If you’re a teen (or have one), listen up: Here’s how to build a skincare routine for acne-prone, oily, and dry skin.

Being a teenager isn’t always a breeze and with puberty often comes a number of skincare issues, from hormonal acne to dry patches, blackheads and more. But this is nothing a good skincare routine can’t handle.

With this in mind, Dr Prasanthi Purusothaman, a skin health expert at Software, reveals the best morning and night regimens for teens and tweens — but first, let’s talk about skin types and how knowing yours can help keep your skin looking and feeling amazing.

Understanding your skin type as a teenager

Teenage skin is known for being problematic, but why? According to Dr Prasanthi, “During puberty, we see acne commonly. Some studies report that over 90% of Australian teens experience symptoms at some stage due to fluctuating hormone levels and, under the influence of androgens, the increase of sebum or oil secretion.”

Dealing with acne-prone skin can be frustrating, but it is doable. It is important that teenagers start a skincare routine in their pre teens or early teens to get into the habit of daily care.

Emphasising the importance of early onset skincare, Dr Prasanthi notes that, “Early skincare and management can prevent complications of acne such as scarring and hyperpigmentation, which can be as distressing for some as active acne itself and even more difficult to treat. Prevention and active management is hence encouraged through simple modalities like skincare”.

The first step to putting together an effective teen skincare routine is identifying your skin type. This will help you find skincare products that work for you, without being too harsh or irritating in a phase when your skin is already going through a lot of changes.

There are five main skin types: oily, dry, combination, sensitive and normal. If you are (or have) a teenager, these are the three that you definitely should know about:

Dry skin

Dry skin occurs due to a lack of oil in the skin, and it often feels and looks uncomfortable, scaly, rough, and sometimes itchy and irritated.

If you suspect you have dry skin, there is a simple test you can do. Wash your face with a regular cleanser, pat it dry, and wait for half an hour. If your skin feels tight, uncomfortable and flaky, your suspicions might be correct.

Oily skin

Oily skin feels greasy and shiny, and it is a common skin type among teens and tweens (though anyone can have it, regardless of age). Those with it often notice visible pores and regular acne breakouts.

To confirm if you are of the oily skin type, you can do the same ‘wash, pat dry and wait’ test as above, and check if your skin appears shiny and oily after 30 minutes.

Acne-prone skin

Although not officially one of the five skin types, acne-prone skin is also very common among teenagers, with 85% being affected by acne vulgaris at some point[1]. This “skin type” is exactly what it sounds like – skin that is more prone to breakouts, which can show as whiteheads, pustules, papules, and cysts.

What’s the best skincare routine for teens?

When it comes to skincare, Dr Prasanthi believes that, “Simple is best, and understanding the pathophysiology of acne can help understand general measures and targeted treatments.

“Variations based on skin type may include the use of different cleanser (oily skin may prefer foaming cleansers whereas dry skin may prefer more nourishing hydrating cleansers) and moisturisers (oily skin needs moisture but more lightweight gel formulas may be preferred, whereas dry skin enjoys thicker formulas)”.

However, regardless of skin type, there are three skincare steps you (or your teen) should tick off every single morning, and another three to complete before bed.

Below, Dr. Prasanthi explains the most simple and effective skincare routine that teens can follow, both day and night:

AM routine

Step 1: Cleanser

For teenagers with oily or acne-prone skin, we recommend a gentle foam cleanser that will eliminate dirt and excess oil, without leaving the skin feeling uncomfortable or stripped. If you have dry skin, you might prefer to use a creamy formula that hydrates as it cleanses, or even just splash some water on your face.

The most important thing is that you don’t over-cleanse, as this can strip your skin of its natural oils, which you need to maintain a glowy complexion — even if you’re on the oilier end.

Step 2: Moisturiser

Next, it’s time to give your skin some much-needed hydration. If you have dry skin, opt for a rich moisturiser, and if you’re of the oily type, choose a lightweight face cream instead.

While we’re on this topic, let us debunk a very common skincare myth: that oily and acne-prone skin doesn’t need moisturiser. Hydration is key for all skin types, even oily and acne-prone skin. When you don’t moisturise, you force your skin to overcompensate, produce more sebum and… you’ll end up even oilier.

Step 3: SPF

Whether the sun is out strong or hidden behind the clouds, this third step is absolutely non-negotiable. All skin types need protection from harmful UV rays – you just need to find a formula that you like using.

This might take some trial and error, but generally acne-prone skins prefer mineral sunscreens, while drier skin types tend to go for chemical formulas. However, the best sunscreen is the one you will wear.

Look for a lightweight, non-comedogenic and non-fragranced formula with active ingredients like niacinamide to further bolster skin protection, settle existing inflammation and protect the skin barrier. Sunscreen application regularly must be encouraged in teens as an important preventative measure in skin cancer.

PM routine

Step 1: Cleanser

Throughout the day, your skin is exposed to all types of dirt and pollution, which you’ll want to wash off come nighttime, along with any dead skin cells and excess oil. This is especially important if you like to wear makeup, as sleeping with it on can lead to unwanted breakouts and clogged pores.

If you are wearing makeup, a double cleanse with micellar water and then a cleanser should be encouraged to sufficiently remove all makeup and dirt from the day. BHA-based cleansers are particularly helpful in acne, as salicylic acid is oil soluble, penetrating hair follicles and pores to lift excess oil and dirt, bind it and be removed. Salicylic acid washes should be left on the face for a few minutes to work their magic before rinsing off. Drier skin types may find salicylic acid too drying, so instead opt for a more nourishing, hydrating cleanser.

Step 2: Treatment

Whatever specific skincare concerns you have, this is the time to target them. If you have acne, you may apply benzoyl peroxide to kill acne-causing bacteria, whereas if you have oily skin, you may choose a salicylic acid treatment to reduce sebum production. For dry skin, using a deeply hydrating product, like a hyaluronic acid serum, is always a good idea.

These ingredients provide a mixture of benefits from increasing skin cell turnover, acting as an anti-inflammatory, kill acne-forming bacteria, and manage post-inflammatory dark or red spots from previous lesions.

Step 3: Night cream

To finish off your skincare routine, apply a layer of your favourite night cream. This will create a protective barrier and seal the treatment you used right before, so your skin can absorb as much of it as possible.

If you’re a skincare enthusiast, and as you learn more about your complexion, you can always build on this routine and add more products that you know deliver the results you want.

[1] https://www.contemporarypediatrics.com/view/acne-vulgaris-in-teenagers