It’s never too early to start taking care of your skin. With ever-changing hormones doing their worst, teens suddenly have to contend with blackheads, breakouts and oiliness so it’s a good time for them to embrace a simple, targeted skincare routine they’ll want to stick with.
Anything too harsh or rich is a no-go for teens. Instead, hero products include gentle cleansers they should use every day even when not wearing make-up and lightweight moisturisers that will repair the skin’s barrier without overloading it.
Other useful products – particularly for older teens – include masks, exfoliators or sonic brushes, Vitamin C treatments to protect skin and micellar water to encourage them to always, always, remove make-up before bed.
Acne products can be very useful for some teenagers but should always be used cautiously as they are strong and can cause redness and irritation. Anyone with concerns about severe acne should consult a dermatologist before using any product.
How we tested
We asked a group of teens, between the ages of 13 and 17, to try a vast range of products to find their favourites. All were immediately drawn to those packaged with obvious teen-appeal and they were especially keen to try any product they had previously seen on TikTok or Instagram.
They were also excited to supplement their top products with extras to boost results and were particular fans of This Is Silk’s one-sided silk pillowcase (£25.99, Thisissilk.com) to soothe sensitive skin and encourage hair growth. Those keen to ditch disposable wipes and cotton pads also loved the Ramer cleansing shammy (£4.99, Ramersponges.com) for applying their favourite products.
But, in terms of cultivating a decent skincare routine, these are the products that came out on top...
The best teenage skincare products for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Wow You! Ready, Set, Glow mini kit: £24.30, Wowyou.com
- Best for makeup removal – Bioderma Sebium H2O Micellar Water: £11, Feelunique.com
- Best for minimum effort – T-Zone Apple Cider Biodegradable Toning Pads 60’s: £6.49, T-zoneskincare.com
- Best affordable brand – Q+A Peppermint Daily Cleanser: £7.50, Qandaskin.com
- Best gadget – BeGlow PURA: Skinsense Sonic Cleansing Brush: £109, Lookfantastic.com
- Best for emergencies – Patchology Breakout Box: £18, Boots.com
- Best after late nights – Essence Hello, Good Stuff! Depuff Eye Serum: £3.29, Justmylook.com
- Best for older teens – Workout Day Nutrition & Defence Natural Moisturiser: £39, Gymforyourskin.co.uk
- Best for younger teens – Florence by Mills Low-Key calming Peel Off Face Mask: £22, Beautybay.com
- Best natural product – Lyonsleaf Beauty Balm: £12.99, Lyonsleaf.co.uk
- Best for acne – Salcura Antiac Acne Clearing Active Liquid Spray: £16.99, Salcuraskincare.com
- Best gender neutral range – Ecooking Clay Mask: £26, Thefragranceshop.co.uk
- Best British brand – Mallows Coconut Mud Mask: £2.95, Mallowsbeauty.co.uk
- Best for all skin types – Bye Bye Blemish Vitamin C Exfoliating Gel: £6.99, Justmylook.com
- Best new product – Tolpa sebio 3-enzymes face scrub: £6.66, Loydspharmacy.com
- Best TikTok sensation – Bad Habit Chill Out Adaptogen Hydrating Mist: £17, Asos.com
Wow You! ready, set, glow mini kit
Don’t know where to start when buying your teen their first skincare products? This five-piece set does the hard work for you. Including all they need to get started and even an easy-to-follow booklet that explains everything they’ll needs to know when establishing a skincare routine. Our testers who are new to skincare loved this step-by-step guide which really gave them confidence to enjoy using the products.
All are cruelty-free, packed with natural ingredients including honey, green tea and blueberry and are ideal for all skin types, but especially those prone to acne. The set includes a cleanser, serum, day and night moisturiser and mask which work together to balance excess oil levels, hydrate dry areas and combat blemishes – and they all smell amazing too.
Younger teens may not need quite as many products to start with. But, we found our older testers loved the addition of a serum and night moisturiser to their usual routine. They also liked being able to try out these mini sizes before committing to full-size bottles. A teen triumph in our book.
