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How to Tell Your Tween They’re Not Ready for Retinol

January 1 | 5 minute read

Memo Teenage Skincare Routine Hero 16x9

Words by Kerri Gordon & Arabella Roden

Originally published on | January 18

It’s not new to see teenagers experimenting with beauty as a way of self-expression and self-care. For some, it might be playing with colour, changing up their hair, or spritzing the latest body mist – while for others it’s embracing the daily ritual of a skincare routine.

While we all remember those hours spent scrubbing, masking and picking (the horror!), it’s reached a whole new level with the rise of TikTok, where people have access to more information, beauty hacks, tips and tricks than ever before.

As a result, we’re seeing beauty lovers younger than ever coming into MECCA to try new products and brands they’ve seen online (some convinced they need an advanced, active-packed skincare routine before they’ve left primary school).

For the parents, siblings, older cousins and once-or-twice removed who may be perplexed by this phenomenon, we’ve turned to our own MECCA experts for advice on how to handle the tweens and young teens trying to elevator pitch – Shark Tank-style – their dire need for a serum targeting the lines, wrinkles and blemishes they don’t have.
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Memo Teenage Skincare Routine 3x4 6a


The short answer: SPF*. Sun protection is for absolutely everyone, and you can never be too early in protecting your skin from the sun’s powerful rays – especially in Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand), where we’re extra susceptible to sun damage.

Lunch breaks, PE lessons, family beach days and park jaunts with friends are all better accompanied with a good sunscreen, and a hat to boot (‘no hat, no play’ – words to live by!). Fun packaging is a top priority for tweens, so we suggest directing their skincare passions to the likes of MECCA MAX and their SCREEN SAVER SPF30 Broad Spectrum Facial Sunscreen, Naked Sundays’ purple-hued range of SPF innovations, or opting for Go-To’s peachy Nifty Fifty SPF50.


As a former MECCA Skin Specialist (and member of Gen Z herself), Junior Content Editor Ruby Devlin is all too aware of how young people can get swept up in the hype for products that just aren’t right for them.

“I was asked about skincare by tweens and young teenagers every single time I stepped onto the shop floor,” she tells The MECCA Memo. “In my experience, tweens were less concerned with specific ingredients and more with brands like Drunk Elephant, Glow Recipe and Summer Fridays.”

Ruby’s strategy? “I always liked to handle the situation by focusing on education; once I explained what certain ingredients did and who they were best suited to, most tweens and teens understood why they weren’t right for their skin,” she says, adding that having their parents present was a great way to steer them toward more appropriate products.

Meanwhile, products containing retinol – a powerful form of vitamin A – are also piquing the curiosity of those yet to start high school, let alone finish it; something that MECCA’s Customer Education Manager Francesca Hyde questions.

“When you want the best for your skin, it’s easy to want to start with the ‘big guns’,” she notes. “For skin-savvy tweens and teens, retinol, for example, may seem like a must-have.”

However, “Retinol works by helping to boost your skin’s cellular turnover – a process that naturally slows down as we age. So, if your skin hasn’t started to show any signs of ageing, like fine lines or loss of firmness, there’s no reason to use it yet,” Hyde explains.

Retinol and other forms of vitamin A are powerful ingredients that can cause irritation and dryness, making skin more sensitive to common beauty treatments such as facial waxing, as well as sun exposure. Hyde recommends consulting with a GP or dermatologist for recommendations of a more suitable product for teenage skin concerns.
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For tween and young teen skin, MECCA experts recommend a simple routine: gentle cleanser, moisturiser and – most importantly – SPF.

Memo Teenage Skincare Routine 3x4 3b


When it comes to skincare, of course, a 60-year-old will have different needs to a 16-year-old, but age is just one of so many factors that impact our skin. MECCA store hosts are highly educated beauty experts who love spending time with customers, understanding their needs and passing on their knowledge to help them make the best decisions for their skin.

For teenagers who are starting to take an interest in skincare, we’d recommend popping into your local MECCA to chat with our team and beginning with the basics – first and foremost SPF, and optionally a gentle cleanser and hydrating moisturiser.

If you’re concerned about your child’s skin, we’d always recommend speaking to a medical professional.

*ALWAYS READ THE LABEL AND FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR USE. Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure. Sunscreen is only one part of sun protection, so wear protective clothing and seek shade. Avoid prolonged sun exposure. Reapply every two hours and after swimming, towelling, and perspiring, in accordance with directions.

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