Prone to skin breakouts? Fixes for teenage skin and beyond

Beauty: Most of us will experience congestion, breakouts and shine from our teen years and beyond, here’s how to deal with them

There isn’t one type of teenage skin any more than there is one type of skin at any age, but most teens will experience congestion, excess oiliness, breakouts and or shine at some point during adolescence. Some of these problems can follow us into our twenties and beyond, but it is best to start managing issues as they arise. Skin problems can make an already challenging time positively difficult for teenagers, but a compact collection of simple, straightforward products will help enormously.

The most effective steps that you can take are to cleanse at night with an oil or balm cleanser and a warm flannel, and bin any astringent or alcohol-heavy product you may be using ‘to dry up oily skin’. Gentler, non-congesting products are the way to go. Skin should never feel ‘squeaky clean’ or tight , but clean and comfortable.

Though they are very frequently recommended for problem and teen skin, foaming face washes should be avoided, despite their psychological allure of feeling effective. With a few exceptions, foaming washes contain surfactants. Skin pH is easily thrown off – surfactants (not all, but enough to make avoiding foaming washes a good idea) create an alkaline environment which bacteria on the skin will vastly enjoy reproducing in, worsening breakouts.

It is important for teens to cleanse skin in the morning. If you must use something foaming, try something like Super Facialist Salicylic Acid Purifying Cleansing Wash (€10.99), which contains salicylic acid to decongest. Better yet, opt for a non-comedogenic cream cleanser. Cleansing at night is also essential, particularly for wearers of makeup or SPF.


Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm (€29), though expensive, is ideal. It doesn't contain congesting ingredients teens should avoid like mineral oil, alcohol or shea butter, and will leave skin completely clean and comfortable. It will emulsify on contact with water – just remove with a warm, damp flannel.

Exfoliating can become somewhat addictive for everyone, but especially teenagers frustrated by congestion and excess sebum. Glycolic acid, which I would recommend as a chemical exfoliant for most adults (except those with sensitive skin) can be too harsh for younger skin, which doesn't need it anyway. Harsher doesn't automatically mean more effective. Ditch the gritty physical exfoliants which can cause damage and broken capillaries, and try The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% (€6.50), a gentle chemical exfoliant with hydrating hyaluronic acid, around once a week.

To treat breakouts, try a product with a good dose of salicylic acid but low in harsh alcohol like La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo+ (€17.99). Salicylic acid is effective on both ingrown hairs and bad breakouts by breaking down the blockages that clog pores.

Effaclar Duo+ is a light cream, best used once daily (used more often it may have a mild drying effect). You don't have to use a moisturiser on top, but if you want or need to, try something light and hydrating Bioderma Hydrabio Gel Crème (€18.50) which hydrates the skin but doesn't leave it shiny or stimulate oil production.