Exploring all the hair, skin, and color cosmetics designed for girls age nine and up may seem like harmless fun as our daughters begin to navigate their way through puberty. But many personal care products contain cancer-causing compounds or plasticizers and preservatives that can disrupt hormones. A recent study by the Environmental Working Group found 16 hazardous cosmetic chemicals in the blood and urine of teenage girls. Exposure can be greater for tweens and teens since most girls use more beauty products—an average of 17 products to their mom’s 12. Young bodies are less able to detoxify these chemicals. Plus, some cosmetic ingredients can actually speed up how quickly a girl develops.
The good news is that kids growing up today think it’s cool to be organic, cruelty free, and planet friendly. And there are a number of truly hip and healthy alternatives to chemical-packed products just for the 9- to 18-year-old set. But while your daughter might gravitate toward that trendy shade of nontoxic nail polish or mineral-based shimmer lotion, adopting a daily skin care routine is the first—and most important—step to youthful beauty.
Here’s a cheat sheet for healthy skin that every young girl (and her mom) needs.
Healthy Skin Cheat Sheet
WASH YOUR FACE every morning and before you go to bed at night to remove dirt, dead skin cells, and excess oil.
What to use: For normal or dry skin, try a creamy cleanser that contains skin-friendly herbs like chamomile, green tea extract, or lavender and good-for-you oils like almond, jojoba, or shea.
For oily or troubled skin, try an oil-free foaming cleansing gel that’s packed with fruit extracts and witch hazel.
How to use: Gently massage a small amount of cleanser into your face with your fingertips. Rinse well.
DAB ON TONER to remove any oil or cleanser that’s left on your skin. Toner also re-balances your skin’s natural pH.
What to use: A toner with aloe vera, calendula, or other skin-friendly herbs. While toners and astringents are often thought of as interchangeable, alcohol-based astringents should be used with caution since they can be extremely drying, even for the oiliest complexion.
How to use: Simply dab the toner on using a cotton ball. Never drag the cotton ball over skin.
MOISTURIZE to keep skin soft and help protect it from the elements.
What to use: Pick a moisturizer that won’t block your pores (noncomedogenic). Look for ingredients like honey, hyaluronic acid, or meadowfoam seed oil that will help attract and lock in moisture.
How to use: Dab a dot of moisturizer on your cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead and gently massage it into your skin.
APPLY SUNSCREEN every day. A lot of the sun damage that causes wrinkles later actually occurs during the teen years.
What to use: Bypass sunscreens loaded with chemicals you can’t pronounce in favor of natural minerals like zinc or titanium dioxide.
How to use: Apply to your entire face and neck at least 30 minutes before you go outside.
Whether it’s the occasional OMG pimple right before a big event or an ongoing battle with blemishes, keeping skin scrupulously clean is vital to controlling acne. Applying antibacterial, anti-inflammatory herbs like tea tree oil can help treat the occasional breakout. For more severe cases, look for products that contain totorol, an antibacterial botanical from the New Zealand totara tree.
“The Efficacy of 5 Percent Topical Tea Tree Oil Gel in Mild to Moderate Acne Vulgaris” by S. Enshaieh et al., Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol, 1-2/07
“Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals” by E. Diamanti-Kandarakis et al., Endocr Rev, 6/09
“Plasma Phthalate Levels in Pubertal Gynecomastia” by E. Durmaz et al., Pediatrics, 1/10
“Teen Girls’ Body Burden of Hormone-Altering Cosmetic Chemicals,” Environmental Working Group, www.ewg.org, 9/24/08