So Your Tween Wants to Use Beauty Products — Here's Where to Start

Raymond Meier

If you’re the parent of a preteen — or you’ve been inside a Sephora recently — odds are good you’ve got some inkling of just how popular beauty products have become with the under-13 set. From Bubble and Byoma to Dior and Too Faced, kids as young as eight-years-old have been flocking to the aisles of beauty retailers and wreaking havoc on testers of their favorite brands. What’s perplexing parents and random shoppers alike is why kids are so focused on products that are made and marketed to adults looking to smooth out wrinkles and hide undereye circles — not exactly the typical concerns of your average fourth grader.

“Beauty and skin care are fun, and tweens want part of the action,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and mother of a 12-year-old. “They see influencers on social media sharing ‘get ready with me’ routines and they want to be a part of it. From my perspective, the allure of the products seems to be stemming from a combination of factors ranging from the eye-catching packaging, the ‘cool factor’ and social status of accumulating the products themselves, as well as the goal of showing off healthy, clear, ‘dewy’ looking skin.”

For many Gen X and millennial parents, the idea of buying their children a $60 face cream may seem preposterous — and it is — but somewhat less so when you consider that this is a generation with unprecedented access to and knowledge of beauty brands. “They learn from influencers on TikTok,” says Nicole Jacob, a makeup artist based in Chicago who reached out to a few of her clients’ tweens to crowdsource how they learn about products (she’s also the mother of an 11-year-old herself). “I talked to one little girl on FaceTime who showed me the symbol that means no cruelty on her Drunk Elephant jar.”

The challenge for parents is to decipher if their child is truly interested in a product for its efficacy and value to their skin or simply because of its popularity. “You need to ask your child ‘what are you trying to address with that product?’ You do not need four moisturizers, five cleansers, and three toners,” says Naana Boakye, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Bergen Dermatology in New Jersey (and the mother of a preteen and a teenager). “Skin care is a journey, not a sprint. Begin with essentials and understand your skin. Start with the basics: gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. If a tween has acne, they can consider using ingredients that can help control their acne depending on the type.”

But, cautions Laura Scott, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in San Diego with four young daughters, resist the knee-jerk reaction to immediately say no and instead try and start a dialogue with your child as they begin these first steps towards becoming more autonomous with their beauty routine. “That’s oftentimes where we struggle, when immediately it's ‘they don't need any of this.’ I think it's just so important to have those conversations and to hear them out,” she says. “One of the worst things that we can do with our kids is to be dismissive, because they're just going to turn to their peers, to social media for whatever it is that they're looking for.”

With that in mind, we gathered up 10 of preteens’ favorite skin, hair, and makeup brands right now and asked our experts to choose the products that were most appropriate for the under-13 age group. While many ingredients might be too irritating for young skin (or just a waste of money) there are options here that will keep a parent and a tween happy. As far as your bank account goes, well, that’s a whole other conversation.

Drunk Elephant

Drunk Elephant B-Goldi Bright Drops

$38.00, Ulta Beauty

“They’re designed to be mixed with your moisturizer to give skin a healthy glow. These have 5% niacinamide, which is good for the skin barrier and can even help brighten dark spots left over from acne. So although they are certainly a splurge at $38 an ounce, I can get behind these for my tween.” —Dr. Bowe

Drunk Elephant Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser

$34.00, Ulta Beauty

“It’s a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser that has hydrating ingredients like glycerin, so it won’t overstrip the skin barrier.” —Dr. Scott

Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum

$49.00, Ulta Beauty

“This is a lightweight serum with pro-vitamin B5 and glycerin that are great hydrating ingredients that promote a strong skin barrier. It is probably the safest [serum] option in Drunk Elephant’s line-up for young skin. For preteen skin, and particularly with the Drunk Elephant line, it’s more about finding a formula without actives that are too harsh for young skin.” —Dr. Scott

Glow Recipe

Glow Recipe Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser

$34.00, Sephora

“With lactic and glycolic acids, this cleanser is a great choice for preteen skin that is starting to experience congestion and breakouts. I’d avoid it in skin that isn’t experiencing any breakouts, though, and choose something more gentle.” —Dr. Scott

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops Serum

$35.00, Sephora

“Teens often like to wear makeup and I think that is an important part of their life now. I recommend Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops as their first step because it creates a hydration barrier, which is important since a lot of longwear color cosmetics are drying to the skin. The niacinamide is also a good skin-care ingredient for acne-prone skin.” —Kavita Mariwalla, MD, a double board-certified dermatologist in West Islip, New York and mom of three preteens.

