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9 Skincare Tips to Preempt Preteen Acne

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Acne has often been seen as a rite of passage for teenagers. But in recent years, what was once only seen in teen years is now ushering into tween years. Twelve is no longer the lower end of the age range in terms of acne presentation. It has been documented, and we see first hand, kids as young as eight now showing up for acne treatment.

A report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) confirmed that acne is becoming more common in preteens. The research involved 1,277 children and found more than 40% of those aged seven to nine had acne, and more than three-quarters of those aged 10 to 12 had acne.

What’s causing the earlier appearance of acne? Dr. Lawrence Eichenfield, lead author of the AAP report and a pediatric dermatologist at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, believes that the reason may be, on average, puberty is beginning earlier than in past generations. The changes in hormones increase the activity of sebaceous glands and cell accumulation in the pore, which means a sticky mess in the pores that traps p bacteria and initiates breakouts. Stress and genetics can also be factors.

But, the good news is that clear, healthy skin is possible! :)

Here are our 9 tips for preempting tween skin problems.

1. Keep skincare routine simple, gentle but effective and consistent.

We find it's important to keep tween skincare simple and consistent. A good routine can backfire on young skin when there are too many steps or it's too strong.

The most important step: Get your tween washing their face twice a day - AM, when they wake up and PM, before you go to bed) is the first step to healthy skin. You’ll want to also wash your face after a sweaty activity. This can go a long way to preventing breakouts.

To keep face washing top of mind, we have clients place their products next to their toothbrush and do it at the same time as brushing their teeth to be consistent. Washing the face and brushing teeth go together like peas and carrots. ;)

Tweens should avoid using scrubs or a washcloth to scrub their skin, this can irritate their skin that tend to be more sensitive. Instead, use your fingertips to wash your face and pat skin dry with a clean cloth.

You do want to avoid "actives" in cleansers used on pre-teen skin (salicylic or benzoyl peroxide). Young skin often is too sensitive and the water combined with strong actives can cause irritation and breakouts. Vivant Green Tea Antioxidant Cleanser or Face Reality Ultra Gentle Cleanser are gentle choices for young skin. These are gentle and effective, offering so much more than Cerave or Cetaphil cleansers. Both contain antioxidants green tea and licorice that calm preteen skin, while removing makeup and cleansing the skin without drying it out.

2. Avoid Makeup Wipes - Wash your face Instead.

There is no replacement for washing your face. Makeup wipes, face wipes, etc. all lead to poor skin health habits and on top of that, often contain ingredients that cause breakouts.

3. Use products that are acne-safe.

Look for products that won’t create comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) that clog pores. This is true not just for moisturizers but for facial cleansers, makeup and sunscreen as well. We like Face Reality's Ultra Gentle Cleanser paired with Face Reality's Clearderma as a basic routine. Both are acne safe. If looking for an acne safe sunscreen we like Tizo Ultra SPF40 in a tinted to non-tinted version. Both are ultra gentle for preteen skin and the high zinc content is healing and anti-inflammatory

4. Address acne early on and go slowly with actives.

Acne is common during puberty when hormones go into overdrive. If you start to have minor breakouts, start with one active acne product at a time and go slow, especially with young tweens under 13 years old. We like to begin clients on benzoyl peroxide and then add in other necessary actives. This layering approach can help attack the different causes of acne, such as bacteria, clogged pores, oil and inflammation while not irritating the skin or causing purging.

For example, if an acne treatment that contains benzoyl peroxide, the second acne treatment wold contain a different acne clearing ingredient. We love Face Reality Acne Med 2.5% to start. To make sure your using this correctly, please schedule a virtual or in-person consultation with one of our acne specialists.

5. Don't spot treat pimples

Spot treating does not prevent pimples. Acne clearing products should be used all over. Breakout regimen's work if if you’re preventing acne instead of treating existing breakouts. If using benzoyl peroxide, we like to have clients use it in the evening over a gel hydrator like Vivant Totaloe Calming + Hydrating Gel. You can check out our blog post about this organic hero ingredient and its usage here.

6. Body acne and body odor be gone!

Hormones cause so many body changes, one being body acne and odor. Teachers and your tween will love you with this simple, effective tip: Have your tween wash their body with a benzoyl peroxide wash to 1. kill acne causing bacteria and clear inflammation and 2. kill odor causing bacteria (this should be a backup to carrying a travel size deodorant in their backpack) but it helps so much! We love Skin Theory's Clearing Wash w/2.5% benzoyl peroxide.

7. Wash your pillowcase and sheets weekly.

A build of sweat, dirt or oil from the environment and your skin and hair is transferred back to your skin when sheets get dirty. By the end of one week, sheets and pillowcases are swarming with dead skin cells and bacteria. These can clog your pores, leading to breakouts." If you have oily hair or use oily products, you may need to change your sheets more often.

8. Avoid picking, scrubbing and overdoing it with products. Less is more

Over-exfoliating, popping pimples, washing your face too frequently and trying new acne products weekly all feel great in the moment but can lead to irritation of the skin and even more breakouts. Less is more, starting with one active at a time. Picking can lead to scarring and infection so ice instead and apply a calming hydrator. We love Skin Theory's Cryo Cube and Vivant Totaloe Calming + Hydrating Gel

9. Beware of sweaty hats.

If you notice pimples along the hairline, it could be from hats, helmets, or headbands, especially if worn during active play. Keep these items clean and wash after wearing them or spray down with a rubbing alcohol.

Some bonus tips: Load up on antioxidant fruits and veggies. Eat at least one per meal to help lower overall inflammation that can cause breakouts. Reduce dairy and peanut butter consumption.Both are high in iodides and male hormones that drive oil productions. And finally, get a good night sleep each night to rest your body and mind. ;)

Need help teaching your preteen good skincare habits? Book a Beginner Skincare Consultation to help teach your preteen how to help their skin. ;)


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