skincare teen
Teens need not follow a complicated, multi-step skincare routine - here are some gentle starters by well-loved K-beauty brands that focus on natural, plant-derived ingredients. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Skin woes mark most of the teen years. Sometimes it's a long battle against pimples, and, other times, it's about extracting stubborn blackheads on a school night. The adolescent skin is only, but, adjusting to the big hormonal shift.

Social media platforms are brimming with skincare advice today, and teens starting their skincare routine might get swept up in trends and multi-step regimens. So, what does an effective skincare routine for teens actually look like? Our dermatology expert weighs in on the essential components for different skin types.

In our search, we focus on teens interested in exploring the world of Korean beauty. Here, naturally derived ingredients, such as Centella asiatica, rice extract and soy protein, offer gentle actives to heal the skin, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

What are some common teen skin problems?

Teen skin sees changes in puberty, at a time when kids are grappling with "acne eruptions, dandruff, oiliness, blackheads, whiteheads, hyperpigmentation and excessive sweating" for the first time.

Dr Shubhangi Perkar, specialist dermatologist, MD, at the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital, Dubai, said: "Skin in teenagers is influenced by hormones like the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (which triggers puberty)".

Hormones released by the GnRH, in turn, affect the skin oil glands in adolescents. Dr Perkar says the resulting skin concerns can be exacerbated by the lack of physical activity and indulgence in fast food, as well.

Should teenagers have a skincare routine?

teen skincare
Teens with growing skin concerns will greatly benefit from the regular use of cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen. Image Credit: Shutterstock

According to our expert, the answer is a resounding yes. "This is the age when teens must visit a dermatologist to get to know more about their skin, so that they can handle it better," said Dr Perkar.

A teen's ideal skincare routine looks different than an adult's. It's "very minimal" and features three base products: cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen. Any additional skincare should address the teen's individual concerns.

"For example, if they have acne, they should add gel-based products containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or adapalene. If they have dry, eczema-prone skin, then they should use moisturisers containing oatmeal and shea butter, along with hyaluronic acid. For hyperpigmentation concerns, creams containing very low concentrations of azelaic acid, kojic acid or glycolic acid can be added," said Dr Perkar.

What skincare products are the best for teens?

Let's take apart the foundation of a teen skin routine, starting with how to cleanse. Is it necessary for teens to follow the K-beauty principle of double cleansing? This entails that an oil-based cleanser will remove dirt, make-up and sunscreen thoroughly. It's, then, followed by a water-based cleanser to wash off the residue.

According to Dr Perkar, double cleansing is only applicable for very oily skin or heavy make-up users. In other cases, over-cleansing can cause excessive dryness that the skin will compensate for with more oil secretion, leading to acne.

Below is a quick overview of what our expert recommends for dry and oily skin types:

  • Cleansers: Cleansing should be done two times a day. Dry skin types can look for soothing and gentle ingredients, whereas oily skin will benefit from benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
  • Moisturisers: Dry skin types should look for a product than can repair the skin and relieve eczema and itching. Lighter, gel-based moisturisers are better suited for oily skin.
  • Sunscreens: For oily skin, gel-based, lightweight sunscreen is ideal, but dry skin types should look for thicker formulations, especially physical sunscreen, to soothe and moisturise.

We researched high and low for the best K-beauty products that address all of the above. Our selection is also based on the rankings of trusted Korean beauty review apps, such as Hwahae and Glow Pick, as well as user reviews on Amazon.

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1. Best Oil Cleanser: ma:nyo Pure Cleansing Oil Korean Facial Cleanser

If you wear waterproof make-up and need a gentle cleanser to break it all down, pick up the ma:nyo Pure Cleansing Oil. It's taken BeautyTok (TikTok's beauty community) by storm for dissolving blackheads and whiteheads between fingers in seconds. This non-comedogenic oil is safe for acne-prone skin and sensitive eyes, featuring a mixture of 14 plant-derived oils, such as jojoba oil and grapeseed oil, with fermented rice and squalane. Several reviewers substitute their make-up remover for this cleanser, which breaks down products quickly.

2. Best Cleanser for Dry Skin: Make Prem Safe Me Relief Moisture Cleansing Milk

Milky, mild and gentle, the Make Prem Safe Me moisturising cleanser is great for skin that needs repairing. It comes without any fragrances, parabens and silicones, but, instead, features soy protein to keep the skin hydrated and dewy. The cleansing milk removes minimal make-up and deep-set impurities, including fine dust. Reviewers with rosacea and dry skin say this cleanser has helped them repair their damaged skin barrier, without stripping necessary moisture.

3. Best Cleanser for Oily Skin: COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser 150ml

Formulated especially for oily skin, the Cosrx Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser rids the skin of excess sebum, without drying it out. The beta hydroxy acid (BHA) is derived from willow bark water that reduces and prevents breakouts, as well as unclogs pores. Though it's intended for daily use, reviewers with oily, acne-prone skin say it's best spaced out to avoid any irritation. Mums and dads who purchase it for their teenage children leave five stars. 

