Tweens — ages 9 to 12 — and teens are often eager to explore the wide world of adult beauty and body care. And they do so with gusto. A 2008 study published by the Environmental Working Group found that American teenage girls use an average of 17 personal care products each day (adult women use 12). But according to the same study, conventional beauty products are especially harmful to growing bodies because certain ingredients (see below) interfere with proper hormone function during a time of rapid change. Such disruption can damage the reproductive system, bones, immunity, and more. Studies show that exposure to toxins, even at low levels, can prompt early breast development in girls and increase their risk of breast cancer later on.

“This age group wants to feel pretty and grown-up,” says Kimberly Grustas, founder of Good For You Girls, a natural skin care brand specifically formulated for sensitive adolescent skin. “The conversation about choosing natural products can be the perfect time to discuss hormones with your tween or teen.” In addition to avoiding synthetic preservatives, fragrances, and chemicals, tweens and teens need simple, gentle skin care — not the harsh exfoliating, firming, and antiaging products used by adults, which may harm young skin's ultrasensitive pH levels. The upshot: Natural companies such as MyChelle Dermaceuticals are starting to offer products developed specifically for the younger set.

Teens Turning Green is another option for concerned parents and young people. Teens from the California nonprofit Teens for Safe Cosmetics handpicked products by seven eco-friendly companies, including EO and Alaffia, to be sold under the Teens Turning Green seal. Each product — from deodorant to moisturizers — meets strict criteria for all-natural sourcing. For more, go to teensturninggreen.org.

Ingredients TO AVOID

Ammonia
Formaldehyde
Parabens
Peroxide
Phthalates
Sodium laurel (laureth) sulfate
Triclosan
Triethanolamine