There’s a term floating around on TikTok lately that caught our eye: ‘Sephora Kids,’ which describes kids as young as ten years old flocking to the beauty retailer to buy skincare products. Interestingly, of the many brands that are out there, Drunk Elephant is the one that Gen Alpha seems to be gravitating towards the most. Given that the brand is known for using anti-aging ingredients like retinol and glycolic acid in their products, this has some parents and dermatologists concerned that their kids might starting these things way too soon. We tapped a few experts to get their take on which skincare brands and products are best to use for teens and tweens. They also shared helpful pointers on how parents can talk to their kids about skincare.
Meet the Experts
- Nicole Lee is co-founder of The Wonderverse Labs, a self-care brand catered to Gen Alpha. She has over 13 years of experience in beauty sales and marketing, where she has previously served as director of Beauty Brink and executive vice president for The Glow Concept.
- Dr. Joshua Zeichner is a board-certified dermatologist and an associate professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He’s an expert in cosmeceuticals, skincare and cosmetic dermatology.
- Dr. Margarita Lolis is a board-certified dermatologist, Mohs surgeon and brand ambassador for Miles. Dr. Lolis received her undergraduate degree from Yale University and her medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She also received her dermatology training at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
- Dr. Keira Barr is a psychodermatologist, somatic educator and derm-in-residence for selfmade, a beauty brand that combines skincare and behavioral science to target physical and mental concerns. She has over 30 years of experience in the field in dermatology and the healthcare space.
- Dr. Brendan Camp is a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City, who specializes in treating conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, moles and skin cancer.
- Dr. Jean Charles is a board-certified dermatologist with U.S. Dermatology Partners Cedar Park. Dr. Charles received a degree in nutritional science from the University of Texas and attended medical school at the University of North Texas Health Center.
First Things First, Why Do Teens Love Drunk Elephant So Much?
Two words: social media. The brand is known for its bright, colorful packaging and has a huge fan base online. “[Teens] love gorgeous packaging. We’ve been reading through hundreds of comments on TikTok and kids are talking about buying their products and refilling it with less expensive brands just so they can have [the bottles] on their shelf,” says Lee. “Gen Alpha are also seeing these products go viral and sell out. It’s the same as when we were kids, and the cool kids had the ‘it’ backpack or shoes. But instead of being in the school yard [where you’d only see what your peers have], they’re on their devices, which gives them access to even more options.”
When Should Kids Start Using Skincare?
According to Dr. Charles, puberty is a typically the time for teens to start a skincare routine. “While children of all ages should wear daily sunscreen, tweens and teens can start a skincare routine when they begin to notice signs of puberty. During puberty, their hormones can increase oil production and cause skin changes [like acne] that a skincare routine can help manage,” she explains.
The experts suggest a basic skincare routine that includes a gentle cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen. “I’m a big fan of keeping the routine as simple as possible to support skin barrier function and protect your skin against environmental damage like UV exposure and pollution,” says Dr. Barr. However, Dr. Barr notes teens should avoid using products with too many active ingredients (like retinol, salicylic acid and glycolic acid) and strong detergents. “Active ingredients like retinoids can cause dryness, peeling and irritation. It can potentially harm the skin’s protective barrier and using it too frequently can trigger acne outbreaks, especially in individuals with acne-prone or oily skin,” she shares.
How Should Tweens Use Skincare Products?
The experts say kids can start using skincare products between the ages of 7 to 10 years old. However, this age group should have a very simple routine for their still-delicate skin. Lee suggests teaching them to clean their faces first, before adding any other products to the mix. “It’s really about creating healthy routines and attitudes towards hygiene from a young age and educating them on the basics,” says Lee. “So, get them in the habit of removing dirt, grime and using SPF daily.”
How Old Should You Be to Use Retinol?
All the experts agree that kids and teens should not be using retinol in their skincare unless it’s been prescribed by a dermatologist for acne-related concerns. As Dr. Zeichner explains, topical retinoids (like tretinoin or adapalene) are sometimes recommended to teens to treat severe acne. Otherwise, Gen Alpha can try other alternatives like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to treat their acne. Dr. Lolis notes they should start with low concentrations of these ingredients and consult with a dermatologist before applying it to their skin.
How Old Should You Be to Use Eye Cream?
Our experts urge Gen Alpha not to use any type of eye cream. Eye cream is typically used to treat or reduce signs of aging like fine lines and dark circles, which don’t usually show up until your 20s. That said, the average age to start using eye cream is in your late 20s, as skin cell turnover starts to decline around this time, leading to thinner skin around the eyes.
How Should Parents Talk About Skincare with Their Kids?
The experts have a few helpful tips for talking to your kids about their skincare routines.
- Educate them. Teach your kids about skincare and the risks of using specific ingredients/products too soon. “It’s important for parents and children to be educated about specific ingredients and what’s necessary and unnecessary [for their skin,]” says Lee.
