From Dolls to Dermis: The 10-Year-Old Takeover

This past Christmas, instead of dolls and toys on young girls’ wish lists, girls replaced those items with skincare and cosmetic products from brands such as Drunk Elephant, Summer Fridays and Glow Recipe. With the rise of influencers promoting these products in their “Get Ready With Me” videos on TikTok, young girls are exposed to new, flashy products that they are dying to get their hands on.

Recently, people have come forward on social media to address incidents that have arisen at Sephora stores. Children have left Sephora aisles a complete mess, with tester products destroyed or misused. Not only has this tween obsession taken over cosmetic stores, but how much do these girls know about the ingredients in the products that they are purchasing? And what marketing tactics are these brands putting in place that promote this obsession?

The TikTok effect
When analyzing where this skincare trend stems from, it is important to recognize the degree of influence that popular TikTokers have over their fans. Because influencers’ main goal is to appear relatable to their followers, fans are able to connect with them on a more personal level. With the minimum age limit of TikTok users being 13, tweens are exposed to a huge amount of content that may not be geared toward their age group specifically.

Members of “Generation Alpha” — those born from the years 2010 through 2024 — are the main target of these high-end skincare brands. For example, Drunk Elephant encourages its customers to experiment and create concoctions known as “skincare smoothies” in which different serums and retinols are mixed with moisturizers to produce a product specific to each customer’s skincare needs. Although this marketing idea seems innovative, it mainly appeals to younger girls and results in the use of products that could be too strong for their fragile skin barrier.

Youthful glow or skincare woe?
According to USA Today, dermatologists are seeing more patterns of children experiencing skin care issues that stem from their extensive skin care routines. For example, dermatologist Dr. Brooke Jeffy recalled an 11-year-old patient “who developed a severe rash around her eyes from retinol, an ingredient known for anti-aging, which she says the child insisted on using.”

Retinol is a product that is formulated for aged skin and aids in skin cell reproduction. It is also advised that people only start using retinol products around their early 20s because of its harsh contents. Elena Duque, a licensed esthetician, explained the long-term effects of applying retinol to young skin that has barely begun developing pores: “When they’re tweens, they’re going through all those hormonal changes. So, putting something like retinol or other actives like glycolic — basically any acid — it’s just a no-no and they’re really doing damage to the skin barrier.”

Although trends are constantly evolving and popular to participate in, how ethical is it to market these products to young girls? Taking advantage of Generation Alpha will most likely have long-term, negative implications for the brands and their consumer relationships.

Does the skincare and cosmetic obsession amongst young girls cross a line? Do we see a near crisis in the future?

My name is Anne Smith, and I am senior majoring in public relations at The University of Alabama. I am an editor/writer for Platform Magazine, an online, student-run publication at UA that is sponsored by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.

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