Teen Skincare

Back To School – A Skincare Guide For Teenagers

While it’s almost impossible to get through your teen years without at least a few complaints about your skin, there are some things you can do to keep your complexion looking its best. Here’s our back to school list of tips and advice for keeping your skin healthy and glowing this school year.

The challenges of teen skin can feel overwhelming. Hormonal surges cause enlargement of the oil glands, making teen skin oilier than adult skin. Extra oil often leads to large pores, blackheads, and acne. Although you and your friends may be experiencing similar changes in your skin, everyone’s skin is different. That means the products and advice that work for them might not work for you. Here are a few general recommendations that may be helpful in managing your skin.

Cleanse carefully.

If your skin is oily, try a foaming or gel cleanser for daily skincare. Cleanse at least once a day, or twice if your skin gets very oily or you wear makeup. If you wear makeup, be sure to remove eye makeup first and then cleanse with your face wash. Never go to bed with your makeup on! You’re doing your skin the ultimate favor by taking off your makeup at night. Sleeping with your makeup on can lead to acne and clogged pores. Plus, no one wants a dirty pillowcase! Removing your makeup every night is a skincare necessity. For teens that have dry rather than oily skin, try a milky cleanser and light, oil-free moisturizer.

Control oil.

As mentioned above, hormonal changes can lead to extra oily skin for many teens. The trick is to keep the shine down without being overly harsh on your skin. We recommend a 3-step approach to keeping the oil under control.

  1. Choose a medicated cleanser. Look for products containing oil and acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or sulfur. Be aware that benzoyl peroxide-containing products can cause bleach stains on clothing and towels!
  2. Use an oil-free primer to control shine.
  3. Blot oil during the day using specialized cloths or tissues.

(Oil absorbing sheets in the cosmetic aisle in your local drugstore can be a lifesaver.)


Exfoliate your skin no more than twice per week. Use a gentle product and don’t scrub! If you over scrub, your skin may break out even further. Exfoliating removes the top layer of dead skin cells and will encourage new skin to come to the surface faster.

Use the correct acne products.

If you have breakouts, try this approach: Wash your skin, use a toner, and then apply a medicated acne gel.

Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are two of the most common acne treatments that can be purchased over the counter. Salicylic acid dissolves skin debris that clog pores, acts as an anti-inflammatory, and also helps red inflamed pimples go away faster.

Benzoyl peroxide is similar to hydrogen peroxide (however, hydrogen peroxide should not be used on the skin!) – it releases oxygen on the skin to destroy bacteria. It simultaneously works to open up pores and decrease inflammation.

Adapalene is a topical retinoid that is available as an over the counter treatment. This is great for blackheads and clogged pores, but should only be used sparingly at bedtime. Apply a pea-sized amount to the entire face at bedtime daily as tolerated.

All of these treatments can lead to dryness and a daily moisturizer should be used liberally as needed. During the day try to use a moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher. When treating for acne, it is a good idea to treat your entire face. This will not only treat the acne you have but hopefully prevent new acne from developing.

Various spot treatments are also available over the counter which can be helpful in clearing individual breakouts faster. Most topical acne treatments take 8-12 weeks to work so be consistent and be patient! Remember, there are no cures for acne, only treatment – so if your skincare regimen is working well to keep your acne controlled, you should stick with it.

Wash your hands.

One way to help your skin stay healthy is to protect it from dirt and too many germs. Wash your hands before you touch your face or touch up your makeup. Regularly clean other surfaces that touch your skin, such as your phone and your makeup brushes.

Wear sunscreen and avoid tanning beds.

You want your skin to look healthy now and for decades to come. Using sunscreen also helps to keep your skin looking young and prevents worsening discoloration from previous breakouts. Choose an oil-free sunscreen containing SPF 30 or higher.

If you like the appearance of tanned skin, self-tanner is a much safer option than the sun or tanning bed. Tanning beds and sun tanning can set you up for early wrinkles and increased risk for skin cancer.

Talk to a dermatologist.

Seeing a dermatologist for your acne can make a huge difference, especially if your acne is not responding to over the counter treatment, symptoms are widespread or severe, breakouts are deep and painful, or if you are starting to notice scarring. If drugstore brands aren’t cutting it and your acne is starting to bother you despite your best efforts at home, your APDerm Dermatologist can help. We will counsel you on what will work best for your specific case. There are multiple prescription medications that can help!

Issues with acne and other skin problems are incredibly common for teens. But the good news is you don’t have to wait until you outgrow it. There are many treatments available today. So, talk to your parents about seeing us about your skin concerns and we can help you get back your healthy complexion! Call (978) 297-8420 or fill out the form below, for more information.