Skin care shoppers are getting younger — and it’s not because of all the antiaging creams on offer.
Among TikTok posts pranking her mother Kim Kardashian with fake eyebrows and sped up dancing videos of her siblings, North West has been showing off her skin care routine.
The nine-year-old, whose father is Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, has been busy making GRWM (get ready with me) videos featuring a number of products, including Vitamasques Electrolyte Watermelon Dace Sheet Mask, Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask, Cerave Moisturizing Cream — and, of course, products from her mother’s skin care line, Skkn by Kim.
Her cousin Penelope Disick, age 10, has a skin care routine, according to the TikTok account she shares with her mother, Kourtney Kardashian Barker. Again, keeping it in the family, she appears to use Kylie Skin Makeup Melting Cleanser, followed by Honest Beauty Organic Beauty Facial Oil and Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin Hydrating Facial Mist among others products.
While the posts have split public opinion on whether this is too young to have a skin care routine, one thing is certain: skin care is becoming more popular among pre-teens, aka Generation Alpha, who, armed with research, appear to be more ingredient savvy than ever. This generation are born between 2010 and 2024 and by 2025 is forecast to be 2.5 billion strong globally.
A large part of this interest in skin care has been driven by TikTok, the social media platform owned by ByteDance known initially for its viral dance videos that is now playing a big role in younger audience’s rising interest in all aspects of beauty, especially the treatment category.
According to the NPD’s 2022 consumer report, 67 percent of Gen Z females, which it categorizes as between ages 13 and 25, use skin care products. Gen Z females use on average 5.5 products per day, which is on par with the overall average for all age groups. Facial cleansers and lip balms are the most used types of products by Gen Z and they remained steady versus 2021.
This is the youngest age category the NPD has research on, but dermatologists, retailers and brands report that increasingly, Alphas are also getting in on the action.
“Some of the tweens are definitely getting more into skin care. I’ve noticed it for a few years,” said Dr. Amy Wechsler, a Manhattan-based physician who is board certified in both dermatology and psychiatry. “I have an 11-year-old neighbor who is so into it. She recently showed me and my daughter her skin care routine and she’s very proud of it. She’s doing a great job and she wears sunscreen everyday.”
According to Wechsler, part of this is not new, it’s just more public. “I wasn’t that kid to play with my mom’s makeup, but I have plenty of friends who were,” she continued. “It’s just that there wasn’t social media or phones so there was no way that it got around. It’s picking up on a trend that was always there, but now has become much bigger because of access to information.”
So far, Wechsler hasn’t seen this trend having a negative impact on clients’ mental health or self image, noting that tweens are interested in learning about their skin and how to keep it healthy.
“I think it’s really good to get into a skin care routine and doing it a little bit younger that’s great,” she added. “When they’re experimenting with makeup sometimes it can be a bit much, but I always say ‘make sure you wash your face every night before you go to sleep and if any product you put on your face hurts or stings or gives you an itchy rash or any problem, you have to obviously stop using it and tell your parents so that you’re not hurting yourself.’ Some of these masks, for example the charcoal and clay masks, are very, very drying and some of these kids are using them way too frequently and irritating their skin.”
As this trend plays out, retailers are increasing their offering for a younger audience, and a crop of specialist brands are popping up to cater for this generations’ skin care needs, many which go beyond the acne-oriented offerings that are standard fare for tweens and teens. More established brands are opening themselves up to a new demographic, too.
“We have made a concerted effort to offer accessibly priced skin care brands that deliver on efficacy and the prestige experience, all of which we know to be important to this shopper (who is in fact quite well-educated on the category),” said Brooke Banwart, senior vice president of merchandising and skin care at Sephora.
Chiming in with the theme of education and research when it comes to shopping for products, NPD found that 70 percent of Gen Z females said that they look for clean ingredients in the skin care products, more than any other generational cohort, while 66 percent of Gen Z females say that they research online, but usually purchase at a store.
Popular brands among younger shoppers at Sephora include The Ordinary, The Inkey List, Paula’s Choice, Peace Out Skincare, and its in-house brand, Sephora Collection.
“This younger generation is very savvy, so they are looking for brands that offer great value in terms of performance for price, but also align with their values, such as sustainability,” said Banwart, stressing, though, that they’re not only shopping brands that “skew young” or brands at a certain price point.
Like Wechsler, she attributed the rise in interest in part due to social media, namely TikTok.
“With the rise of TikTok, clients of all ages, but especially Gen Z, have become well-versed in skin care ingredients and their benefits,” she said. “We’re absolutely seeing this reflected in terms of who is shopping our assortment and what they’re seeking out.”
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Penny Coy, vice president of merchandising at Ulta Beauty, is also seeing this trend at play, with younger shoppers focused on research and ingredients.
“Things that come up on TikTok we can see the sales line immediately take off whether they’re new products or products that have been in our assortment for quite some time. You just all of a sudden see such a lift and then that lift stays for quite a while,” she told Beauty Inc.
In particular, Ulta has seen traction with derm-recommended brands such as Cerave, Cetaphil and La Roche Posay. In the prestige segment, younger guests have been gravitating to brands including Clinique, Drunk Elephant, Tula and Super Goop.
“I read a headline that SPF is cool with the younger generation and we are certainly seeing that with the demographics and some of our our key sun care brands like Super Goop and Vacation,” Coy added.
