Kids can be greasy, sweaty, dirty little creatures. And inevitably the time comes when they need to start regularly washing their face in order to maintain a clear complexion, especially as those teen years approach. But what should they use to wash their face? Or more specifically, what should they stay away from? That’s what we’ll be discussing in this post.
What does a child’s skin need?
For us grown-ups there are literally tens of thousands of face washes and fancy serums to choose from, each containing its own concoction of miracle ingredients that are sure to make our skin look younger and brighter. News flash — a kid’s skin doesn’t need any of that fancy stuff (ours doesn’t either, to be honest).
A child’s skin needs to be cleansed and kept hydrated, that’s it. And the hydration part doesn’t necessarily mean using a moisturizer — it can also mean simply using a cleanser that isn’t drying and doesn’t strip too much moisture from the skin. Each child’s skin hydration needs will be a little different.
What stuff should you avoid?
So, now that we know the very basic needs that a child’s young skin has, what should we NOT put on their skin so as to avoid risking irritation? Here are some common face care ingredients and products to skip:
These tiny plastic beads have been included in many face washes for years as a way to help exfoliate the skin. Besides being terrible for the environment (although natural microbeads do now exist that are made from substances such as coffee beans and walnut shells), young skin simply doesn’t need exfoliation. So these beads would do nothing to your child’s delicate face but potentially scratch it and cause discomfort. Skip!
When shopping for skincare products you may have come across the terms comedogenic or non-comedogenic, which mean pore-clogging and not-pore-clogging, respectively. For a kids’ face wash, you want to avoid any ingredients that may clog up their acne-prone pores — ingredients such as coconut oil, cocoa butter, soybean oil, and carrageenan (a common thickener). These ingredients are widely used in skincare products, and they can be perfectly fine to use elsewhere on the body. But for the face, which is particularly susceptible to pore-clogging and acne issues, they should be avoided.
We’ve discussed fragrance in skincare a few times before on this blog, but it’s worth mentioning again here. When you see “Fragrance” or “Parfum” on a product’s ingredient list, that means it contains artificial fragrance compounds, which are among the most common skin irritants. And the most sensitive skin on a child’s body is on their face, so why slather potentially-irritating perfume all over it?
Soap is great for washing your hands, but it’s not recommended for the face because it can be very drying. Also, its high pH can interrupt the skin’s normal acidity levels and cause redness and discomfort. Even 100% plant-based soaps such as Castile soap should be avoided on the face.
If your child’s skin does need extra hydration, try to avoid thick, heavy moisturizers. These tend to be higher in oil content which can make the face overly-greasy, and they often contain comedogenic ingredients which can clog the pores and lead to pimples or uneven skin.
What should you look for instead?
Now that we know what to avoid in a face wash for kids, which qualities SHOULD we be on the lookout for?
Gentle Cleansing Agents
We mentioned above that soap is generally a no-no for face washing. Instead, you want to look for mild surfactants, which are essentially soap alternatives that gently remove dirt and grime to cleanse the skin. Some examples of common, gentle surfactant ingredients include decyl glucoside, cocamidopropyl betaine, and caprylyl/capryl glucoside.
Shorter Ingredient Lists
You’ve probably looked at a product’s ingredient list before and thought to yourself, “Is all this stuff really necessary??” A long ingredient list doesn’t necessarily mean a product is bad, but the more ingredients there are, the higher the chance of your child being allergic or sensitive to one of those ingredients. For example, chamomile is a nice skin-calming ingredient that’s used a lot, but anyone with ragweed allergies is most likely going to be allergic to it. So to minimize the risk of a reaction, it’s better to look for products with shorter, simpler ingredient lists.
Oil gets a bad rap for facial use because people assume it causes or contributes to acne. But when the right kinds of oils are used in low to moderate concentrations they can be perfectly fine for the face, and can even provide great cleansing and moisturizing benefits. Grapeseed, sunflower, sweet almond, and rosehip are among the best oils for the skin that won’t clog pores (so if your child needs a moisturizer, look for a light one that contains some of these). Also, essential oils such as frankincense, lemon, rosemary, myrrh, and tea tree can be beneficial for keeping the face clean and clear, when used in safe (i.e., very low) concentrations, of course.
Natural or (Even Better) No Fragrance
It’s quite surprising how many “natural” products are full of synthetic perfumes. Just look at a handful of the most common plant-based facial cleansers out there and you’ll probably see “Fragrance” on the ingredient list. This is what you want to avoid for your child’s skin. Instead, look for face washes that contain natural fragrance ingredients (hydrosols, essential oils, etc.) that are clearly spelled out and listed towards the end of the ingredient list (which means their quantity will be low). Alternatively, an unscented or fragrance-free face wash could be an even better choice.
Simple and gentle — that’s what a great face wash for kids and teens should be. No fancy botanicals or exfoliating agents needed. Surprisingly though, there aren’t a ton out there that fit the bill (some get close but then that artificial fragrance inevitably rears its ugly head). That’s why we created our Super Gentle Face Wash — as the name suggests, it’s safe and super gentle! Containing only 9 clean ingredients, its simple formula will keep your kid’s face clean and clear without any dryness or irritation. Plus, it pumps out as a foam that’s fun to use!