Bioderma sebium H2O micellar water, 250ml
Best: For makeup removal
Teach your teen to take their make-up off every night, no matter how exhausted they are, and you’ll be giving them a shot at decent skin for life. Micellar water makes the process as quick and easy as possible and is particularly good for delicate teen skin that harsher products can dry out.
This cult French version is perfect for oily, combination and acne-prone skin, controlling sebum quality and removing impurities to keep budding spots at bay. Soak a (biodegradable) cotton pad in the silky-feeling water and wipe it over the face to whip away every last trace of dirt – our tester found it worked a treat even on waterproof mascara. There’s no need to rinse or even moisturise afterwards so is ideal before your teen falls into bed after a late night.
If they can face one extra step, we also loved Bioderma’s sebium lotion (£11, Naos-store.co.uk) which regulates sebum production and skin’s pH, tightens pores and hydrates for eight hours.
T-Zone apple cider biodegradable toning pads 60’s
Best: For minimum effort
If your teen would rather do almost anything else than faff with their skin, these no-fuss pads might just encourage them to manage a quick swipe now and again. A vast improvement on the dreaded face wipe, these biodegradable pads are formulated with aloe vera extract, vitamin B5 and vitamin E to maintain pH balance and remove skin impurities.
Added apple cider vinegar is renowned for its astringent and antibacterial properties. So, every wipe absorbs oil and unplugs blocked pores with zero effort for even the laziest teen. The range also includes a variety of glittery peel-off masks, ideal for sleepovers and that all-important TikTok moment.
Q+A peppermint daily cleanser, 125ml
Best: Affordable brand
This cool British brand is way too good to leave for the teens. Everything is vegan and cruelty-free and nothing costs over £12. Yet, the simple, striking packaging means you’ll happily leave it out on show in the bathroom.
The peppermint daily cleanser is the ideal first product to try and perfect for any teen just starting to look after their skin. It’s suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and combination, and is super-gentle so won’t upset the natural oil balance of the skin. Peppermint oil leaves skin feeling fresh and its antibacterial properties help fight blemishes too. It does mean it smells quite strongly of get-up-and-go mint so our tester’s preferred to use it in the morning rather than just before bed.
BeGlow pura: skinsense sonic cleansing brush
This is hardly a teen-friendly price tag, yet treat them to one of these on their birthday and their skin will thank you for years to come. This dinky sonic brush super-charges their cleansing, whatever product they choose to use, removing impurities and make-up far more effectively than hands ever could. The soft silicone brush adapts to skin so is suitable even for sensitive types and also prevents icky bacteria build up.
One charge lasts up to six months and it’s 100 per cent waterproof so your teen can use it in the shower for a low-maintenance cleanse with maximum results. Our testers raved about the way their skin felt after just one use and were keen to make this brush part of their daily skin routine.
Patchology breakout box
Best: For emergencies
There’s nothing worse than feeling a new spot about to rear its ugly head the night before a big party or first date. Our teens were wowed by this small-but-mighty box of spot-fighting wizardry and all said everyone their age should have one stashed away ready for emergency skincare action when needed.
Each kit includes three types of patches to tackle dreaded breakouts in moments. There are 24 blemish-shrinking salicylic acid dots to whack on at the first sign of a spot and 24 pore-clearing anti-blemish dots when you need next-level help, which absorbs impurities and keeps meddling fingers from making everything ten times worse. Finally, three detoxifying charcoal nose strips whip away dirt, dead skin cells and excess sebum on the nose – and are strangely addictive to use. But it’s the impressive spot-busting patches that really make this kit an essential purchase for any pimple-prone teen.
Essence hello, good stuff! depuff eye serum, 15ml
Best: After late nights
Whether it’s studying, gaming or scrolling keeping your teen awake at night, this eye serum is an instant wake-up in a tube. Cruelty-free, it’s made of 97 per cent natural ingredients and has no parabens, mineral oils, microplastics or other nasties. Instead, miracle-working hyaluronic acid, caffeine and cucumber combine to freshen up the under-eye area at any time for a vegan-friendly alternative to collagen. It feels super refreshing to apply and is lightweight enough not to overload delicate skin around the eye, but does definitely perk up peepers. Our older teens especially, were big fans.
