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Sephora Kids and the Power of Social Media

Some kids have become obsessed with beauty, typically influenced by TikTok.

Kids see products in beauty stores like toys, wanting to play with them all. Illustration by Kaitlin Morton

A phenomenon has emerged on social media that has kids swarming into Sephora and Ulta stores to buy beauty products. How will this impact them and the environment, and how can parents help?

Young kids and tweens, now known as “Sephora Kids,” are all about skincare and makeup, and their obsession can be directly linked to TikTok.

TikTok has been a huge catalyst for trends among tweens and teens. Brands advertise on the platform and market to target customers using demographic data from users.

@garzacrew Just for fun 😋#genalphainfluencers #genalpha ♬ original sound – Garza Crew

Another marketing tactic companies use is influencers, who are especially important in getting people to buy products.

Influencers collaborate with brands and make videos using their products to convince others to buy them. Many TikTok users have favorite influencers who they idolize, and want to buy any products they use.

About 25% of US TikTok users are aged 10 to 19 and likely lack financial awareness. TikTok Shop, a new feature on the app, has made it significantly easier for users, including kids, to buy products.

When an influencer advertises a product, they often put a link to the product on TikTok Shop. Once a fan sees their video, buying the product only takes a couple of clicks.

Even if kids don’t know how to use or need it, they ask their parents to buy a product because they don’t want to feel left out of a trend.

Beauty products are the new toys

According to Stanford Medicine, about 25% of children have phones by age 10, and 75% by age 12. Almost all children have phones by age 15 and with Instagram and TikTok being the biggest apps in the world, they’re likely to be the first apps children download.

In the past, parents were influenced by TV ads to buy toys for their kids, but now kids are the ones being advertised to. Just like many Gen Z kids and generations before wanted all the same toys as their friends, Gen Alpha kids want all the same beauty products. Due to their price, having makeup and skincare at a young age is a status symbol.

Dermatologists recommend a simple skincare routine for kids and tweens, including gentle cleansers, moisturizers, and sunscreen. Many skincare ingredients in additional products may harm very young skin.

When entering a Sephora or Ulta, Sephora Kids will go straight to the products they’ve seen on social media. People have documented them going into stores unsupervised, destroying shelves, taking samples, and being rude to workers. This has led to some stores locking up their samples.

These beauty stores encourage shoppers to ask for recommendations from workers and try on products. However, many children going in alone or with their friends don’t yet have the social skills to get the intended experience.

Sephora Kids’ favorite products

Certain skincare and beauty products have been trendy for kids, many of which are not safe or appropriate for them.

Drunk Elephant is among the most popular skincare brands on social media, especially among kids. Many of their products focus on specific skin problems that typically arise in adulthood.

Drunk Elephant’s products range from $19 for a lip balm to $99 for a 3.3 fluid ounce bottle of polypeptide cream.

White bottle with pink/red cap from Drunk Elephant.
Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream, $28 to $74. Credit: Drunk Elephant

Some kids have even started using anti-aging skincare as early as 9 years old. An example is retinol, an ingredient that smooths fine lines and wrinkles on aging skin.

The company itself advises against kids using some of their products.

Drunk Elephant wrote on its FAQ page, “Can Drunk Elephant be used by children? Yes, however not every product in our line should be used by younger fans, 12 and under.”

They also recommend that parents advise their kids on what products are best for them.

Left: Bubble skincare product with open lid and cream on top. Right: Drunk Elephant product with open lid and cream on top mixed with another product.
Bubble moisturizer and Drunk Elephant skincare smoothie. Credit: Bubble and Drunk Elephant

The colorful caps on Drunk Elephant products make them collectible items among kids.

Many of these products have pumps, a fun feature that has become popular for making “skincare smoothies.” Bubble is another skincare brand that kids rage over for this feature, and it caters its products more to kids.

Left: tube of Rare Beauty pink blush. Right: tube of Dior pink lip oil.
Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Liquid Blush and Dior Addict Lip Glow Oil. Credit: Rare Beauty and Dior

Makeup is also an obsession among Sephora Kids, and many of the brands they like are on the expensive side.

Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez and the luxury brand Dior are two of the most popular.

The impact and the solution

Microtrends are accelerated trends that last a month instead of a season. They gain popularity on social media apps like TikTok and quickly become unpopular. Followers of these trends buy things when they’re popular and may not get their full use before throwing them away.

During the Golden Age of Consumerism in the 1950s and 60s, goods became less expensive and able to sell on a large scale. The current Digital Era has made it even easier to buy things online.

The emergence of TikTok Shop and young kids having access to social media encourages overconsumption. Massive amounts of waste are created every year and the manufacturing of beauty products uses fossil fuels.

Not only is overconsumption bad for the environment, but it could have negative consequences on Gen Alpha. Will kids with social media and beauty products instead of toys grow up too fast or develop self-esteem issues?

Parents can support kids who want to participate in beauty trends by researching safe skincare for them and teaching them financial responsibility. With the popularity of social media, it’s more important than ever to teach kids to be comfortable with their natural beauty and that they don’t need everything their friends or favorite influencers have.

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Tenley Brown is a sophomore in college studying anthropology. She loves traveling and learning about different cultures.

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