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How safe is the social media skincare trend among tweens and teens?

Dermatologist shares advice on safe skincare for tweens and teens

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Doctors say the obsession with skincare among young people has recently skyrocketed. Social media seems to be the root cause for teens and tweens asking their parents for products to recreate elaborate routines they see online. 

How safe is this trend? IU Health Dermatologist Dr. Carli Whittington joined Daybreak to discuss what’s safe, what’s not safe, and what parents need to know. 

“Unfortunately, a lot of the trends that are popular out there these days on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, they’re not necessarily grounded in evidence-based practices, meaning you should definitely talk to your dermatology provider first before diving in,” Dr. Whittington said.

CNN recently reported on the topic and beauty stores such as Sephora and Ulta report seeing a surge in new young customers. Most seem to be tweens and teens looking for acne and anti-aging skincare products meant for adults.

Whittington encourages parents to help their tweens or teens safely navigate their skincare routine by consulting with a professional.

“I want to emphasize talking to your dermatology provider. There are so many products out there and it’s hard to know which ones are safe and which ones are not going to be effective. And skin care products can actually harm your child’s skin can be irritating, drying cause redness, flakiness, irritation if your child has very sensitive skin. So again, just talking to a certified medical professional that understands which products are actually going to work and which ones your child should avoid.”

What is a safe routine to start with?

  • Gentle, fragrance-free cleanser without exfoliating beads or harsh acids
  • Non-comedogenic moisturizer (this means it won’t clog pores)
  • Sunscreen is a must! Find a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 or higher, broad-spectrum (will cover UVA and UVP ultraviolet radiation), and water resistant so you don’t sweat it off.
  • For maximum efficiency, find a moisturizer that includes sunscreen
  • Encourage your child to put their skincare products next to their toothbrush/toothpaste because that is already in their habitual routine

What products should I make sure my tween stays away from?

  • Avoid AHA, BHA, and retinols/retinoids. All can cause irritation if used inappropriately. They can also increase photosensitivity which leads to burning when exposed to the sun.
  • Avoid products with Botox and other fillers

If used inappropriately, Whittington says, these products can lead to several problems like discoloration of the skin.

“Simple, with a few products, is the best way to go. You don’t need 20 products that take you two hours every night before you go to bed. It’s just too much, and often times, you actually have products that interact negatively with each other. So then they cancel each other out and you don’t get an effect at all,” Whittington explained.

She also says that in the grand scheme of things, young people caring about their skin is a good thing — especially compared to harmful trends in the past such as tanning beds. An early interest in skincare and sun protection will hopefully lead to this younger generation having less skin cancer as they age.

“I really, actually think it’s a positive thing that we’re even having this conversation because it brings to light that a lot of younger generations come into my office and they say ‘Dr. Whittington, how can I protect my skin from the sun? How can I prevent wrinkles?’ And I think those are positive conversations to have. Because it gets us thinking about it, right? We’re thinking about how to protect our skin from the sun, what things we should avoid, which things are OK to do. So our hope -my hope – the dermatology community’s hope is that as these younger generations that are being more diligent about sun protection strategies as they age, we see less skin cancer,” Dr. Whittington added.

Dr. Whittington says skincare does not need to be expensive. There are many over-the-counter products that work just as well as those that are double, triple, or even quadruple the price. Speaking to a dermatologist about what will work best for your child will help as there is no “one size fits all” approach.

(News 8 Daybreak anchor Hanna Mordoh & Dr. Whittington on the WISH-TV set on May 16, 2024./WISH Photo)