Discover beauty through professional reviews

NOW READING A Teen’s First Skincare Routine: What to Use, How to Start
June 3, 2017

A Teen’s First Skincare Routine: What to Use, How to Start

Your skin’s got bounce, glow, and a Wolverine-like ability to rejuvenate itself. It’s also seeing the first signs of bumps, pimples, and oiliness. So what to use (and what to avoid) and how to get started? Here, our guide to a teen’s first skincare routine.


When it comes to skincare in your teens, it’s a rollercoaster. In some ways, things are less complicated. Because young skin has that undeniable bounce and plumpness all of us old-heads are coveting, you needn’t worry about endless concoctions and serum cocktails chasing what comes naturally for teens. However, there are other battles you have to contend with as a newbie to skincare.


Adults generally have a pretty good idea which ingredients play nicely with our skin, which are just meh, and which evil little devils send it screaming. As a teenager you don’t have the benefit of years of experience; everything is new and therefore everything is a potential foe. On the bright side, everything is also a potential ally. This is your time to experiment, however, let’s make sure to experiment safely.





When it comes to a teen’s first skincare routine, keep it as mild and bare bones as possible. Korean beauty’s entire philosophy is framed around healthy, beautiful skin. A skin’s health is of utmost importance and achieving that through a multi-step routine is the way to go about it. However, gradual introduction of products is key here. Slow and steady wins the race, and in this case, slow and steady keeps the odds of identifying a potential irritant or allergy in your favor.



teen's first skincare routine


In general, here are the basics of a teen’s first skincare routine:

1. Double cleansing

2. Hydrating toner

3. Emulsion or cream

4. Sunscreen


Now let’s get into the details one by one.


Sunscreen, your most important step


sunscreen reviews teen's first skincare routine
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to great Korean sunscreens


For a teen, a good sunscreen, one that you will actually wear and use, is of utmost importance. UVB rays can cause nasty burns and even cataracts. UVA rays are particularly nasty, messing with your DNA and potentially causing cancer and other diseases. From a vanity standpoint, it’s also the top cause of premature aging. Prevent cancer and photoaging by dedicating yourself to a lifetime of sunscreen.


Korean sunscreens are awesome, because many of them don’t smell like typical western sunscreens, and their formulas are elegant and a pleasure to wear. Buy several to find which one you like. (Read about one of our favorites here.) It won’t matter how awesome it is if you don’t actually wear it.


Oh, and makeup that has an SPF is no substitute for a dedicated sunscreen: You need to be applying at least a quarter sized dollop of sunscreen for it to work properly, and that is way too much product to use for foundation. When it comes to sunscreen, I myself apply a cherry sized amount to the face and neck. I would give anything to be able to go back in time and be as fastidious about sunscreen application back in my teens as I am now. I could have saved myself a terrifying time getting cancer removed from the tops of my ear and prevented a helluva lot of sun damage to my skin.


Beautytap Advisors top recommendation is the Purito Centella Green Level Safe Sunscreen


*Beauty Advisors are certified experts including aestheticians, makeup artists, facialists, and beauty professionals. 



Purito Centella Green Level Safe Sunscreen is perfect for teens at an affordable price of $19.




double cleansing teen's first skincare routine
Some of our fave cleansers


Double cleansing is a must, as it’s the only thing that can properly remove your makeup and sunscreen. (Read why and how here.) Double cleansing consists of first using an oil-based cleanser, and then following up with a regular foaming cleanser. Breakouts are always a concern with teenage skin and the proper removal of sunscreen and makeup will go a long way when it comes to prevention. Remember, you only need to double cleanse after wearing sunscreen or makeup; you don’t always need to do it. For the mornings, simply washing your face with your regular cleanser is all you need.


Now onto foaming cleansers. I urge you to read this story on why a low pH cleanser is the only way to go. Once you’re done reading up on the importance of selecting a low pH cleanser, it’s time to look for one that’s best for you. It is important to keep in mind that a “squeaky clean” face is not the goal here. That squeak is dryness and indicative of stripped skin. Keeping our moisture is the goal, always. Your skin should feel soft and hydrated after cleansing, never dry and squeaky, and a low pH cleanser will help ensure that.


Beautytap Advisors top recommendation is the Sandawha Ultra Gentle Natural Mild Cleanser.