Acne patches are also a popular item among tweens and teens at Ulta, as are brands that are broadly targeted at these demographics such as Bubble, Florence by Mills and Kinship.
One brand aimed at all age categories that has garnered more interest among tweens and teens is CeraVe, owned by L’Oréal. #CeraVe has more than 4.1 billion views on TikTok. “We’ve seen social platforms like TikTok play a major role in attracting new, younger users and introducing new audiences to skin care,” said Jasteena Gill, vice president of marketing at CeraVe.
While she attributed CeraVe’s success to a combination of factors, Gill added that the brand has seen a direct impact from TikTok “skinfluencers” who have expanded skin care education and product recommendations through digestible pieces of content that resonate with younger audiences.
In the acne patches space is Starface, stocked in Target, Walmart, Amazon and CVS in the U.S. Founded by former Elle.com beauty director Julie Schott and Brian Bordainick in 2019, the brand is known for its Hydro Stars pimple patches and also has a range of other products.
“We were really founded on the premise around acne specifically and that 95 percent of people experience this at some point in their lives and it’s always been this kind of troubling moment for youth specifically,” said Kara Brothers, president and general manager of Starface. “We wanted to turn that entirely on its head and turn this moment of having acne or a pimple into a moment of optimism and even self expression at any age. But that being said, we’ve really resonated with teenagers and young adults specifically.” Tweens, too, are discovering Starface on TikTok for the first time, she noted.
Much of its education is centered around Big Yellow, a “super friendly cube” that holds Hydro Stars. “That’s kind of the voice that we use when we talk about acne and pimples and our products specifically.”
Then there’s Gen Z beauty brand Florence by Mills, launched by then 15-year-old “Stranger Things” star Millie Bobby Brown in 2019. It just introduced its H2Glo line, with products including Plump to It Hydrating Facial Moisturizer, Surfing Under the Eye Hydrating Treatment Gel Pads and True to Hue pH Adjusting Lip and Cheek Balm.
According to Samantha Fiock, vice president of marketing at Florence by Mills, its target customers are people like Brown, “who want the same things she wanted out of a beauty brand, but couldn’t find — vegan, cruelty-free, clean, while still being affordable, and really cater to the beauty needs of a teen.”
Although more brands have entered the category since its launch, Fiock said the hunger for more education and more products hasn’t abated. “What we have seen is more interest in education from tweens/teens,” she said. “A desire for more education really stems from social media — TikTok and YouTube specifically.”
Julie Bowen of “Modern Family” fame is another actress getting into the sector, recently launching JB Skrub, a skin care brand for boys and those who identify with boyhood, with executive Jill Biren. They launched direct-to-consumer with five stock keeping units: a body wash and body spray for $20 each, a $16 face wash, $18 face lotion and $20 toner pads. Self-funded, they project seven-figure sales in their first year.
“The goal was to give kids ownership of their hygiene routine,” Bowen told WWD earlier this year when the brand launched.
Another newcomer to the space — at least in the U.S. — is Allkinds, an Australian brand of daily skin and body care essentials to help kids and teens stay fresh and have fun while getting ready. Products include Bondi Beach Club Whipped Shower Foam, Superfresh Game on Body Scrub, Intergalactic Deep Cleansing Bath and Sweet Talk Body Spray.
The clean ingredient-focused company doesn’t divide its ranges by girls and boys, leaving it to the kids to decide which products they want.
Since its launch in 2021, the brand has grown fast in its home country and now has 11 stores, including Westfield Miranda and Westfield Bondi Junction in New South Wales and Burnside in South Australia. It has launched a website in the U.S. and is looking to increase its footprint in the country this year.
Again, like other brands, word has traveled fast on social media, especially TikTok, which for AllKinds has been largely user generated, with it not even having an account to begin with.
General manager Paula Gorman described herself as somewhat of a helicopter parent when it comes to social media, but told Beauty Inc that interaction has been very positive. “We’ve now got over 150,000 followers and there’s huge growth weekly,” she said.
And that’s not all. Cosmetics brand Petite ‘n Pretty has launched a natural deodorant made especially for tweens. Made entirely free of any allergens, the deodorant has a citrus and melon scent and includes natural odor absorbers like avocado and coconut oils. It will be available for $14 at Ulta Beauty, Amazon, Neiman Marcus, Saks and Nordstrom Rack among others later this month.
Samantha Cutler, ceo and founder of Petite ‘n Pretty, said: “Starting off your skincare journey is just as important as introducing healthy foods at a young age. Your skin in the largest organ on your body, and self-care, protecting your skin from pollutants, blue light, the sun and other environmental aggressors can prove to have an impact on your skincare health later in life. Not only is skincare the most important part of your beauty routine, it’s fun.”
For all these brands, these demographics mark a huge growth opportunity as it is expected that Generation Alpha and Gen Z will remain interested in skin care and skin health as they age, continuing their education.
Indeed, together Generation Alpha and Gen Z are expected to have a sociocultural and economic impact equal to that of their parents or older siblings, the Millennials.
“As they grow older, they’ll adapt their skin care regimen to their needs,” Coy said. “So it’s very exciting that they’re establishing healthy skin care routines now.”
- Via TikTok, teens and tweens are highly educated skin care users despite their youth.
- Clean, vegan and sustainable are key attributes Alphas look for in products.
- Acne is a common concern, but tweens are also avid purchasers of sun protection and elevated basics.