Holistic Teen Skincare Guide

Holistic Teen Skincare Guide (with Tips That They’ll Actually Listen To)

It’s hard enough to get your teen to talk to you about their day, let alone their skincare routine – if they even have one in the first place. Though the teenage years can be a struggle in the skin department, simple teen skincare tips and lifestyle hacks can make a significant improvement.

Could the computer keyboard be a secret bad-skin-trigger for your teen? Does junk food really impact their skin health? That’s where I come in! As a mom to two teens myself, who’s also an acne survivor, I’d love to come to the rescue with simple teen skincare tips that are easier to follow than you might think!

I recently had the great fortune to share some of my best skincare advice on Good Morning CT at Nine, and Good Morning Washington. You can watch those below, but today I’m also sharing the full scoop that I would have shared if I’d had more time.

Why are the teen years so challenging for the skin? 

The teen years are full of hormonal activity and rapid growth and changes. While genetics do play a strong role in which teens will or won’t experience excessive oiliness and different forms of breakouts, lifestyle plays a strong role as well. If genetics aren’t on your teen’s side (meaning parents, older siblings, etc. experienced teen acne), then lifestyle factors become even more important–because that’s something that your teen can change! 

Teens commonly go through phases of poor hygiene, nutrition, and inconsistent sleep patterns as they are adjusting to their changing minds and bodies. Factors like these can make skin issues worse than genetics alone would.

What quick and simple lifestyle changes can teens make to support clear skin?

The most common areas of opportunity for most teens are food, hydration, sleep, and stress management.


Certain foods such as dairy, sugar, and gluten (I refer to these as “The Skin Trigger Trifecta” in my bestselling book, Love Your Skin, Love Yourself) are known to trigger skin issues like acne breakouts or eczema flare-ups. If your teen has breakouts, I’d recommend trying dairy-free alternatives such as almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, or cashew milk.

I’d also recommend being mindful of sweet cravings. Encourage your teen to add more naturally sweet foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, seasonal squash, or sweet potatoes, so they naturally crave less candy and pastries. On days that they do choose to indulge, look or home-baked goodies instead of store-bought candies and pastries. Replace soda with seltzer water flavored with fresh lemon or fruit, and replace store bought iced teas with home-brewed iced tea, sweetened with either raw honey or stevia.

As for gluten, there are so many great gluten-free alternatives available now–way more than when I began cutting gluten 10 years ago! Just be careful to read labels to check for added sugar, unhealthy fats, and preservatives. Gluten-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free packaged and processed foods are still processed foods, which are nutritionally deficient, with questionable ingredients.


young woman with a backpack and a pink water bottle

Drink enough water–I recommend half your weight in ounces on a daily basis (so if your teen weighs 120 lbs, then they should drink 60 oz of water per day). It can be helpful to download a water tracking app which gives reminders and helps your teen keep track of water intake. My teens and all enjoy using fun or pretty glass or stainless steel water bottles that we keep drinking from and refilling throughout the day.

The quality of the water is important too. I recommend filtered water, that is fluoride-free. There is evidence that suggests that fluoridated water is an acne trigger for many–especially for those with cystic acne.


Have your teen set a regular sleep schedule. This helps to keep cortisol and blood sugar levels regular, which also supports healthy hormones. Consistency (the same bedtime and waking times every day) is more important than early or late.


The teen years can be very stressful, physically and emotionally–this can wreak havoc on the skin.

Stress management practices such as journaling, spending time outdoors, regular exercise, and mindfulness can make a huge difference. For teens, regular community interaction (in person is preferred, but virtual also works too) with like-minded peers is also a great way to keep stress down.

Manage your teen’s social media activity. Social media is a sticky point with teens because it can be a double-edged sword. They enjoy the positive aspects of being able to share and enjoy pictures, memes, and silly videos with their friends. However, social media also exposes them to influences that they might not normally get from “real life” and even the regular media. The world of filters, influencers, and unnatural images of beauty and body image can be extremely impactful. Cyber bullying and unscrupulous followers are also a risk. The hardest part is that your teen will likely think everything is fine, and that they are not being influenced; which makes this type of stress harder to manage.

What about teen skincare tips for good, basic hygiene?

teen skincare tips

With my own teens’ daily skincare, I encourage them to keep things super simple: cleanse, tone, moisturize.


I recommend removing makeup thoroughly with a lightweight cleansing oil like jojoba or hemp seed oil, and then cleansing with raw honey. Honey contains natural enzymes and antioxidants which help to keep skin clean, exfoliated, and nourished.