Workout day nutrition and defence natural moisturiser, 50ml
Best: For older teens
Aimed at ages 16-35, this smart skincare brand hopes to convert people to a minimalist routine that prevents them from over-washing and weakening their skin. They believe everyone can achieve strong, balanced skin with just three all-vegan products: the warm-up conditioning cream cleanser (£19.50, Gymforyourskin.co.uk), this workout daily moisturiser and rest, an overnight recovery moisturiser (£39, Gymforyourskin.co.uk).
They also offer booster serums for when your skin needs a little extra help to tackle breakouts, sensitivity, redness, sun damage and large pores. The products can also be used individually if preferred although the effect is better together.
Our testers especially loved this silky-smooth moisturiser, which smells like it’s straight from a spa, sinks in immediately and help skin feel soft and balanced. They all loved the sleek, stylish packaging too, although all wished it was a little more affordable. Still, it’s one product we’d be happy to treat our teens to – if only so we could pinch it once in a while.
Florence by mills low-key calming peel off face mask, 50ml
Best: For younger teens
This was the range almost all our teens were most excited to try. Created by Stranger Things actress Millie Bobby Brown, all our testers had seen the products online before and were smitten by their covetable pastel packaging, which is just-grown-up-enough while still appealing to a teen, and even tween, market. Named after Brown’s great-grandmother, the products are easy to use, gentle and suitable for all skin types, packed with teen-friendly vitamins and antioxidants.
This peel-off mask stood out thanks to its shimmery rose-gold appearance and major glow-giving qualities. It includes witch hazel to cleanse pores and balance skin, chamomile extract to soothe redness and water lily extract to calm the most stressed-out skin. Apply a thick layer, wait for 20 to 30 minutes and peel off from the edges for selfie-ready radiance.
Lyonsleaf beauty balm, 60ml
Best: Natural product
Even the most low-maintenance teen will love this one-pot wonder, which cleanses, exfoliates, moisturises and protects without a bathroom cabinet full of separate products. It’s 100 per cent natural and handmade in the UK with home-grown herbs using minimal plastic, no preservatives, no artificial chemicals, fragrance or colour. The water-free, vegan formula means a little goes a long way so this tiny jar will last and last and it’s suitable for all skin types including sensitive and problem skin.
Our testers with oily skin were nervous about using a greasy-looking balm on their skin but all were converted and were surprised how well it worked, even to remove makeup and reduce shine. It’s easy for even the laziest teen to use too. Massage into dry skin, run a dry flannel under comfortably hot water and wipe away. There’s no need for a separate moisturiser, so there’s no excuse for hogging the bathroom longer than necessary either.
Salcura antiac acne clearing active liquid spray, 100ml
Best: For acne
While it can be tempting to tackle acne with the strongest product possible, it generally doesn’t do skin any favours. Our acne-prone testers considered several ranges targeted at problem skin but felt this was by far the most effective and didn’t cause any redness or dryness like some others.
There are various products according to how severe their acne is, though the daily wash (£11.99, Salcuraskincare.com) worked well to keep skin clear and reduce slight blemishing. However, this liquid spray was the real must-buy for tackling flare-ups, yet only uses natural ingredients including aloe vera, calendula, chamomile and lavender. These reduce inflammation, calm skin and clear infection and impurities without stripping sensitive teenage skin. Simply spray it on and wipe away with a cotton pad. If symptoms are severe, spray it on again and let it sink in or gently massage in (with clean hands).
One tester even used it on his back and was wowed by the results, which were noticeable within just one week. Our one gripe is that it does smell quite strongly – though not unpleasantly so – of eucalyptus so may be best used at night.
Ecooking clay mask, 100ml
Best: Gender neutral range
If pretty packaging and unnecessary fuss make your teenager want to crawl under their duvet and hibernate, this results-driven range from one of Denmark’s fastest-growing skincare brands is suitably streamlined. Products including a cleansing gel, micellar water and an acne serum come in simple, gender-neutral packaging anyone would be happy to keep on a bathroom shelf. None have unnecessary outer packaging and all are made with 100 per cent organic oils and the highest quality natural peptides and vitamins. In fact, several products are so pure, they’re even safe to eat.
