#TweenTalks: How To Talk To Your Kids About Skincare, What To Use And When To Start Using It

Do you have a Sephora Tween on your hands? You might want to read this...

by Verity Clark |
Updated on

Welcome to #TweenTalks, a weekly franchise by Grazia’s parenting community, The Juggle (@TheJuggleUK on Instagram) where we speak to experts about tackling touchy subject with your tween-age kids. This week, we're diving into the world of Sephora tweens...

Teenage fascination with beauty products is nothing new. Most of us remember experimenting with our Mum’s lipsticks and performing makeovers on our toys. In recent years though a vague adolescent interest in skincare has morphed into a borderline obsession. According to research by the Global Cosmetic Industry, 68% of Gen Z and Gen Alpha have a skincare routine and Gen Z are the age group spending the most money on skincare.

The so-called ‘Sephora tweens’ phenomenon and the rise of extensive - and expensive - skincare routines is largely down to one thing: social media. Research shows that more than 50% of children aged between 6 and 16 want to buy a beauty product because they have seen a content creator or influencer use it online.

Aside from the associated cost of having a lengthy beauty routine, dermatologists and skin experts are worried about the potential long term damage multi-ingredient routines can have. But when your children are glued to social media, how can you persuade them that what they see isn’t necessarily what they need? The key to building good skincare habits lies in better advice, education and an open conversation, says Dr. Barbara Sturm, an orthopaedics specialist and aesthetics expert who sat down with Grazia to talk the do’s and dont's of pre-adulthood skincare.

Become the expert yourself

'You need to expect frustration when talking to your children about social media and the realities because they won’t want to listen to your advice, but you must be the expert in this situation and give them the real facts and information so that they make the right choices,' says Dr. Sturm. 'You must be in charge – it’s your job as a parent to help your child understand the problems that can be caused if they use these harmful ingredients, and you do that by becoming knowledgeable about skincare and then using that information to educate your child. It’s difficult, I have parents who call me all the time asking me to talk to their child, but it’s so important to get across the information.

'Really explain the dangers – be an expert – and have a one-on-one conversation with them on skin health. I have daily conversations with [my daughter] Pepper to educate her on the importance of the skin barrier and the skin-damaging effects of inflammatory ingredients. '

Remind them influencers are often just normal people, not necessarily experts

'Children copy what adults are doing and so of course, when they see older teenagers on Tik Tok or Instagram using trending skincare products, they think that’s cool,' says Dr. Sturm. 'And it’s a very hard task to break through the noise. A lot of these skincare products contain aggressive ingredients that are harmful to children’s skin.

'When my daughter turned eight, her friends tried to influence her to use certain skincare brands. She wanted to try them, but I talked to her about the aggressive ingredients some of these brands use and the dangers – and she shied away from them.

There are a lot of non-experts talking about topics they have no clue about on social media so my advice would be to identify the experts; listen to scientists, doctors and people who have a background in medicine and not the self-named experts who have no education in that area. Only listen to skincare advice from sources you completely trust.

What products should kids avoid using?

'Young and teenage skin is not fully developed so using active skincare and harsh ingredients can cause irritation, inflammation, rashes, eczema, allergies and pigmentation problems they wouldn’t usually have as a child,' Dr. Sturm advises. 'And long-lasting damage to the skin’s protective barrier function can also give them horrible sunburn in the summer.

'Products containing ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C and exfoliating acids are formulated for mature skin. And sulphates, mineral oil, petrolatum, synthetic fragrances and aggressive exfoliants and anti-aging ingredients can be too harsh for young skin.

'Unless prescribed by a doctor to treat a specific skin condition, continuous use of these types of ingredients can lead to a risk of damaging the skin barrier, developing contact dermatitis, irritation and skin issues. The goal with skincare is to soothe and reduce inflammation, not cause it, and skincare should never cause any discomfort. Try to explain that aggressive acids like retinol and harsh skincare ingredients destroy rather than repair the skin matrix and promote inflammation, weakening your skin and making it vulnerable.'

Work them down from the '10-step routine', instead suggest three

'For tweens and teenagers reaching puberty, you can start to develop a simple routine with ingredients specifically formulated to address the needs of teenage skin and the imbalances that come with pubescent hormonal changes. A gentle cleanser, a lightweight moisturiser and a sunscreen is really all they need. I created the Microbiotic Collection for this purpose.'

Listen to them and take their skincare concerns seriously

'If your child has acne, the best place to start in treating it is by putting them on the appropriate skincare routine, this may include a cleanser with salicylic acid or a topical porduct containing a retinoid,' Dr. Sturm advises. 'If it doesn’t improve after six weeks, see a doctor - acne and pigmentation are medical conditions - who might prescribe antibiotics or Accutane. It’s important to make sure they’re consistent with their skincare routine - even if they’ve been prescribed a treatment - and to keep the skin hydrated: acne-prone skin does not need to be dried out or treated harshly – it needs hydration and gentle healing.'

About The Expert: Dr Barbara Sturm

Dr. Barbara Sturm is a German doctor, orthopedics specialist, aesthetics expert and an anti-inflammatory pioneer. Dr. Sturm studied Medicine and Sports at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf before beginning her medical career in orthopedics. She worked as part of a team that developed cutting-edge treatments for inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis, using the body’s own proteins and healing factors to stop the inflammatory process and help heal joint tissue. In 2002, Dr. Sturm translated the science from her clinical research and orthopedic practice into the field of aesthetics. “Aesthetics is a combination of art and science, and it is a fascinating challenge with immediate and very gratifying results for patients,” says Dr. Sturm.

Dr. Barbara Sturm is not only a founder and CEO of her eponymous skincare brand but she is also a mother to two children, her daughters Charly and Pepper. Having seen the influence that social media can have on children's perception of skincare she is on a mission to educate and demystify the skincare space for children and teenagers.

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