Kids' New Obsession? Skincare
The age of Sephora Kids
Young girls are filling up Sephora in droves. Gone are the days when Claire’s held enough sparkle and zest to hold the fascination of tween girls. The Generation Alpha (ages 14 and younger) is interested in something different - their skin.
Onlookers are perplexed trying to reconcile the scenes of girls as young as 10 years old rummaging through the aisles of Sephora in hopes of finding the trendiest skin care, specifically from the likes of Drunk Elephant, Bubble, Sol de Janeiro and Rare Beauty (to name a few). Why are children begging their parents to buy them anti-aging cream?
Before we jump on the bandwagon of criticizing the new generation, we should try to understand in what ways it’s similar and different to what we’ve experienced. We were all influenced by beauty standards growing up and we definitely had trends - Remember EOS lip balm? Hollister body sprays? St. Ives scrubs? Teeth whitening strips? Or even using toothpaste to treat pimples… In many ways, we were once just like them - begging our parents or older relatives to buy whatever fad was in, disregarding whether it worked or was age appropriate. We too found excitement in mirroring people and trends that were considered popular.
Playing “Grown Up” or “Dress Up” is hardly a new phenomenon. Kids replicate what they see, and the allure of cosplaying as an adult is timeless. Children have long been fascinated with their mom’s or older sister’s creams, perfumes, lipsticks and clothes. However, with the ever increasing popularity of video in social media, children are more exposed to trends and fads like never before - whether it’s through watching their mom get ready, or watching a GRWM of their favorite influencers on Tik Tok.
Skincare isn’t just harmless fun
While playing “grown up” can be innocent fun, the behaviors of children seem more extreme and more concerning now - specifically their fixation on buying products that can have adverse effects on their skin. In light of the uptick in young consumers, dermatologists and even skin care brands themselves have released statements cautioning that certain products and chemicals are harmful for young skin.
In an online article, board-certified dermatologist, Rachel Westbay, warns against children using adult skincare products, “Teenagers do not need to be using vitamin C serums, retinoids for anti-aging purposes, chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids, nor the vast majority of TikTok trending toners, serums, and masks”. Supporting this perspective, dermatologist Dr. Jeffy adds that, "These products are likely to cause irritation to the skin barrier…the other concern is that constant inflammation in the skin can actually negatively affect collagen down the line."
According to dermatologists, children should not have elaborate routines and should only be considering light cleansers, moisturizers and sunscreen.
In a recent instagram post, Drunk Elephant addressed the frequently asked concern: “Can kids and tweens use Drunk Elephant?” They answered: “Yes! Many of our products are designed for all skin, including kids and tweens. First, I would say stay away from our more potent products that include acids and retinols—their skin does not need these ingredients quite yet.” They went on to outline a list of products that are “safe for kids and tweens to use”.
Developing anxiety at a young age
More insidious than the potential physical implications, people are concerned about the mental implications of fixating on appearance at such a young age. With videos of children doing elaborate skincare routines to slow down their aging process, parents believe this could be a dangerous pretext for increased anxiety and obsession over appearance in a particularly vulnerable population.
In an article by The Cut, dermatologist Jessica Weiser warns, “[young girls] watch TikTok videos and then buy a load of products based on an influencer’s recommendations. Not only is this not good for their skin, it can also be damaging to the psyche. There’s immense pressure to have a ‘perfect’ complexion that appears, from these influencers, to be attainable only through expensive products and complex skin-care routines.”
Though there are countless studies and research that shows the potential negative impact of social media and influencer culture on self-esteem, it is important to consider to what extent the anxieties and fears of adults are being projected onto kids. Is there a way to embrace the world of children’s skincare, while minimizing the potential harms?
Why are children drawn to skincare?
A boon for kids who aren’t allowed to wear makeup
Unlike in the past where high maintenance skincare regimens mainly targeted persons suffering with chronic issues like severe acne, skincare could now be seen as a fun and safe alternative to makeup. GRWMs and morning/night routines have made the world of skin care as special and aspirational as makeup, but more inclusive. Children who aren’t allowed to wear makeup could be gravitating to skin care as a more age-appropriate alternative that allows them to express themselves without crossing age-inappropriate boundaries.
Routines help regain a sense of control during transitional periods of life
The transition from child to tween to teenager are pivotal phases. For many adults, having a routine helps give them a sense of control - could this also be the case for the younger generation as well? A detailed and thoughtful skin care routine could inspire feelings of calm and control over their lives during a time that is typically seen as confusing and tumultuous.
While the unsupervised use of adult skin care has been clearly shown to have dire implications for young girls, there is an opportunity to make puberty fun and exciting, rather than terrifying. It could offer an opportunity for children to feel like they have a sense of control and stability in an otherwise rapidly changing body and world.
How do we rethink children’s skincare?
Skin care, like haircare, can be an explorative and bonding activity
Rather than dismissing this trend outright, parents are finding ways to turn skincare into a positive and educational experience, sharing strategies to ensure their children have fun while learning about their skin. We can see a parallel emerging between skin care and hair care. Both can be viewed as a rite of passage that parents take pride and care in guiding their children through. Rather than giving them free reign to pick, choose and refuse products solely based on trends, they try to steer them away from products that are potentially harmful, and teach them about products that are best for their skin.
A segue to practicing personal hygiene and self care
More so, parents have also used their child’s interest in skin care as an opportunity to begin teaching them about the importance of personal hygiene , and how that contributes to a larger concept of self care. Skincare can become a segue into broader discussions about taking care of oneself, laying the foundation for a lifelong understanding of health and well-being.
What Next? An emerging industry
While the scenes of children swarming the aisles of beauty stores might evoke mixed emotions, at core, it unveils a profound interest in skincare among the younger generation. There's an opportunity here to redefine the narrative. Instead of viewing it solely as a cause for concern, it's a chance to curate a category of safe, non-toxic products tailored to the needs of young skin. By approaching skincare as a positive and educational experience, it’s possible to transform this new interest into an avenue for fostering a sense of control, self-expression, and foundational lessons in personal care for the next generation.
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