The clay mask was a particular favourite with our testers with oilier skin as the iris extract, zinc salt and vitamin A help reduce redness and the sebum production responsible for oils. Some weren’t keen on the way it dries on the skin as it felt uncomfortably tight, but most felt there was a visible reduction in pore size after using this mask and loved how baby soft their skin felt afterwards.
Mallows coconut mud mask, 10g
Best: British brand
Skincare doesn’t have to be boring. This fun, brightly-coloured range is cruelty-free, all vegan or vegetarian and made in the UK, so you know you’re not racking up air miles to look good. The company also believes in empowering young people rather than focusing on quick fixes and insecurities and donates 5 per cent of profits to mental health charities.
The whole range is brilliantly feel-good, with bath bombs, stick on nails and body scrubs ideal for a self-care Sunday. Our younger teen testers loved Mallows’ eye-catching packaging emblazoned with positive affirmations. They especially liked the range of scented face masks and this coconut version left their skin glowing, while the packaging advised them to pop on Netflix while it worked its magic. The handy single-use sachet size makes it great for a teen birthday pampering session with friends too.
Bye Bye Blemish vitamin C exfoliating gel, 118ml
Best: For all skin types
Harsh exfoliation spells disaster for delicate teenage skin, yet this gentle gel is a great way to remove dead skin cells and impurities that can clog pores and lead to blemishes. Massage on to freshly cleansed, dry skin and papaya enzymes get to work as a natural exfoliating agent, while lemon enzymes balance the skin’s surface and vitamin C evens skin tone. Rinse off with lukewarm water to reveal smoother, brighter skin that all our teens were impressed by. They all also liked the easy pump dispenser and the fact they could easily add it into a skincare routine once or twice a week with minimum hassle and visible results.
Tolpa sebio 3-enzymes face scrub, 40ml
Best: New product
This miracle-working face scrub may be a new name in British skincare but it’s already the number one beauty brand in Poland, selling one product every 60 seconds. It’s become a cult favourite with teens there thanks to gob-smacking before and after images and this scrub is its stand-out star, selling more than 4.5 million tubes last year alone. It then immediately sold out when it hit UK shelves in July.
Packed with natural ingredients including tolpa peat (a multi-plant antioxidant), papain from papaya and bromelain from pineapple, it claims to work as a face peel without any harsh particles or AHA acids. Instead, it’s applied to the skin and left for ten minutes before being massaged in and rinsed. It’s suitable for sensitive, combination and oily skin and drastically reduces sebum production and blocked pores.
Our testers felt they could see a difference after just one use and were particularly chuffed at the effect on their pesky blackheads. Although, one disliked the scrub’s tingling effect so it’s a good idea to test it on a small area first.
Bad habit chill out adaptogen hydrating mist, 100ml
Best: TikTok sensation
If your teen can’t tear themselves away from TikTok, they’ll already know all about the cult Bad Habit skincare collection from influencer Emma Chamberlain. The products are vegan and cruelty free, contain no nasties like parabens and mineral oil and target specific problems such as dull skin, dehydration and too much screen time.
The range includes daily cleansers and moisturisers but we especially loved the targeted quick-fix treatments like this refreshing mist which works with all skin types and claims to be “a meditation moment in a bottle”. It contains soothing aloe vera and hyaluronic acid for instant hydration plus mandarin and clary sage essential oils to relieve stress so it’s a treat for the mind as well as the skin. Simply spritz on over or under makeup, take a deep breath and get on with your day. Our testers loved using it to perk up their skin and were particularly keen on a quick spray in the morning to help them look awake even when they still wanted to be in bed.
The verdict: Teenage Skincare
For an easy all-in-one kit to get your teen started, the Wow You! ready, set, glow mini kit is a no-brainer for its natural ingredients, gentle results and helpful step-by-step booklet. We’d also recommend keeping the Patchology breakout box stashed in the bathroom for spot emergencies too.
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Looking for more skincare inspiration? Read our review of the cleansing balm loved by Caroline Hirons
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