Though most teens are told to use a water-based or foaming cleanser to get their skin really clean, most cleansers on the market contain harsh surfactants, which are detergent ingredients that strip away the skin’s natural oils as they clean. Many of these “non-soap” cleansers are also still too high a pH for daily use, even though they might be slightly more acidic than soap. The skin’s pH is slightly acidic and it needs to stay that way to support the health and diversity of its microbiome!


I am a fan of toner. However, I am NOT a fan of the toners on the market that contain very high amounts of alcohol, harsh synthetic astringents, and synthetic colorants and fragrances. These types of toners can be highly drying and irritating to already irritated skin.

The purpose of a toner should be to help gently restore the skin’s pH, cool, soothe, and refresh the skin. You can make a simple toner with naturally astringent ingredients such as witch hazel and rosewater.

This can be sprayed on and left on after cleansing, or throughout the day whenever your teen needs a refresh. Toners can also be gently applied with a cottonball or soft, reusable facial pad.


Moisturize with a simple, lightweight carrier oil like jojoba or hemp seed oil. If you have breakouts, you can add a drop of lavender or tea tree essential oil (just one drop–and keep it out of the eye area). If you choose to make or purchase a cream or lotion, read the label and look for natural ingredients (they will usually be Latin botanical names) and as few synthetics as possible.

I also advise finding products with as few ingredients as possible. Complex blends of actives and even herbs and oils can be irritant or over-stimulating for already aggravated teen skin.

I recommend a simple clay mask for breakouts once a week, and then as an overnight spot treatment. Look for powdered French green, bentonite, or white kaolin clay and make a paste with water, honey, or toner. Tone and moisturize after.

Other holistic teen skincare tips

sanitize your phone

Besides cleansing, toning, and moisturizing twice daily, I recommend simple lifestyle hygiene practices such as:

  • Changing pillowcases and towels daily
  • Frequent handwashing
  • Avoid touching the face
  • Keep phones, touch screens, and keyboards sanitized
  • Make your teen’s skincare routine fun by adding gadgets! Sometimes teens “forget” to do their skincare routine, or rush through it. That was the case with my own 🙂 I got my own teens the My Skin Buddy (use code RPBEAUTY for free shipping*) to use during cleansing, and I kid you not–they both started actually washing their faces properly from that point.

Also check detergents and household cleaning products and make sure they are fragrance free. Synthetic fragrances can cause irritation, which can make breakouts worse.

Getting through to teens can be hard.

What I’ve learned from years of being a teen with acne myself (and though it was two decades ago, I still remember my feelings from those years as if it were yesterday), and the mom of two acne-prone teens is:

Make it simple and as easy to follow as possible. Most teens are distracted and won’t take the time and attention for themselves to comply with lengthy skincare regimens in the morning and before bed. Though we would love to teach them about the benefits of self-care as a ritual and the mindfulness that comes with a skincare regimen (and this might work with older teens), it’s often easier to just give them something super simple that takes only a few minutes a day.

Constantly reinforce to your teen that their skin is not tied to their beauty, goodness, or worth. Whether they have acne or not, they are still the same amazing person, worthy of love and respect. By taking care of their skin, your teen is also taking care of their overall health and whole self.

teach teens about photoshop and filters

Teach them about things like Photoshop and filters. Make sure they understand that what they see on social media is usually not how people look or live in real life.

Encourage them to fully and completely remove makeup if they wear it. Even if the makeup is natural and organic, if it is not removed completely, it will exacerbate breakouts.

Scope out a local aesthetician who does teen facials. This is especially important if your teen is a picker and popper. Proper professional teen skincare is worth the investment, in order to avoid the possibility of infection and permanent scarring caused by picking and popping. You might also find that your teen follows the instructions from the aesthetician better than your own advice. This is because the aesthetician is not you 🙂

Do you have a teen with skin issues? Or do you see teen clients in your aesthetics practice?

share your thoughts

What have you found that works great for your teen, or what’s your favorite teen skincare tip to share with your clients? Please share in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Holistic Teen Skincare Guide (with Tips That They’ll Actually Listen To)”

  1. For teenage skin, do you recommend cleansing in the morning and at night? Or just at night and then water and toner and moisturizer in the morning?

    1. Rachael Pontillo

      Hi Kristy! Lately I’ve been recommending less in the morning for most people. Water, toner and moisturizer in the morning is great, and then a proper cleansing at night, with toner and moisturizer. My own teens have been a lot more compliant when I give them less to do!

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