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Unless a child has eczema, some type of rash or any other skin condition that a doctor needs to be involved in, all they really need is sunscreen (and potentially a veeeery gentle face and body cleanser like an aqueous cream to remove it at the end of the day, given kids sunscreens are generally pretty heavy-duty and stick to the skin). There are loads of really popular formulas from P50 and Evy but I wanted to spotlight the Escentual Sunscreen SPF 50+* | £6.95. This formula is suitable for 6 months+ (before that, it's advised to use umbrellas and shade to keep babies out of the sun), it's very high-protection and broad-spectrum, it's formulated for sensitive skin, it doesn't leave any white cast, plus it's water-resistant for 4 hours. It even comes with a little clip to put on school bags and can be personalised!
- EARLY PUBERTY -
Because of social media platforms like TikTok, kids are more interested in skincare and keener to get into it sooner - if they really want to, these are my safe suggestions to keep them away from the Clean & Clear...
Ultimately, young skin needs (at most): a cleanse (only in the evening is probably fine, unless the skin is becoming acne-prone), moisturise (if needed, though they may only require it during the winter) and sunscreen in the day (obviously we aren't really concerned with photoageing and they're not on the retinol or anything, so maybe my usual mantra of 'every single day' is a bit unrealistic, but it's essential to apply and reapply regularly on high UV index days).
As a really simple moisturiser: I recommend the Ordinary's Natural Moisturising Factors* | £4.90 for 30ml or £6.80 for 100ml | full review. The reason this is my pick is because it's very simple, it's formulated with the stuff that's in our skin already (fatty acids, ceramides, urea etc.) and it's not at all greasy. It will suit most skin types and isn't going to be problematic. It's also nice and affordable for a teenage budget. As a basic cleanser, I recommend something like the CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser* | £12.50. The reason being: I know those with younger skin like to 'feel the foam', but this one is still really gentle in how it lathers. It's formulated with ceramides and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and lock in hydration for a non-stripping cleanse.
- UP TO 18 -
This is where I'm focusing a little more on gentle blemish-fighting (if you're struggling with adult acne - we will get to that shortly!) Please note: I'm talking about 'typical' teenage breakouts and, of course, if a teenager is going through acne that's affecting their quality of life then they will need to be taken to see a GP for a dermatologist's referral, as they might need something stronger and obviously will need support from a mental health perspective.
The first thing is: as soon as a teenager starts wearing makeup, they need to be removing it properly! Teenagers tend to have oiler skin and so often aren't fans of things that 'feel oily', however makeup wipes are the devil's work, so I suggest using something like the REN Clean Perfect Canvas Clean Jelly Oil Cleanser* | £25 | full review. This comes out like a thick jelly that's actually quite fun to use but will still melt down even waterproof mascara. Apply, emulsify and wipe away with a damp cloth. Or, for something accessible from Boots, the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser* | £16.50 | full review | is another great option with more of a creamy-lotion texture.
As a face wash for spot-prone skin, I really recommend the Skingredients Sally Cleanse* | £25 | full review. This non-stripping gel cleanser is formulated with 2% salicylic acid to penetrate deeply into the pores and clear out the debris that causes breakouts and even helps with some of the scarring that they can leave behind. This can also be left on for a few minutes as a treatment mask. It's a little more pricey but it's so gentle and these Skingredients bottles just last forever; I don't know if they just include more product in the bottle or if the pump is just really good at controlling how much comes out, but whatever they d: it really allows you to get great mileage out of their products.
On very oily skin that needs to breathe, the Indeed Labs Hydraluron Moisture Jelly* | £24.99 | is a great option. This is a humectant-based product (with hyaluronic acid and glycerin, along with urea) that draws water into the skin. It's super-light, hydrating and can be sealed in with an appropriate shine-free sunscreen, which should be an 'every single day' thing by now (particularly if you / they are struggling with acne, to prevent scarring, and if salicylic acid has been introduced to tackle it, this increases sun-sensitivity).
- 18-24 -
This is the point at which you might want to consider protecting your skin a little more. Obviously, we're into daily sunscreen now! However, you might want to consider an antioxidant at this stage. A reasonably-priced option that's often on sale and is gentle on the skin for beginners is the Indeed Labs Vitamin C Brightening Drops* | £19.99. It contains ascorbic acid, which is the most scientifically-backed form of Vitamin C, but it's encapsulated for a less irritating, slower release and to improve its stability. This can help with acne scarring and also in preventing free radical damage to the skin. Prevention is always better than cure... It's water-based and lightweight too, so should work for most skin types.
If your breakouts have calmed a little, you might want to swap from salicylic in an everyday product to a mask once a week or when you need it - one of my favourites for clearing congestion and breakouts when I get hormonal flare-ups is the Super Facialist Salicylic Acid Pore-Purifying Clay Mask* | £9.99 | full review.
