When my eight-year-old requested Drunk Elephant Bronzing Drops and Bubble Slam Dunk Moisturiser for her birthday, I was shocked. Why would she want an all-over glow? How did she know the full name of a moisturiser? Surely, she should still be playing make-believe with barbie? There's been a lot of chatter about the popularity of preteen skincare routines, but I was surprised it had reached my relatively sheltered daughter, who has never paid attention to brands or my rather large skin care collection before. So I asked the question: "Where did you get that from?", to be told, rather nonchalantly, "a video".
A recent YouGov poll found that 46 percent of six to 11-year-olds have an active social media account, despite platforms implementing age restrictions, solidifying their online presence. I have a strict no TikTok and Instagram rule, so was blindsided to find the trend had managed to infiltrate the often deemed 'safer' social media platforms YouTube Kids and YouTube shorts, which proves nowhere is safe from influencer marketing.
"Gen Alpha [those born between 2010 and 2023] have grown up online and are extremely savvy when it comes to social media," explains Shai Eisenman, founder of Bubble Skincare. "They are more advanced than any other generation and they are looking for ways to feel connected to a community and find these through brand-focused communities."
Currently #genalphaskincare has had over 15.7 million views on TikTok and, on average, skin care videos aimed at this group receives around 200,000 views each. It is no surprise when you have the likes of Kim Kardashian's daughter North West, 10, and cousin Penelope Disick, 11, regularly posting their skincare and makeup routines.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photogrpahy/Lauren Ezekiel
I spent the next hour watching countless videos of cute preteens donning towelling headbands and talking about how satisfying it is to use a pump moisturiser to understand the phenomenon. What was becoming clear was the same videos that had previously convinced a generation they needed endless pots of slime or to unwrap a million different layers of plastic to reveal more plastic junk were now pushing beauty products to the offspring of unsuspecting parents around the world. And it's been working, with skin care sales for Gen Alpha increasing by 19 percent, according to CNBC, last year.
As a beauty editor, I have always been an advocate of beauty routines and how they can be used as a self-care tool. I believe it is neither frivolous, vain, or unnecessary. My skin care ritual has seen me through some of the darkest times. It anchors me when I feel out of control and gives me a space to reconnect and ground myself when I need a moment.
While the preteen skin care chat has received a lot of negativity online from outraged parents or those who have been mum-shaming others, I'm keen to pass the message of self-care on to my children. Kids are going to be online, and they are going to be influenced by their friends. It's unavoidable. Which is why I'm determined to turn this into a positive.
As a beauty editor, I have always been an advocate of beauty routines and how they can be used as a self-care tool. I believe it is neither frivolous, vain, or unnecessary.
Suzy Reading, psychologist and self-care expert agrees. "By teaching preteens that a skin care habit can be an expression of self-respect and showing yourself tenderness it can benefit them later on," she tells POPSUGAR. The way to guarantee healthy habits is to stop focusing on the expensive formulas or branded products, and focus on using the moment to connect and take care of yourself. Which we all deserve.
After checking the formula, I gave the okay to Bubble Slam Dunk Moisturiser (£16) which is a pretty solid option for young, sensitive skin. The Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser (£10) is a good cleansing option, too. Or the Knightly Adventures Oat and Chamomile Hand and Face Wash (£3) which is aimed at children. I explained that bronzing drops was something she did not need at the moment.
I discussed in length with my daughter, showing some striking visuals of barrier damage, how retinol is not suitable for young skin, no matter what YouTube tells her. There is no need to exfoliate with an acid (luckily the word was enough to put my daughter off), showed the Drunk Elephant statement about not targeting young people, and stressed no matter how many of the same products you buy, you will never look like another person. And that's a good thing.
My hope is that by giving the tools to make informed choices, and not turning skincare or makeup into a controversial or taboo subject, it will promote better decisions when I'm not around. As well as keep beauty and skin care an open conversation.
I also suggested a pamper party for her birthday . . . I was determined the skin care conversation would be positive and set about planning the evening for her and a few friends. Within hours I was shown videos of the desired set up and an itemised list of all the activities she wanted to include. Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake's "Better Place" would be the soundtrack, pink would be the colour theme (but no unicorns), and the birthday girl needed a special 'panda' face mask. There was to be no makeup as they were 'chilling', and pyjamas were suggested for the dress code. If there is one thing to say about Gen Alpha, they know what they want and, as far as they are concerned, they deserve it.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photogrpahy/Lauren Ezekiel
This is probably a great place to add that one of the guests turned up with her own skin care products, which included a jade roller. I tell no lies.
With the aesthetically appealing teepees in place thanks to Starry Night Sleepovers, there were eight little faces, all wearing a must-have towelling headband in a variety of patterns, eagerly awaiting to be shown how to cleanse their faces. Side note to parents: it's amazing how asking your kids to wash their face can be triggering, yet suggesting it is time to cleanse is met with excitement. As we rinsed the cleanser using a flannel and warm water, I made sure to ask how it felt to clean their skin. By bringing the conversation back to the feeling, it connects our relationship with skin care as an act of self care.
I then distributed face masks and let them relax for five minutes. Constantly asking them how it felt, making them aware it shouldn't ever feel uncomfortable or tingling. By keeping the conversation flowing, rather than it feeling like a lecture, they were able to engage in pampering and keep it age appropriate.
I have found these rituals are great for tweens to wind down in the evening. It's a time away from screens, for a moment of unintentional mindfulness. "Using the power of gentle touch to soothe your nervous system, is a great example of self-care," says Reading. "Let it be a mindful experience where you enjoy the aromas and the sensation of the experience."
There is clearly no need for preteens and teens to use some of the products being bandied around on social media, but by shifting the topic into a positive space helps to avoid excessive consumption, stop damaging skin barriers, and avoid £500 Sephora bills without excluding them from the skin care conversation. It could also save you an argument or two.
Overall the evening was a success. They got pampered and I got to share my expert knowledge. As the kids say, it was so satisfying.