Sandawha ultra gentle natural mild cleanser for teens
Sandawha Ultra Gentle Natural Mild Cleanser is perfect for teens without stripping the youthful skin $22




K-beauty 5 pillars mamonde rose toner resized teen's first skincare routine
Discover your new HG toner


Moms of teens will remember that back in their day, a toner was usually a high alcohol content, tingly, burning affair that was used in the hopes of sopping up excess oil. Not only is that completely not what you’re looking for here, it’s actually very harmful to teenage skin. Absorbing excess oil is fine, but it’s the burning and tingling you want to avoid. Tingling does not equal working; it equals irritation. Minimizing irritation is a must, as irritation can lead to acne and completely throw your skin’s health out of whack.


The aim of toners in Korean beauty is to soften, prepare the skin for treatment, and to hydrate. So if you change your way of thinking about toners and what they should be doing, you’ll understand why they are often referred to as “softeners” by Korean companies.


Beautytap Advisors top recommendation is the COSRX Galactomyces Alcohol Free Toner


COSRX Galactomyces Alcohol Free Toner balances skin without any alcohol, perfect for teens $16



Acids, Acne & Exfoliation


teen's first skincare routine
Moksha Dear Orange Jam Scrub


I was asked if it was safe for teens to get into the world of acids, and I have to preface everything I say with I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I can give you my opinion, but I strongly urge you to visit with a dermatologist to get the lowdown on what they think is an appropriate course of treatment for a teenager. And even with derms, you’re going to get a variety of answers — I’ve heard it all over the years.


With that being said, in my opinion, salicylic acid, BHA, and mild AHA use is just fine for teens. BHAs and AHAs are the best topical treatments for most mild acne. It’s not recommended that topical salicylic acid be applied before the age of 2, and well, you’re clearly in the safe zone by your teens. What’s really handy in Korean beauty is there is a variety of naturally derived AHAs and BHAs that are milder than many over-the-counter western acne products. COSRX comes to mind here as they have willow bark derived BHAs in their BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, which is an excellent choice to fights blackheads and mild acne in sensitive skin.


Keeping your skin well-hydrated and moisturized is your first line of defense when it comes to acne, so let’s avoid harsh products that will dry the skin out too much. When it comes to acids you want to start out as mild as possible and work your way up to stronger. And honestly, in your teen years, if you’re in need of a strong acid you’re probably better under a dermatologist’s care.


In general, teenage skin does a pretty good job of exfoliating itself, so you most likely do not need a manual exfoliator. If you see flakes, that’s a sign that you need hydration, not a scrub. It’s easy to overdo it when it comes to scrubs, as refreshing as they can feel. If you really, really want to use one, make sure you do it no more than once a week, or more like twice a month. Again, I’m speaking in terms of normal to mild acneic skin; more complicated cases need to consult a dermatologist.


Beautytap Advisors top recommendation is the COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment 


Cosrx aha bha clarifying treatment toner
COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment is one of the top seller for teens $14




teen's first skincare routine
Find more moisturizers here


Depending on if your skin is oily or on the normal to dry side, either a cream or an emulsion is on the table. For oily skin, an emulsion is probably going to be enough hydration. There are also gel creams, which offer the best of both worlds and are especially refreshing in the summer time. A typical face cream may feel entirely too heavy and probably should be avoided except in intensely dry and cold weather conditions. (I say that as someone who regularly deals with winter temps of -40, so unless that’s your reality or you’re an avid skier, you can probably do without.)


Korean beauty has some really awesome emulsions and lotions that offer light hydration. Remember, oily doesn’t mean hydrated; those are two different things, so don’t avoid lotion altogether just because you’re oily. You can, however, avoid application on your T-zone, which is well-lubricated by sebum if you’re oily. For normal to dry skin types, you have the option of just a cream or an emulsion and cream combo if you really need the moisture (think winter and dry climates).


Beautytap Advisors top recommendation is the Sandawha Revitalizing Liposome Lotion.





Sandawha revitalizing lotion for teens
Soft and natural revitalizing lotion is perfect for sensitive and young skin types in teens $30

How to start your routine


teen's first skincare routine


Now that I’ve laid out all the steps, let’s talk introduction, as in when to introduce each product. With every new product, use it for at least three weeks before introducing a new one. That may sound like an overly cautious approach, but it’s a sound one. We do it this way so that if you do have a bad or even allergic reaction to a product, we know exactly who the culprit was. Otherwise you’re just throwing a dart in the dark at five products and just guessing at who the bad guy was.