- Listen to their concerns. According to Dr. Barr, it’s important to spark a conversation with your child about their interest in skincare and specific products. “As a parent, helping your child create a healthy skincare routine begins with creating a safe space for them to talk about their concerns and desires,” says Dr. Barr. “They may be seeing all the recommendations to ‘fix’ problems they were told they had (but likely don’t), so it makes sense that it can create feelings of anxiety and worry, which can affect their self-image and self-esteem. They may also just interpret what they’re seeing online as a fun way to connect with their peers.”
- Create a simple routine with them. Stick with just the basics like a cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen. Remind them that they’ll have plenty of time to add other products into their routines later.
- Open a dialogue. “Rather than indulging or denying their requests to purchase these products, consider their requests as an invitation to get curious. Open up a dialogue to better understand their motivation for wanting these products. Once you know their ‘why,’ then you can better determine how you can best support them.”
The Best Skincare for Teens and Tweens
,The Wonderverse Labs
Try: Paw Puff Gentle Foaming Face & Body Wash
1. The Wonderverse Labs
In 2023, The Wonderverse Labs launched a skincare brand specifically for tweens and teens. Developed by scientists, cosmetic chemists and beauty experts, the brand strives to make gentle products that parents can implement into their children’s skincare routine. Lee recommends starting with this foaming face wash, which contains glycerin and coconut oil that’s non-drying and cleanses the skin without stripping.
Buy It ($15),Ulta
Try: Slam Dunk Hydrating Moisturizer
2. Bubble Skincare
This TikTok-favorite brand has gentle ingredients, a science-backed formula and fun packaging to boot. Bubble Skincare vows to create affordable, high-quality products that are friendly towards young skin. Lee recommends this hydrating moisturizer, which contains aloe leaf juice and hoya lacosuna flower extract to nourish and protect the skin.
Buy It ($16),Ulta
Try: Barrier Renew AM Moisturizer
3. RoC Skincare
“This is a skincare brand that both mothers and daughters can use. Mom can stick to the retinol-containing products, while the kids can use the brand’s moisturizers and cleansers,” says Dr. Zeichner. The product on the top of his list: The Barrier Renew AM Moisturizer. It has SPF 30 and is formulated with ceramides and prebiotics. It’s lightweight and deeply hydrates the skin.
Buy It ($25),Amazon
Try: Gentle Clear Mattifying Acne Moisturizer
“Cetaphil is a well-established and well-respected brand with a line of products for acne that includes face and body cleansers, target treatments and moisturizers,” says Dr. Camp. “This mattifying moisturizer can help reduce excess oil and contains salicylic acid to actively treat acne while it moisturizes the skin.”
$11; $7 At Amazon,Sephora
Try: Adapinoid Gel
According to Dr. Lolis, SkinFix is a great brand for teens and adults. “Their products are clinically tested to be safe and it comes in eco-friendly packaging. But what makes the brand really stand out in my opinion is its focus on maintaining a healthy, strong skin barrier,” she shares. She recommends the Adapinoid Gel, as it fights acne, while repairing the skin barrier and is a gentler alternative to retinoid.
Buy It ($48) ,Selfmade
Try: Corrective Experience Comfort Cream
Selfmade wants to bridge the gap between mental and physical care. The brand takes a psychodermatology approach and develops products that keep skincare concerns (like dryness, inflammation and sensitivity) and mental health in mind. Dr. Barr recommends the Corrective Experience Comfort Cream, which soothes and moisturizes the skin. Formulated with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and cortinhib GTM, the cream is great for dry, itchy or rough skin.
Buy It ($30),Twiish
Try: Clear Skin Bundle
In 2023, Twiish launched to address common skincare concerns today teens are dealing with on a daily basis. Developed by a beauty editor, her teenage daughter and a cosmetic chemist, the brand vows to provide effective skincare products, while helping teens find their self-confidence. Dr. Camp suggests trying out the cleanser and spot treatment bundle that both contain gentle ingredients like salicylic acid and colloidal silver. “This combination of products makes taking care of acne easier, which is important for teens who are not used to having to take care of their skin,” he says.
Buy It ($54; $44),Amazon
Try: Renewing SA Cleanser
“CeraVe is known for using a nice blend of essential ceramides, which keeps the skin strong, while increasing hydration and moisture levels of the skin. The brand has many different products that are tailored for dry, oily and acne prone skin,” says Dr. Lolis. A popular pick that has garnered over 51,000 5-star reviews is the Renewing SA Cleanser, which has salicylic acid as a key ingredient to gently exfoliate without being too irritating or drying on the skin. It also offers a nice lather and it’s great for all skin types, but is especially well-suited for oily or acne-prone skin.
$16; $12 At Amazon,Ulta
Try: Effaclar Adapalene Gel
9. La Roche-Posay
La Roche-Posay is another OG brand that’s great for all ages and has an extensive line of products that are more affordable and safer for tweens and teens to use when starting their skincare routines. Dr. Camp recommends their adapalene gel that helps clear up blemishes, clogged pores, whiteheads and blackheads. As Dr. Camp explains, “adapalene is an effective treatment for acne blemishes and the longterm use of it may also help address any associated hyperpigmentation.”
Buy It ($37)RELATED
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