Pretty much everything in your teens can be baffling: Your first sweetheart, your first kiss – and now why is your skin acting up? Your skin went from smooth and easy-to-care-for to shiny and problematic with pimples – all overnight it seems.

Don’t worry! You’re not alone, 9 out of 10 teenagers get it. And it can be treated. There’s a myriad of products and treatments out there – cleansers, moisturisers (you name it). But it’s not all that complicated.

Allow me to make things easier for you and future generations of teens. If you follow the Asian skin care philosophy, it’s all about keeping it as mild and as simple as possible.

Before we jump into the deep end, spoiler ahead: It’s about getting and maintaining healthy skin with the following steps:

  • Double cleansing
  • Toner
  • Moisturiser
  • SPF

You slowly introduce products to your routine, one at a time. While adults usually know which ingredients or products work for their skin, as a teenager, everything is new and can potentially mess up your skin (or make it glow).

This means it’s time for you to garner experience and experiment. Just make sure to experiment safely and gradually introduce new products. Like this, you can keep track of what ingredients played nicely with your skin, which were just so-so, and which made your skin crawl (literally and figuratively spoken).


If there’s one word that can be used to describe teenage years, it’s change. Everything changes. Your skin changes. Your hormone level changes. You see a growth spurt.

Looking at your skin, as a child, your skin renews itself frequently. In other words, your skin cell turnover rate is high. But as you enter puberty, the turnover rate goes down. This means, your skin renews itself less often. Usually, you’ll see that your skin gets tougher. Your skin (still) has the bounce and glow that’s associated with youthful skin, but you also start seeing the first signs of bumps, pimples, and oiliness.

That’s a sign that your body undergoes hormonal changes. Your skin goes into overdrive to produce more sebum (the natural oils). Too much sebum can trap dirt and any makeup that wasn’t removed in your pores. The result is what’s often called the biggest self-esteem killer for teenagers: Zits and pimples.

Even if your skin makes too much oil, it doesn’t mean you need to go over top and wash off all the oils.

Double Cleanse

Double cleansing goes a long way to help prevent breakouts. It’s non-negotiatable, especially if you wear makeup. Double cleansing originated in Asia and is a 2 step washing process to remove makeup and cleanse yet not strip your skin of its natural oils.

In your first step, you use an oil-based cleansing that removes waterproof products like sunscreen or foundation and other makeup. It will also remove other oil-based impurities such as sebum or pollutants.

In your second step, you use a water-based cleanser. It can be a foam, gel, or cream cleanser to wash away anything remaining from the first step as well as water-based impurities like sweat.

Choose a mild cleanser with a low PH. You don’t want to strip all the oils from your skin – “squeaky clean” is a sign that your skin is dry and overwashed. If you overwash, your face will get even oilier. When your skin is stripped of its natural oils, it starts to compensate and overproduce its own oils. Which can lead to clogged pores. Your skin should feel soft and hydrated after washing. And if you overwash, that

You don’t always need to double cleanse, only do it when you wear makeup or SPF. Always cleanse before bed because you don’t want makeup sitting on your face and potentially clogging your pores during the night – the result is breakouts. Also wash your face as soon as possible after sweating, for the same reason.


Way back, toners were used to absorb up excess oil. They were a tingly and prickling affair, containing alcohol. But, if a product feels tingling on your skin, it’s a sign it’s irritating your skin. And you want to avoid irritating your skin because it can result in spots and make your skin go off kilter.

In Asia, depending on where you are, a toner is also called skin and softener. So, if you look at the name, you can see what task a toner has: It’s meant to soften, hydrate, and prepare your skin for what comes next.

So, after cleansing, follow up with a toner to prepare your skin for the next step.


Let me preface everything I tell you here: I’m not a doctor.

To avoid and prevent debris trapped in your pores, exfoliate regularly. Again, don’t overdo it, or you’ll feel your face getting oilier. You’ll want to opt for a chemical exfoliant.

An exfoliator formulated with BHA (salicylic acid) that is oil-soluble can go into the pores and dissolve any debris in them. This’ll help prevent pores clogging up. You want to start as mild as possible and grandly work your way up to a stronger BHA.

In general though, young skin renews itself pretty well. This means it also does a pretty good job of exfoliating itself. Therefore, you may not want to use a physical exfoliant. Overall, you don’t want to scrub or rub as it can irritate your skin and increase oil production.


Along with cleansing well, keeping your skin well moisturised is the other essential that does a great deal in keeping zits at bay, no matter what your skin type is. Depending on if you’re skin is normal to dry or you’re contending with oily skin, you can choose a more heavy duty (a cream) or a lighter (an emulsion) moisturiser.

That is to say, there are 2 main categories of moisturisers: The heavy duty ones are occlusive. This means it forms a barrier on the skin that prevents water loss from its surface. The second type is humectant. It attracts water from the surroundings and binds it to your skin leaving it hydrated.


Every day, sunny or cloudy, summer or winter, apply SPF religiously. Of course, SPF is important to present skin cancer. But if you don’t apply sunscreen, it will come back to haunt you years, decades down the road in form of wrinkles and other signs of ageing. Using SPF also helps keep your zits from turning into dark spots.

How to start

Now that you know what steps belong in your routine, it’s time to look at how to introduce a new product. When you add a new product to your routine, only add one at a time and use it for three weeks, better longer. This way, you can gauge what effect it has on your skin: Did it help, was it so-so, did it irritate your skin?

If you have a reaction – your skin got irritated or you got an allergic reaction, you know exactly which product was the culprit. And on the other hand, if your skin has fewer bumps or is glowing, you also know what product was your ally.

If you get a reaction, immediately stop using the product. You may want to look up the product on EWG or COSDNA to see if it can cause irritation or result in breakouts.

Form good habits

Many little things can go a long way to prevent breakouts and keep your skin healthy. The habits you pick up when you’re younger are most likely also the ones you keep later in your life. They will help you see beautiful and healthy skin all your life.

I hope these tips helped you learn to maintain your skin healthy at a young age. If you so, please share it with someone who might find it useful.

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