If you notice a negative reaction to a product, immediately discontinue use and do not continue on for the remaining time. After a bad reaction, a great tip is to then look up the product on the COSDNA website. There you can find a breakdown of each ingredient and its likelihood to cause irritation or acne. This is an excellent resource when you’re just starting out and are trying to find out what your skin dislikes. You can’t know for sure without allergy testing, but you can get a pretty good idea what the likely culprit was this way. You can also have the information on hand to show a dermatologist what exactly you were using so that they can know which allergies to test for if needed.


Here is a full visual guide on the 3 step, 5 step, and 10 step routines which will teach you about when to use what. 


skincare steps and routine


Keeping it simple


This doesn’t always hold true, but keeping it simple, ingredients-wise, is usually a safe approach if for no other reason than minimizing the exposure to potential bad reactions. It’s also easier if you’re not dealing with 30 ingredients when you need to whittle down what might be the cause of something. It’s also easier to identify things that you love. For instance, I love camellia oil and all of its offshoots, so I actively seek products with that ingredient in mind.


Form good habits


There are little things teenagers can get in the habit of that will go a long way to preventing acne and keeping the skin in excellent shape. Something as simple as changing your pillowcase once a week can help prevent breakouts. Cleaning your phone’s screen is another thing. Think of all the oily fingerprints and gunk that builds up on the surface of a phone. That stuff transfers onto your fingers, which end up on your face throughout the course of the day. It’s especially nasty if you use it for a phone call, pressing all of those oil and germs into the side of your face. So keep your hands and phone clean and keep both away from your face as much as possible.


Finally, get into the habit of always doing your entire skincare routine, even if you’re exhausted. The sooner you start, the happier your skin will be and the easier it will be for it to become second nature to you.


Forming good skincare habits now will go a long way when it comes to a lifetime of beautiful, healthy skin, and there is no better way to do that than with a Korean beauty based philosophy and routine.




Coco Park is an author, beauty journalist, blogger, podcast host, and all around oddball living in Montreal Quebec with her family. Originally from the southern USA, she worked for several years in the makeup industry as a professional makeup artist and holds a certificate in esthetics. She is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Want to know more? Check her out on the Beauty Beyond Basics podcast, on her blog, on Instagram @thebeautywolf, and in her book "Korean Beauty Secrets: A Practical Guide to Cutting-Edge Skincare & Makeup."




I wish I had this article a few years ago when I began to breakout! I had no idea where to turn to for advice. Definitely will direct anyone in the same position to this article! Thank you!


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

I keep coming back to this article for all of my clients with kids that need advice on skincare. This has been so helpful for many people!


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

As someone in their late teens, I wish I knew this a few years ago. I'm so excited to try my new double cleansing routing using some of the products recommended above.


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

I wish I had this information when I was younger! My love for toner has definitely grown as I got older I will never NOT use it


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

I wish that when I was a teenager all these things were available as resources. I would have taken my skincare routine so seriously and my skin would have been great from a very long time ago. During my whole teen years, I struggled with skincare and did not know the right products to use for my skin type. I like that we have so much natural and vegan ingredients now so that we are not putting harmful ingredients into our skin.


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

When I was young, I used warm water and the basic dollar store apricot cleanser/scrub. Thank goodness for the evolution of skin care and education! This is great information for our children.


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

I wish I had someone to tell me this when I was a teen. It probably would have saved me a lot of unnecessary insecurities. I literally cannot stressed enough about the make a routine and stick to it part


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Every teen should read this article. Learning to maintain your healthy skin at a young age will keep you ahead of the aging game. Teens may not need a ten or even a five step routine, but any good skincare habits will benefit and teach you over time what works best for you.


This such an amazing and informative article! I wish I read something like this when I started my teen years. I just began using sunscreen religiously and it has protected my skin so well, I regret not using it as soon as I started my skincare journey. It's very important to slow down when starting a skincare routine at a young age. Teen skin is always evolving and there's so much growth, so much to learn from oneself so I agree with prioritizing a slower build of products rather than using them all at once for teen skin.


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Starting a good skincare habit at an early age is so important. As an Aesthetician, I work on many people that really didn't take care of their skin until their ate 20-30's. There really is a difference in the quality of your skin at every age if you give it a great start in your teens!