Teen Skin Care: Real-Life Recs from Parents

Skin care can be a tricky business at any age, but particularly during the teen years, when kids’ skin is contending with new hormones and lifestyle changes. Park Slope Parents members who have been-there-done-that have shared some ideas for the cleansers and creams that worked best for their teens.

Read on for the recommendations—and if you’re not already a member of PSP, join our community today to connect with parents in our Tweens & Teens Group!



Important Message from Park Slope Parents (PSP): This content is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Park Slope Parents, this document, and our www.parkslopeparents.com is not intended to, and does not, provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on the PSP groups or on the www.parkslopeparents.com website. Never rely on information in an e-mail or on our web site in place of seeking professional medical advice.  


PSP may receive small amounts of compensation for purchases made through affiliate links in this post. We are a community-supported site, and we include these products because they've received positive reviews from our members.


One parent asked our Tweens & Teens Group…


“My 15 year old daughter is looking for a recommendation for a face cleanser - she has *minimal* breakouts but evidently ‘every other mother’ has wisdom about some multistep process, and it’s been pointed out that I'm sorely lacking in that department (uh, cause I had cystic acne until accutane in my 30s, and now happily use natural bar soap and no makeup..). She uses cetaphil now, which she finds greasy, which seems true..?


I always found the more ‘stuff’ I used the worse things got so I’m loath to send her down a rabbit hole, but probably a simple cleanser is probably a good idea? I feel like anything with acne meds is too harsh - really she has like a tiny occasional zit (thank goodness for my husband's clear skin genes.) Will take any recommendations to redeem myself :)”


Members recommend…


Avene. “My daughter’s dermatologist recommended Avene (gentle daily cleanser). You can find it in select pharmacies.”


Burt’s Bees wipes and roll-on. “I keep Burt’s Bees for sensitive skin wipes by her bedside so she can always wipe down her face easily before bed (and i try to help her form that habit- this works pretty well and fighting zits). … Burt’s Bees has an acne roll on for pimples (as do other brands).”


Castile-based soap. “I recommend a castile based soap. [I love the foam cleanser] from supersalve.com. If you are a park slope food coop member, you can find it there or order from straight from the company at supersalve.com. The gentle soap has some witch hazel added which is great for complexion. For me, I spray witch hazel on my dried face after using the foam soap in the shower (put Thayer’s brand in a spray bottle. My daughter likes the soap.”


CeraVe. “You can get it at a drug store.”


C’est Moi. “There is a line called C'est Moi. My daughter likes the cleanser. It is rated well on EWG, and it doesn't have a strong fragrance. It is packaged and marketed to teens/tweens, so it seems "special." It is gentle. It also comes in a kit with a matching moisturizer and maybe a toner, so it is a system, if that's what she is looking for.”


Oil cleansing. “I have dealt with acne issues as a teen and as an adult. As a teen I definitely was prone to over-cleansing and thus causing more irritation to my skin. It's great that your daughter hasn't started down that path! One thing I finally discovered in recent years is the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM on various skincare blogs.) It feels nice and multi-step and self-care-y and a little bit in the know, but also does not have to be expensive. Search it and you'll find a few variations but it is basically, you find the right oil or combination of oils for your skin needs (I mix olive oil from our kitchen, and castor oil), massage them into your skin, then take a hot washcloth and lay it over your face to open pores, soften dirt, etc. Massage in the oil for 30 seconds, and then with a re-wet hot washcloth, wipe away the oil. The science behind it is that oil can break down oils and remove what soap cannot, but will not strip your skin the way soap can. 


Some people will follow this step with a non-soap gentle cleanser. I sometimes do that after a workout but in general the oil cleanse is enough for me. It leaves my skin feeling so nicely cleansed but not tight (the dreaded overstripping).”


Purpose. “Purpose is very gentle. Also available at any drugstore.”


Tea tree oil. “Tea tree oil is a good anti acne tool.”


Tula. “I really like Tula probiotic cleanser, which both my 13 year old and I use.  It does not dry out either of our faces. I agree you want to be very careful about overwashing/stripping your skin.”


Vanicream. “I was just at my dermatologist yesterday and asked the same question for my teen daughter.  She recommended a product called Vanicream available on Amazon. It’s what she is recommending now over Cetaphil and CeraVe.  She gave me a sample and my daughter liked!”


“Highly recommend Vanicream-which is very inexpensive and was recommended by my dermatologist.”





Plus some perspective on the root causes of skin issues, which can be difficult to pinpoint:


“Back when I lived in LA and was a lot closer to my teen years (we're talking the early 90s!), there was a pretty large discussion at a pool party about everyone's experiences with acne. It was kind of amazing how many people shared their experiences and how people were actually listening to each other. There was quite the range of people and experiences, but there was a common thread of the impact of diet on complexion. Sugar and milk (all dairy to some and just milk to others) were the biggest culprits.


Many people also talked about going down a cleansing spiral: cleansing more to get rid of acne but only making it worse. 


That's when I stopped washing my face (more than whenever I was showering) and simply used regular bar soap in limited quantities. (If my skin is dry, I just do the minimum with soap.) My skin was already getting better by then, but it really cleared up after I stopped washing it so much.”


“There are lots of different issues which could be at play when it comes to skin. I've been frustrated taking my kids to the dermatologists who don't ask about diet and lifestyle at all and are quick to provide SUPER expensive acne treatments with a discount/referral coupon to help with the $300/tube price tag (not covered by insurance). There are also some quick to prescribe pills which may be effective but maybe not necessary. Dermatology is big business and I’d love to find a dermatologist I really trust (I’ve tried the big names on Park Slope Parents without being impressed.)


So yes, it can be hormones and genetics, but sometimes over-picking, medications, not enough water, stress, and too much sugar. Or allergies.... I had bad acne on my forehead for years until a doc said, "you're probably allergic to your conditioner." Sure enough, changed conditioner and the forehead issues went away. (The same happens with bacne-- triggered by certain hair care products). Or laundry detergent allergies, or a dirty pillow case, or overuse of zit cream, or smoking, or……. Why Am I Breaking Out?! 15 Acne Causes You Need to Know About…”



Further reading:

Member-recommended Dermatologists in the local area