- 25-40 -
The general advice is to start with retinoids at 25, as this is the point at which our collagen levels deplete year-on-year, and that's what gives your skin that youthful plumpness, however if you're suffering from adult acne: definitely consider it in your late teens / early 20s. Retinoids work by increasing skin cell turnover, and stimulating collagen production in the skin. They're the only class of topical that's pretty clearly proven to reverse the signs of ageing, not just prevent them. Additionally, they were originally created and are still used to treat acne and skin texture. I won't get into it all here, but there are different types of retinoid, so ensure you're comparing them fairly when you're looking at percentages - I have an entire explanation in this post.
In terms of which products to go for; if you've never used a retinoid in your life then I recommend the Inkey List's Retinol* | £9.99 | full review. This is because it contains a sort of complex called Retistar (so don't be scared by the '1%' used in the brand marketing, it's 1% of this complex + 0.5% granactive retinoid) which is oil-based and quite gentle. You will still need to patch test and work up from once-weekly usage. My personal gold standard that I recommend working towards (my approach is to step up a level with each product I finish) is the Medik8 Crystal Retinal* | from £39 | full review. This is a more direct retinoid, it's not on the same level as a prescription-strength product but right now: it gives me amazing results and is easy to slot into my routine. They have a ladder, starting from 1 (for sensitive skin) going right through to 20 (only available from Medik8 clinics) so it's really easy to navigate.
You aren't actually able to use retinoids (or salicylic acid, for that matter) whilst pregnant or breastfeeding, so I recommend switching to the Medik8 Bakuchiol Peptides | £45 | full review. Whilst I don't personally find it as effective, this plant alternative is pregnancy-safe and definitely worth giving a go if you're miss those skin-smoothing benefits from your retinoid.
You may also want to switch some of your other actives up during this time. If you're not treating adult acne, most skin types get a little drier as they age and therefore you might want to incorporate different acids in your routine. I personally really like lactic acid, as it's a gentler AHA and also has some hydrating benefits. I recommend the Strivectin Lactic Acid Nightly Retexturising Serum* | £60 | full review. And this could be a good time to up your Vitamin C game in order to make the most of those collagen-stimulating benefits. I really enjoy the oil-and-water Pestle & Mortar 2 Phase Vitamin C Serum* | £68 | full review | formulated with ascorbic acid and its derivatives, as well as ferulic acid, which helps with stability and enhances its antioxidant benefits. This is a great option for drier and more mature skin types to get the moisture in as well as all the benefits I've already discussed.
At this point, you may want to consider a peptide - the evidence for them stimulating collagen production isn't totally there, though Matrixyl 3000 has some studies behind it. However, they may be beneficial in that respect and I personally find them hydrating and plumping. They can get very expensive, so my tip is: go for an affordable option! I personally love the Ordinary's Agireline Solution 10% | £5.50 | full review | or their Buffet* | £12.70 | formula combines a number of different peptides.
- 41+ -
At this stage of life, you might want to consider a form of retinoic acid like tretinoin if you want to up the benefits you get from your retinoid. It's a prescription drug, so you need to go via a dermatologist, but this service is offered from £20 / month via Dermatica* | full review | and Skin & Me. Personally, it's not a thing I want to do continually right now in my life (I wrote about my tret experience here) but it probably will be in the future. For now, sitting in the 25-40 category, I'm happy with my retinal.
This is the stage of life where some of us will go through the menopause, and if you didn't catch it: definitely check out the Caroline Hirons / Skin Rocks menopause content, which covers off skincare to take you through hormonal changes and so much more! I learned a lot through checking out her Lives with various experts and women going through the menopause.
One of the other things that happens to our skin as we age is that the fatty acids in our skin like ceramides deplete. Luckily, this is something we can help to replenish through topical products. This ensures the skin barrier is functioning smoothly, so irritation is minimised and water is better-retained in the skin. I personally love the Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore* | £132. It's not overly rich and won't leave the skin shiny (so can be used day or night) but still really replenishes the skin with its patented blend of ceramides, cholesterol and essential fatty acids. I know this is pretty 'up there' in price: if it's not within your budget, L'Oreal owns both Skinceuticals and CeraVe and, though we obviously know their formulas aren't identical, L'Oreal has been known to make different versions of similar things at various price-points, so you never know...
Lastly, I just wanted to touch on mineral sunscreen. For whatever reason, most of the 50+ skincare people I follow seem to prefer mineral formulas and find them less irritating. The loss of ceramides in the skin as we age can lead to more reactive skin, so maybe there's something in it? My go-to formula tends to be the Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield SPF 50+ PA+++ | £24.99. It's a tinted sunscreen, so if you can get the right shade (I wear Glow) it won't leave a white cast. It's really hydrating and super-lightweight, also providing a little bit of coverage if you don't tend to wear much makeup.
What stage on the skincare timeline are you on? What are your essential ingredients?