As summer comes to an end, a new school year begins. And while you may look forward to reconnecting with your friends and starting new classes, the school year can also mark changes in your skin health. Age, hormones, and stress can all contribute to common skin concerns. Fortunately, you can get ahead of them with the right back-to-school skin care routine. Here's how to maintain healthy skin during this transitional time, whether you're headed to high school or college.

Common Skin Concerns in Teens and Young Adults

Your skin goes through many changes throughout your lifetime. Newborn baby skin is the plumpest and most perfect it will ever be. As you mature, your skin starts to reflect the passing years in the form of fine lines and dark spots. The in-between phases—adolescence and young adulthood—are usually characterized by oily skin and acne.

If you're a teenager with acne-prone skin, you're certainly not alone. Research shows that roughly 95 percent of adolescents experience acne. Acne can occur at any stage of life, but it's most common between ages 12 and 24. Blemishes and breakouts may result from clogged pores, acne-causing bacteria, and hormonal changes. Stress can also trigger acne.

Oily skin is also more likely to affect younger age groups since puberty hormones stimulate the glands that produce sebum. This can contribute to breakouts and cause your skin to appear shiny or greasy. Acne and oily skin are the most common skin concerns in adolescents and young adults, but you may also experience overactive sweat glands, warts, and eczema.

two young latin women students using laptop sitting on bench park in Mexico Latin America, hispanic girls studying

Back-to-School Skin Changes

Back-to-school season is already filled with a lot of changes: new classes, new routines, and sometimes a new school. Hormones and puberty aside, a new school year can bring about changes to your skin in a few ways.

Disrupted Routines

Taking care of your skin can feel more challenging as the new school year ramps up and you have less time to devote to your morning and evening personal care routines. For example, busy mornings might mean you skip washing your face.

Longer days away from home, spending more time in the sun during gym class and athletics, and increased stress can all pose issues to your skin, too. You may not be able to properly remove sweat from your face during long school days or wash your hands as frequently, making acne more likely to thrive. Regularly wearing makeup can also lead to breakouts. Most makeup doesn't cause acne on its own, but it can clog your pores, which can escalate quickly if you don't have a solid skin care routine in place.

Seasonal Shifts

The seasonal transition between summer and fall can also take some adjusting. During the summer months, your skin may face high temperatures, prolonged sun exposure, and fluctuations in humidity. Warmer weather can also exacerbate sweating (which many teens already struggle with). As the weather shifts to fall, colder, drier air can confuse your skin. This transition can be especially challenging for eczema-prone skin.

How to Maintain Healthy Skin: Back-to-School Skin Care Tips

It's important to feel comfortable and confident in your own skin. The American Academy of Dermatology explains that acne can cause low self-esteem and even lead to bullying. Severe breakouts can also leave behind permanent scarring. So, treating acne and maintaining good skin care habits should be at the top of your list along with paying attention in class and participating in extracurricular activities.

Here's a simple back-to-school skin care routine to keep skin concerns at bay so you can focus on living your best life.

1. Wash Your Face Twice a Day

Use a gentle facial cleanser in the morning and evening. Try a formula like EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser to break down makeup, excess sebum, and dirt without stripping the skin of its beneficial oils. This cleanser also contains enzymes to soothe inflammation, which often accompanies acne.

2. Use an Acne Treatment

You can treat mild cases of acne at home with over-the-counter acne treatments containing Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide. Salicylic Acid works by unclogging pores, while Benzoyl Peroxide banishes acne-causing bacteria. Talk to a board-certified Dermatologist about which acne treatment is best for you.

3. Moisturize

People with oily and acne-prone skin tend to skip moisturizer due to the misconception that it's only meant for dry skin types. But everyone, regardless of their skin type, can benefit from using the right moisturizer. Moisturizer supplies and seals in hydration, and it's key to any skin care routine. Despite what you might think, oily skin often lacks water, so moisturizing can help balance out this ratio and prevent your oil glands from overcompensating. Look for a lightweight, noncomedogenic moisturizer like EltaMD Skin Recovery Light Moisturizer. This formula won't feel heavy or greasy on your skin, and it won't clog your pores.

4. Wear Sunscreen Daily

There's a myth that sunscreen causes acne, but it's quite the opposite. Too much sun exposure can damage your skin barrier, contributing to the cycle of new acne breakouts. It can also darken acne scars. Wearing sunscreen daily helps acne by preventing sun damage and discoloration. Try a sunscreen formulated for oily skin like EltaMD UV Shield Broad-Spectrum SPF 45, which is lightweight, oil-free, and noncomedogenic.

Taking a Proactive Approach to Skin and Full-Body Health

If you're experiencing persistent or stubborn breakouts, visit your Derm. They can help identify what's causing your acne and prescribe a prescription treatment to combat breakouts if needed. In addition to following the above tips, explore healthy ways to cope with stress, wash your face after gym class, and avoid touching your face throughout the day. Before you know it, you'll be facing the new school year with clear, vibrant skin that radiates from the inside out.


  • Lacey Muinos

    Lacey is a Southern California-based freelance writer who combines her passions—fitness, health, and a vegan lifestyle—with her work to help readers feel and be their best. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Livestrong, Verywell Fit, Eat This Not That, KinderBeauty, and more.