Sephora kids: Why tweens are buying expensive skincare routines  

TikTok users say kids and tweens are taking over Sephora, buying anti-aging creams and makeup and leaving a mess in their wake

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TikTokers are claiming their once-peaceful Sephora experience is being ruined by 10-year-old girls.

Videos posted to the popular social media app TikTok show lines of young girls waiting to purchase beauty products like concealer and lipstick along with reports of children asking for anti-aging skincare products from high-end brands like Drunk Elephant. Other videos on the app showcase makeup testers and displays ruined.

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The kids accused, Generation Alpha, are expected to have approximately US$5.39 trillion spent on them by the end of 2024, according to McCrindle, an Australia-based data analytics agency. For some in the youngest generation, it seems they’re taking their money to Sephora. Here’s everything you need to know about why #SephoraKids has been trending on social media.

What’s the controversy?

Young girls are coming into Sephora demanding products and leaving the store a mess, according to videos posted to TikTok. In early January, “storytime” videos — longer video-content where the creator is talking to the camera — posted by Sephora employees and customers, soared in popularity on the app. Each person shared similar sentiments: bad encounters with young girls at the store.

On TikTok, there are videos of seemingly young girls in Sephora taking free disposable makeup brushes and making “skincare smoothies” — mixing different tester products and leaving it for customers or employees to find.

In a video posted by user @OliviaVaphiades, she shares her experience as a former Sephora employee. She says a young girl came up to her asking for a skincare product by the costly brand Drunk Elephant. When Vaphiades replied it was sold out, the young girl allegedly swore at her and begrudgingly asked for a retinol product instead, which is typically used for anti-aging.

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In a statement posted to Instagram on Dec. 8, 2023, Drunk Elephant  defended the trend of young girls buying their products. “Many of our products are designed for all skin, including kids and tweens,” the company said. However, the brand went on to encourage kids to “stay away from our most potent products” like acids and retinols.

Why is Generation Alpha obsessed with skincare and makeup?

Despite many TikTokers sharing their Sephora horror-stories, some moms on the app have tried explaining their daughters’ obsession with the store.

A self-proclaimed “Mom of an 11-year-old who shops at Sephora” posted to TikTok to explain her reasoning as to why she believes her daughter shops at the high-end beauty store. TikToker @Briannawasthere, says her daughter sees her walk out of the house everyday with “a full face of makeup on.” She believes it’s inevitable that her daughter will have been introduced to makeup at a young age.

Dr. Sonya Cook, a board-certified dermatologist, believes because kids are so “hooked” to social media, they become more knowledgeable on skincare products like vitamin C and retinol, causing them to want to use the products, even if they’re not needed. Additionally, she says, if they see a parental figure using skincare products, they will want to try it, too.

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Other moms on TikTok post videos taking their daughters to Sephora, some as young as five-years-old. In a video posted by the user @em.lauren, a mother takes her five-year-old to Sephora for the first time. The child picks out a concealer and pays using a gift card. It is unclear what her end purchase is.

In another video, a mom documents her 11-year-old’s journey through the store. User @michellesays asks her daughter’s favourite skincare brand, she replies with Drunk Elephant or Glow Recipe. Later in the video, the mother acknowledges the number of children throughout the store. “I literally saw at least six girls under the age of 13 in the Sol De Janeiro section,” she says.

What products should kids and tweens be using?

Cook says for kids and tweens that are already experiencing acne, over the counter products containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are gentle for their skin, but a mild retinol product is also suitable.

Retinol is “an amazing skincare molecule,” said Cook. She says the skincare product has the most evidence as an anti-aging product “because it stimulates the production of collagen in the skin.” However, it can also be used to treat acne in people as young as eight-years-old. Still, it should only be used if a child actually has a skin problem.

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While there are no known long-term repercussions of children using acids and retinols, says Cook, their skin can start to feel dry, or look red and peel because of the active ingredients in the products.

“There’s no sense in people that don’t have a skin problem, first of all, to be treating themselves for that … they end up irritating their skin and causing that kind of a problem.”

The best skincare routine for young kids, according to Cook, is a gentle soap-free cleanser, wearing sunscreen every day and moisturizing, especially in Canadian winters.

“When you get into the habit of doing something and taking care of your skin at a young age, you’re more likely to continue that throughout your life because you see it as self-care.”

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