8 common teen skincare mistakes to avoid, and what to do instead

From popping pimples to choosing harsh treatments, here are the skincare mistakes teens tend to make, plus experts’ tips for a simple and effective routine.

The teenage years are a time of significant changes, including hormonal changes which often result in various skin issues.

At this life stage, it’s important to establish a proper skincare routine.

However, in doing so, some teens inadvertently make mistakes that could exacerbate existing concerns such as acne, dryness and sensitivity — or create new problems!

Here the experts unpack some of the common teen skincare mistakes:

Mistake #1: Overwashing

With the best of intentions, some teens enthusiastically wash their face more often than needed!

“Overcleansing can be irritating and strip the skin of the natural oils it needs to keep it healthy and hydrated,” Northern Sydney Dermatology & Laser principal dermatologist Dr Shreya Andric explains.

Dr Andric suggests cleansing no more than twice a day, using a small coin-size amount of product.

Mistake #2: Skipping moisturiser

Teens with oily or acne-prone skin often make the classic mistake of forgoing moisturiser, according to skin therapist Isabella Loneragan.

“Without moisturiser, the skin can become dry, tight and flaky,” Isabella says.

“In response, the skin may produce more oil, potentially exacerbating acne or oily skin.”

The owner of the Isabella Lonergan Skin clinic says the key is to select a moisturiser suited to your skin type or concerns.

“Choose a lightweight, non-greasy formula that won’t clog pores,” Isabella says.

Mistake #3: Avoiding sunscreen

Think you’re too young to worry about the effects of sun damage? Think again!

GP and skin expert Dr Prasanthi Purusothaman says sunscreen is the one thing everyone should be wearing to prevent the onset of worrying sunspots and skin cancers or even “lines and wrinkles when you’re older.”

The Sydney-based doctor recommends using a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen anytime the UV Index is 3 or above, which tends to be year-round in Australia.

Mistake #4: Excessive exfoliation

“Exfoliation increases skin cell turnover and reveals newer skin cells underneath,” Dr Purusothaman says.

But it’s also possible to have too much of a good thing.

“Overdoing it impairs the skin barrier and can lead to dryness, sensitivity, stinging, burning and redness,” Dr Purusothaman explains.

She recommends limiting exfoliation to once per week, using a gentle chemical exfoliant.

Mistake #5: Popping pimples

Ignore that temptation to pop a ripe pimple!

“Picking at or popping pimples can introduce bacteria from your fingers into the pimple, potentially leading to infection,” Isabella says, adding it can also “create inflammation, making the pimple appear larger and redder, or cause scars or dark spots.”

In the worst instance, it can even cause further breakouts when the contents of the pimple spreads to surrounding areas, Isabella notes.

The dermal therapist’s solution is simple: Keep your hands off!

“Try an over-the-counter spot treatment containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to reduce inflammation and promote healing,” she suggests.

Mistake #6: Harsh acne treatments

Acne sufferers may think a high-concentration treatment will get faster results but, on the contrary, Isabella says it’s better to ease into it.

“Start with a lower-concentration acne treatment and always use as directed,” she says.

Dr Andric adds that high-concentration acne treatments should be used under the guidance of a skin professional.

“If you have bad acne, see your doctor or dermatologist who can put together an appropriate plan for you,” Dr Andric says.

Mistake #7: Using ‘fancy’ products

TikTok and other social media platforms have made teens savvy about skincare trends and products.

Dr Purusothaman says while it’s okay to indulge in “fancy” skincare, it pays to remember that “expensive is not always better.”

Dr Andric adds that “bland” products are often more appropriate for teen skin as they don’t contain potentially irritating fragrances and preservatives — and they’re usually cheaper too!

Mistake #8: Sleeping with make-up on

After a big night out, the last thing you feel like doing is taking your make-up off.

But if you don’t, Dr Purusothaman says it could mean waking up to breakouts, blocked pores and skin sensitivity.

Dr Andric recommends a double cleanse before you hit the pillow.

“Remove make-up with micellar water first, then use a separate cleanser to remove any residue, followed by a gentle moisturiser,” Dr Andric says.

Isabella also suggests having a back-up plan.

“Keep make-up remover wipes by your bed for a quick clean-up on nights when you’re too tired for a full skincare routine,” Isabella says.

Back to basics: a simple teen skincare routine

Dr Andric suggests the following skincare routine as a starting point for teens:


  • Gentle cleanser
  • Oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturiser
  • Sunscreen


  • Gentle cleanser — double-cleanse if wearing make-up
  • Oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturiser

More beauty and skincare advice:

Written by Sharon Hunt.