Young people, in their teens and even tweens, are spending more and more time and money on skin care routines and products.
A recent survey found average spending among teens on skin care, color cosmetics and fragrances has grown 19 percent over the past year, reaching $313 annually. The social media consensus is that Sephora in particular has become a haven for kids as young as 10.
These aren’t kids getting medication for diagnosed skin conditions; these are kids looking for the glow of youth when they are, in fact, in the glow of youth.
Dr. Randa Khoury, a board-certified dermatologist and the chief of dermatology at Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, says there are a lot of factors behind the craze.
While she’s happy to see young people recognizing the importance of skin care, “We’ve taken that wonderful thing and we’ve moved it into kind of an absurd place.”
And the combination of social media and capitalism are paving the way: “It’s actually brilliant to have skin care companies profiting and influencers profiting. Unfortunately, it’s just not in service to the health of the skin of our young people,” she says.
Skin care companies have realized the buying power of even the youngest generations, and market directly to them — “adorable, colorful packaging and [making] you feel like you’re really investing in yourself and doing something great,” Khoury says.
And the whole point of social media influencers is that they don’t seem like commercials, which even young kids are able to suss out, Khoury says: “They make you feel as if they’re a friend or a peer or a confidant, letting you in on a special secret that ‘This is what I use, and that’s why I look so great. Certainly it’s not because I’m being paid to say that or have a filter on.’”
Khoury says when she’s talking with young patients (about 75 percent of whom are girls) and their parents, she divides the products into three categories: good ideas, neutral ideas, and bad ideas.
Good ideas include “gentle cleansing, sunscreen, light oil-free moisturizers — all of these are great,” Khoury says. “For patients with no discrete skin concerns, using a gentle non-abrasive cleanser in the morning, followed by a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 50, is all you need. And then in the evening, you can use that same gentle cleanser and a light, oil-free moisturizer.”
Neutral ideas don’t really help, but they’re probably not harmful: “soothing face masks, those gel eye patches that everyone thinks are so cute and fun.” As long as your child doesn’t have a fragrance sensitivity, they’re not doing any harm. “It’s probably not doing anything good; it’s not doing anything bad except relieving your wallet of some of its contents,” she says.
Serious products such as retinols are bad ideas: “Things like retinols, glycolic acids, active ingredients like niacin, amide, and things like that. For patients without documented skin disease, they can really disrupt the skin barrier and cause inflammation, and in worst-case scenarios can even cause scarring,” Khoury says.
What to Tell Kids
Parents, she advises, should ask kids about where their interest in skin care came from. “Where did this come from? Why do you in particular feel like you need these things? Do you have any specific concerns about your skin? Are you having acne? Are you having eczema?”
If they do express concerns, a visit to a dermatologist will lead to the development of a skin care routine that’s easy, effective and probably not very expensive.
“If however, you find that your young person is telling you that it’s just something they saw on social media, or they don’t feel like their skin looks bright, or these intangible things,” Khoury says, it’s time to introduce the less-is-more approach.
“I like to call it skin minimalism, because there’s another trend going around on social media with this sort of minimal aesthetic,” she says. “It’s something that I’ve found has resonated. And making sure that everything that we choose is in thoughtful service to the skin is affordable, as easy to use as gentle generally yields pretty good results.”
Khoury says this trend is similar to fads of her youth. “When I was young, it was Britney Spears telling us to drink Diet Coke, And now we have influencers telling children that they need to spend lots of money and hours of their time putting 17 steps on their skin every morning.”
Feature image, stock.adobe.com
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