Glow Recipe Avocado Ceramide Moisture Barrier Cleanser

$28.00, Glow Recipe

“It’s gentle enough for teen skin but also has some postbiotics that help to rebalance the microbiome. It’s moisturizing, so it will not strip the key lipids from the skin.” —Dr. Mariwalla

e.l.f. Cosmetics

E.L.F. Wow Brow Gel

$5.00, Amazon

“This brow gel builds layer over layer with zero flakes and holds all day. Most other similar products don’t hold well, especially the clear ones. And the price point is excellent for preteens on a budget.” —Jacob

E.L.F. Glow Reviver Lip Oil

$8.00, Amazon

“These lip oils are non-sticky and nourish the lips all day. I find the shades Crystal Clear, Pink Quartz, and Coral Fixation suitable for kids because they offer a natural look, which I believe is appropriate for their age. Young preteens already have an abundance of natural color in their lips; there's no need to overdo it.” —Jacob

Sol de Janeiro

Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Crush Cheirosa ‘62 Perfume Mist

$38.00, Amazon

“Tweens love a delicious fragrance, so I’m okay with some fragrances in rinse-off products like a cleanser or body wash — but I recommend avoiding fragrance and essential oils in leave-on products that your tween will apply all over their face, especially if they have sensitive skin or eczema. A little spritz of Sol de Janeiro ‘62 that falls on your tween's hair can be really fun.” —Dr. Bowe

Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Glossy Nourishing Hair Oil

$34.00, Amazon

“As derms we not only treat skin, but also hair and nails. This oil contains omega fatty acids, which are easily absorbed by the hair cuticle and impart instant hydration and shine to hair. I love this as a daily use for patients with curly hair or as a once a week rescue for teen hair that is over processed.” —Dr. Mariwalla

The Ordinary

The Ordinary Glycolipid Cream Face Cleanser

$13.00, Ulta Beauty

“This creamy cleanser is great for skin barrier health at all ages, and helps combat dry skin, especially in the winter.” —Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and mother of two teenagers

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum

$6.00, Nordstrom

“This niacinamide serum is a good pick for teen skin as we know niacinamide not only helps with pore size, but also post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that can be caused by inflammatory acne bumps. The concentration is active and gentle enough for this age set.” —Dr. Mariwalla

Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez

Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Liquid Blush

$23.00, Sephora

“With Rare Beauty, the higher price point is justified by the exceptional quality of their products. Their blushes stand out for their highly pigmented formula, requiring only a small amount for a natural, soft glow. The formula blends seamlessly into the skin, providing a radiant finish that lasts throughout the day.” — Jacob

Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Tinted Lip Oil

$20.00, Sephora

“Rare Beauty's lip oils with jojoba and sunflower oil not only provide hydration but also offer nourishment and protection to the lips so they stay soft, smooth, and healthy-looking.” — Jacob

Rare Beauty Perfect Strokes Universal Volumizing Mascara

$20.00, Sephora

“Unlike many mascaras on the market, this one layers beautifully without becoming overly clumpy. The mascara's brush applicator not only separates lashes effectively but also provides a subtle volumizing effect, giving lashes a fuller appearance.” — Jacob

Summer Fridays

Summer Fridays Dream Lip Oil

$26.00, Sephora

Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm

$24.00, Sephora

“In my view, their lip gloss and lip oils stand out. The application is smooth, conditioning, and soothing for dry lips. Being vegan is appealing to today's youth, and the translucent, natural colors — while having a higher price — offer excellent quality.” — Jacob


Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

$38.00, Nordstrom

“One of my favorite products because it works with all skin tones, going on sheer and leaving no white cast, while also providing ample protection from UV light for all levels of melanin.” —Dr. Gohara

Supergoop Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30

$40.00, Nordstrom

“For preteens, I still prefer mineral sunscreens over chemical sunscreens. Preteen skin can be more sensitive and have reactions to chemical formulas. This is a great mineral option that rubs in nicely.” — Dr. Scott


Amika The Shield Anti-Humidity Spray

$30.00, Amazon

“I think it’s important to start good hair habits [early] and incorporating a thermal protectant is the perfect place to start being proactive. The Shield is a heat protecting spray and anti-frizz that’s great for all hair.” —Mia Santiago, hairstylist and mom of a seven-year-old.

Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo

$28.00, Amazon

“A lot of preteens either overwash or underwash their hair. Using a dry shampoo like this one can help in either case, and gives more longevity between washes. Applying it at night is also a great way to [proactively] absorb oil.” — Santiago

Shark Beauty

Shark Beauty FlexStyle Air Styling and Drying System

$300.00, Nordstrom

“This is a cheaper alternative to the Dyson Airwrap, so it feels trendy without being excessive and still gives teens all the blowout options a Dyson would.” —Santiago

Shark Beauty SmoothStyle Heated Comb + Blow Dryer Brush

$100.00, Nordstrom

“These blow-dry brushes are all the rage right now, competing with Amika, T3, and Revlon on social. This is an easier alternative to using a blow dryer and a round brush. It uses less heat, which results in less damage. It’s a great first blow dryer because it’s so user friendly!” —Santiago

Read more about tween and teen beauty:

Watch Alix Earle's makeup routine for acne-prone skin:

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Originally Appeared on Allure