Kids in Sephora: What Parents Need to Know About Viral Skin Care
If you’re a frequent visitor of Sephora, you may have noticed an influx of increasingly young customers, specifically in the skin care section.
Or, if you’re on social media, you may have come across videos of beauty store employees talking about preteens coming through at higher rates, or parents talking about how their kids requested expensive skin care products in their stockings this past holiday season.
Recently, teens and preteens have become more interested in skin care.
And that’s something that Dr. Helen He, dermatologist in the Mount Sinai health system, has noticed in her practice. Specifically, she’s noticed an uptick in teenage and preteen visitors coming in with an increased interest in skin care.
Taking an interest in skin care can be beneficial. But often, teens and preteens are after viral products advertised on social media that aren’t designed for young skin, and can even cause damage in some cases.
We sat down with Dr. He to discuss the trend of increased interest in skin care in teens and preteens, what parents should know about viral skin care and how they can guide their kids in taking care of their skin the correct way.
Skin Care, Teens and Social Media
Dr. He says that there are some upsides to the increased interest in skin care in teens and preteens; her young patients are coming in with “more specific and tailored questions about skincare.”
“There’s definitely much more knowledge from a much younger cohort than it seems like there ever has been before,” He says.
These young patients are also setting themselves up to get into the habit of taking care of their skin throughout their lives.
“At a younger age, they’re recognizing the importance of skin health long term,” He says.
But it is “kind of a double edged sword,” He says, because teens or preteens may gravitate towards products that they don’t need at their age.
“They’re sometimes using products I may not necessarily recommend for teens or preteens,” He says. “And then they would come into the clinic maybe with skin irritation from these products, because they’re more tailored towards adults.”
This could be due to the fact that, at least in part, young teens’ increased interest in skin care can be traced back to influencers on social media showcasing skin care products on their platforms.
“Someone with perfect skin will present a product in a way that seems so appealing,” He says. “I think that is very enticing, especially to an impressionable, young patient.”
Additionally, many of the products presented on social media are not vetted by doctors or professionals and are presented as a one-size-fits-all product for all ages and all skin types.
“It’s being promoted in kind of a universal way, not necessarily tailored towards kids or teens or adults or different age groups based on different needs,” He says.
If teens or preteens take skin care advice from social media without guidance from a parent, a dermatologist or other professional, it can have negative effects on their skin.
For example, Drunk Elephant is one of the brands that has been making the social media rounds, and many of the viral Drunk Elephant products that teens have been springing for include anti-aging elements and products like retinoids or Vitamin C.
He says products like this aren’t necessary for teens at this point in their skin care journey.
“Not only is there no benefit,” He says. “But there’s actually only potential for harm.”
This is because, He explains, teens’ and preteens’ skin isn’t the same as adult skin, so products meant for adults may not react well with young skin.
“Their skin tends to be a lot more sensitive than adult skin,” He says. “These products can be very irritating.”
Skin Care Tips for Preteens and Teens
The good news is that there of plenty of ways preteens and teens can develop an age-appropriate skin care routine without expensive, viral products that are designed for adults.
He’s advice is to keep it simple.
“I know some of the skincare routines are really involved and expensive and involve, like, a dozen steps,” He says. “I would say less is more in that age group.”
The foundation of a good skincare regimen for any age is a gentle cleanser, a moisturizer and sunscreen. Don’t skimp out on sunscreen, He says.
He says she’s seen people who are really “interested in all of these different products or use a whole bunch of products but forget the sunscreen,” which is “probably the most important constituent of any skincare regimen” for long term skin health.
Beyond this base, other products can be added to fix specific problems, like acne, extra dryness or hyperpigmentation, but these should be “intentional additions,” He says.
Adding new products indiscriminately can open up the door for skin irritation, especially on sensitive, young skin.
“When you have a multiple-step regimen, you’re increasing the odds that there’ll be something irritating in one of them,” He says.
Parents can support their kids’ interest in skin care while also steering them away from viral products that they don’t need. One way to do this, He says, is positive reinforcement by commending their children for being interested in taking care of their skin.
He also recommends helping teens approach viral products with a critical thinking approach to judge whether or not it’s actually necessary.
“I kind of wonder if going for the approach of encouraging them having healthy skin habits and giving and providing some more empirical advice on the smarter way to have good skin and healthy skin could be a good approach from parents,” He says.