A Top Derm Shares The Number-One Thing She Wishes She Knew About Sun Protection as a Teen

A Top Derm Shares The Number-One Thing She Wishes She Knew About Sun Protection as a Teen featured image

Nowadays, teen and tween skin care is one of the most divisive topics amongst skin-care experts, with many concerned about types of products that these young consumers are using on their skin. While teens may be too young for certain actives and acids, sun protection is a practice you’re never too young to start.

While we look to our dermatologists as the epitome of perfect skin health, even the pros have made their fair share of mistakes in the early days of their skin-care journeys. With Summer quickly approaching, our minds are on all things sun protection. Ahead, New York dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD walks us through the biggest sun care tips she would give her younger self.

What is the biggest mistake you see teens make when it comes to sun protection?

“The biggest mistake teens make when it comes to sun protection is the same one that I made as a teen: not wearing enough sunscreen,” Dr. Garshick begins. “While children and teens may not realize the long-term effects, cumulative sun exposure can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer as well as the breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers in the skin, resulting in sagging and loss of elasticity. Over time, this UV exposure becomes the primary contributor to premature aging, manifesting as wrinkles, fine lines and age spots.”

What is one mistake you made as a teen in regard to sunscreen and sun protection?

While Dr. Garshick mentioned that not wearing enough SPF is one sun-protection mistake she made as a teen, she also notes application technique as another facet she hadn’t mastered in her younger years.

“One mistake I made as a teen regarding sunscreen and sun protection was not applying enough sunscreen consistently,” Dr. Garshick explains. “I also made the error of using skin-care products containing acne-fighting ingredients without considering their potential side effects, such as increased sensitivity to the sun. This combination left me vulnerable to sun damage and increased the risk of sunburns and long-term skin issues.”

How does practicing good sun protection in your teens help with skin health as you age?

While we all know that practicing proper sun protection decreases our risk of potentially deadly skin cancers, using sunscreen starting as a teen will also do wonders for your overall skin health as you age, Dr. Garshick explains.

“Practicing good sun protection in your teens lays the foundation for maintaining healthy skin as you age. By consistently using sunscreen and minimizing sun exposure during your teens, you will prevent premature aging, reduce the risk of skin cancer, preserve skin elasticity, texture and more. Proper sun care ensures a more youthful complexion in the years to come.”

What role does social media play in how teens today understand sun protection and skin health?

If we know anything about social media and teens, it’s that they’re very easily influenced. From influencers toting their extensive skin-care routines to celebrities spreading awareness about skin cancer and the dangers of UV tanning, social media has played a large role in how teens today understand sun protection.

“I believe that platforms like TikTok—better yet ‘SkinTok’—along with the significant attention from celebrities and influencers in the skin-care industry have greatly influenced how teens understand sun protection and skin health today,” Dr. Garshick says. “This increased focus on and accessibility to information through social media channels has contributed to a heightened awareness and understanding of the importance of sun protection among teenagers, compared to the past. That said, it is always important to know who you are getting your information from and make sure it is a trusted source.”

If you could give your teen self products from today to aid in sun protection, what would they be?

In a perfect world, we’d all go back in time and urge our teen selves to use (or not use) certain products, and for Dr. Garshick, if she had a time machine hand her teen self a bottle of EltaMD’s UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40 ($43).

“This great daily sunscreen is especially good for those with acne-prone skin as, in addition to offering broad-spectrum coverage, it also contains niacinamide, which calms and soothes the skin, reducing inflammation and redness that may be associated with acne flares,” Dr. Garshick explains.

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