4. Best Moisturiser for Dry Skin: Aestura Atobarrier365 Ceramide Cream

Fight dryness with a moisturiser that delivers 100 hours of hydration. Aestura Atobarrier365 Ceramide Cream contains a triple lipid capsule, composed of ceramide, fatty acid and cholestrol. It features several other skin-identical ingredients, such as squalane and glycerin, for a non-heavy layer of hydration. What soothes any irritation is allantoin, which promotes wound healing, too. Reviewers who suffer from a damaged skin barrier are amazed at the quick results, noticing how their skin has become bouncier and revitalised. The texture is unexpectedly lightweight and silky. 

5. Best Moisturiser for Oily Skin: Torriden Dive-In Low-Molecular Hyaluronic Acid Soothing Cream

If you struggle with an oily T-zone, then the best moisturiser for you will be gel-based. Torriden's Dive-In Soothing Cream is featured in our list of summer K-beauty products, since it absorbs quickly and leaves no greasy sheen behind. Packed with five types of hyaluronic acid molecules, glycerin, panthenol and allantoin, the fluffy gel moisturiser hydrates the skin from deep within. It's free of irritants, like isopropyl alcohol, artificial fragrance and mineral oils, making it great for sensitive and acne-prone skin types, as well. Reviewers call the Soothing Cream their summertime staple, while those with oily skin love the glass-like glow it gives them.

6. Best Sunscreen for Dry Skin: d'Alba Piedmont Waterfull+ Essence Sun Cream SPF50+

A good sunscreen shields the skin from the sun's harmful ultraviolet A and B rays, preventing sun spots, hyperpigmentation and premature ageing. It gets bonus points if it addresses your skin type, like the d'Alba Piedmont White Truffle sun cream. Great for dry skin, this moisture- and antioxidant-rich sunblock has broad-spectrum protection of 50+ with a PA++++ rating (extremely high UVA protection). Its key ingredient is white truffles sourced from Italy and infused with vitamin E to tighten and brighten the skin. Reviewers with dry skin say it doesn't pill under their make-up, nor does it leave a greasy, white residue behind.

7. Best Sunscreen for Oily Skin: SKIN1004 Hyalu-Cica Water-Fit Sun Serum

Sunscreens can also have a watery texture, like this Korean sun serum. The Skin1004 Hyalu-Cica Water-Fit might be lightweight, but it still offers full broad-spectrum protection (SPF 50+ PA++++) like the d'Alba sunblock. It absorbs with a dewy finish, much like a hydrating serum, and soothes the skin using the iconic cica (Centella asiatica) and hyaluronic acid as its main ingredients. There are seven types of sprout extracts in the formula that brighten and tone the skin for additional benefits. Reviewers are so impressed with the texture that they lament the 50ml capacity. Oily skin users say it dries down completely after some time, doesn't sting the eyes and performs well under make-up.

8. Best Acne Treatment: Dr. Jart+ Clearing Solution Sheet Facial Mask (5 Count)

Skincare actives can be harsh, which is why K-beauty is a firm believer of prevention rather than hasty action. If you feel a breakout approaching, whip out a pack of Dr Jart+ Clear Solution sheet mask. It contains trace amounts of salicylic acid, tea tree oil and niacinamide, along with soothing ingredients (glycerin, allantoin and sodium hyaluronate - a derivative of hyaluronic acid). All of these help control a teen's excess sebum production in the T-zone, when left on for 15 to 30 minutes. Reviewers say it shrinks their painful, deep-skin acne overnight.

9. Best for Dark Spots: GOODAL Green Tangerine Vitamin C Serum

An internet hit, the Goodal Green Tangerine Vitamin C serum works quickly and effectively on fading dark spots. This is ideal for acne scarring and stubborn blemishes that stay for months after a flare-up. The mild dark spot serum contains 70% of Jeju green tangerine extract, which has a concentration of vitamin C that's more powerful than lemons. There's also 4% of niacinamide and 2% of pigment-lightening arbutin. Underneath it all, Centella asiatica keeps the formula calm and soothing for the skin. If you're using this serum, do not forget to layer it with a good moisturiser and sunscreen. Reviewers who suffer from hyperpigmentation, caused by acne and skin picking, notice a difference in two weeks.

10. Best for Damaged Barrier: PURITO B5 Panthenol Re-barrier Cream

Say you've experimented with harsh actives, and now your skin is red, angry and peeling. There's no better way to repair a damaged skin barrier than applying a thick K-beauty moisturiser.  Hydrating and anti-inflammatory ingredients are at the heart of Korean skincare for all skin troubles, and a good example of both can be found in the Purito B5 Panthenol Re-barrier Cream. Formulated with 10% wound-healing panthenol, moisturising squalane, niacinamide and Centella asiatica extract, this cream strengthens and provides instant relief to the skin. Buyers with sensitive skin, dry patches, fungal acne and damaged barrier leave five-star reviews. It's the perfect consistency and doesn't clog pores, they add.

11. Best Pimple Patch: Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Original (72 Count)

Surprise breakouts are always a frustrating affair. Teens with acne-prone skin will feel far more equipped to tackle a budding pimple, with these quick-fix spot patches. This K-beauty innovation uses a hydrocolloid sticker to suck out all the impurities from a zit, turning white when it's ready to be peeled off. The Hero Cosmetics' Mighty Patch does just that, and delivers results in six to eight hours. Simply stick it on and head to school - its translucent matte texture blurs the redness, giving you a skin-like finish. Adults in the reviews say they wish they had these patches as a teen, since it's a fuss-free solution to speeding up the pimple cycle. They also love that it keeps their children from picking on the lesions.

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.