When Eden Grimaldi, the owner of a beauty communication agency, started looking for skin care for her then-13-year-old son, she was caught off guard by the lack of options at her local drugstore.
“I tried to go to the store, but everything there was the exact same stuff that was there when I was a teen,” says Grimaldi, who lives in Santa Monica.
Tapping into her own beauty expertise, she turned to a Korean skin-care website and says she found teen-focused skin care that was efficacious and geared toward her son’s age group. Still, she adds, the dearth of products available at a local store was shocking.
“Millennials seem to be such a big focus for beauty brands these days,” says Grimaldi, whose son is now 17. “And teens have kind of been left out.”
Most parents today are faced with a beauty conundrum when it comes to the health and wellness of their teenager’s skin. Whether it’s acne that can begin in the pre-teen years or helping a child establish a good skin-care regimen, finding daily-use skin-care products for teens that aren’t overly drying or laden with potentially harmful ingredients and are packaged in an appealing way has been a challenge. Until now.
That’s because Los Angeles, a global beauty capital in its own right, is turning up skin-care brands that are looking to address the unfilled gap in the market by targeting teens with imagery and branding that appeals to their sensibilities and skin-care priorities while appeasing parents through the use of clean and non-abrasive ingredients.
And based on available data, it’s very likely that more beauty and skin-care products aimed at the needs of teens will be introduced on the market soon. Why? Because Gen Z is expected to account for 40% of all U.S. consumers this year, according to a 2018 report by MNI Targeted Media Inc., a targeted media-strategy company based in Stamford, Conn.
For now, here are a few new and recent products for teenage skin worth checking out.
The brainchild of Kelly Atterton, a former West Coast editor of Allure magazine, L.A.-based Rile (rile.co) was developed with teenage skin and Gen-Z behavior in mind. In addition to a list of clean ingredients with its five initial products, Rile’s goal to reach teens is reflected by its approach: employing teen photographers to shoot imagery and forgoing retouching and the glossy campaigns so ubiquitous in the beauty space.
“This generation is so woke and so much savvier than all of us ever were as teenagers,” says Atterton, who describes the look of Rile as “if Supreme and Glossier had a baby.” “[Young people have] much more attitude and more smarts than what most brands out there give them credit for.”
Rile, which will be available beginning this spring, has focused product offerings (each less than $20) that Atterton believes are the first steps to starting a healthy skin-care regimen. The items also have a highly sensorial aspect, to infuse a little fun into typically mundane actions such as washing your face or gliding on deodorant.
The Crackle cleanser goes on like a gel but starts bubbling on the skin with a tingling effect. The scent of Rile’s charcoal-based deodorant is inspired by being outdoors in Los Angeles — specifically a sunny hike in Runyon or Fryman Canyon. And the No Shower, Shower foam can be thrown in a bag and applied post-sports to break up bacteria and refresh the body.
“My approach is to flip the narrative about skin care typically geared toward teens so it’s not about stripping and punishing the skin,” says Atterton. “It’s about nourishing.”
Aesthetician Nicole Sullivan has long specialized in acne at her Sherman Oaks-based skin-care studio. She’s well versed in the specific needs of sensitive teenage skin. When it came to products for both her clients and her teenage daughter, she saw the need for effective-yet-updated products as opposed to those that have flooded drugstore shelves for decades.
“The key is giving people an option,” says Sullivan about the lack of clean beauty for teenagers. “They haven’t had the option to even make a choice. It’s always just been Clearasil pads.”
Her line, Skinbuzz, launched in 2018 with prices ranging from $14 to $45, and is available Urban Outfitters and through the line’s website, skinbuzz.com. As the name might suggest, the brand uses ingredients derived from bees including propolis, beeswax and royal jelly, which are known for having antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits.
“It’s not enough just to be organic,” she says. “Ingredients like coconut oil and algae found in natural products can clog pores and cause breakouts.”
The Skinbuzz lineup includes a toner, cleanser, moisturizer, mask and a whipped sunscreen, the latter of which, Sullivan says, is the brand’s bestseller. A new blemish stick ($14), made with ingredients including willow bark and malic acid, was recently introduced.
“I wanted the products to look simple, friendly and inviting and [I] didn’t want to talk down to this age group,” Sullivan says. “Nothing is too girly or pink. I want this to be appealing to boys as well. I also don’t want them to be embarrassed to use it when they’re older.”
Skinbuzz donates a portion of its profits to charity, including the Planet Bee Foundation, aimed at saving bees partly because, Sullivan says, it’s important to teenagers for a brand to stand for something. “They are more socially conscious and have so much more information just from being on their phones,” she says. “Not everyone wants to be the same anymore. Beauty for teens is about enhancing what you have and being more unique.”
Zoe Brenneke’s L.A.-based line Arrive (arrivehere.com) was not necessarily intended for teenagers, but she’s found that the products have resonated strongest with a demographic as young as 14.
Brenneke, who was once a teen with sensitive, rosacea-prone skin herself, later became an online beauty editor. She now has a focused line of makeup that is biocompatible, meaning it won’t clog the pores.
“So much of what inspired the line was my struggle with makeup in my teens,” she says. “Clean makeup almost always felt like a sacrifice from a performance standpoint, and as much as I didn’t want products to break me out, wearing makeup that didn’t do what it was supposed to do or didn’t look great on was almost as bad as putting on something that I knew would end up irritating my skin.”
A self-professed product lover, Brenneke abides by an ethos of “efficacious, biocompatible, affordable, well-branded beauty products” for Arrive, which she introduced last year. The line, which consists of a few basics all priced under $30, offers a lightweight foundation called Skin Boost, a bronzer and a bronzer brush.
When advising on the dos and don’ts of ingredients to avoid for sensitive teenage skin, Brenneke says making a blanket list of ingredients is challenging because everyone’s “skin thumbprint” is unique.
“Being mindful of the fact that terms like ‘natural’ in the beauty space are unregulated and can be used without any qualifications is really important,” she says. “Denatured alcohol is one of the most common skin irritants, and it’s also incredibly drying, which can not only aggravate existing acne but also cause the skin to overproduce oil and lead to more breakouts. Fragrance is another common irritant. So make sure to look for products labeled ‘fragrance-free’ rather than just ‘unscented,’ as that can indicate there are added chemicals in the product used to mask the scent of raw ingredients.”