devices and mature formulas that may irritate and inflame. Ultimately, preserving and protecting young skin should be the goal. With Bright Girl, Dr. Casey harnesses her expertise to create gentle, pH-balanced products specifically for thriving tween and teen skin.

When ubiquity of misinformation collides with impressionability of youth, seeking trusted guidance is key. Dermatologists aim to educate and equip the next generation to make informed skincare choices. A healthy routine is within reach with the right perspective and products.

Skincare for Tweens and Teens
Emily at Exclusive Beauty

The Author: Emily Gervais

As a skincare, hair care, and personal wellness enthusiast with a decade of experience in the skincare industry, Emily is dedicated to sharing unbiased education on skincare and wellness. With a knack for writing and a passion for empowering others, she strives to provide valuable insight to help others understand and navigate the ever-changing beauty and wellness world.

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