I still remember my mom’s makeup box, sitting in the drawer next to the sink. It had a bohemian sun and moon design on the front, which opened into a treasure chest full of powders, glosses, lipsticks, and mascaras to explore. 

Getting to watch her apply makeup in the mirror, and the few times I would get to wear it for a dance recital or performance, left me yearning for the day I was old enough to wear makeup, flirt with boys and drive cars.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know growing up involved way more than just wearing makeup, flirting, and driving. 

In hindsight, I wish I had savored the sweet, innocent moments of girlhood and realized I had the whole rest of my life to grow up, but only this short amount of time to be young. 

In my search to seem older, I became more curious about makeup and the latest beauty trends I followed online. I became a dedicated student of “YouTube Academy”, where I would watch endless videos of makeup artists. I meticulously studied the way they would brush and buff their contour onto a smooth base, dampen their beauty blenders to work the concealer into their skin, and seamlessly blend eyeshadow for a harsh cut crease with sharp winged eyeliner of a soft ombre look. 

It’s true that I come from a generation of girls who learned most of their makeup skills from content creators on the internet, but technology in the makeup industry has grown exponentially since I started watching. Rather than being a hobby or a side hustle, being an influencer on TikTok is now considered a full-time job. Furthermore, the impact they have on businesses and the economy is astronomical. When they post a concealer or a cream that they “can’t live without” or that “completely changed their life”, it sells out on the brand’s website the same day. 

A lot of influencers are taking to the internet to share their makeup and skincare tips, although they aren’t professional makeup artists by any means or skin care experts at all. 

The result? Young followers hang on to every word their favorite creator says, taking it as fact and therefore, incorporating their advice into their routines as well.

But here’s where it gets complicated. Obviously marketing to young audiences is an inherent part of sales, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be putting thought into who the real audience is for these products and the impact they will have on a young viewer.

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The first product that comes to mind that’s guilty of poor marketing initiatives are the Drunk Elephant skincare products. Drunk Elephant products contain peptides and retinols designed to soften the appearance of wrinkles, brightening, and smoothing, to emulate younger looking skin. This means that these products are not designed to be used on soft, supple 11-year-old’s skin, and can actually be damaging to their skin barriers due to the harshness of the chemicals used in the products.

(Source: Ulta, Drunk Elephant)

I feel that there needs to be accountability on the part of the influencers and the brands they promote by acknowledging who their desired audience really is and understanding the demographics of the followers for specific content creators. 

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Source: Allure, 2018

Many little girls are now becoming not just curious, but obsessed, with using all the makeup and skin care products that they see their favorite influencers using. However, these products often come from high-end brands with high-end prices, using ingredients that weren’t formulated for children!! They don’t necessarily understand that these videos are just another business move and a way to make money as an influencer. Their favorite influencers are paid to rave about how much they love the product in exchange for a check; yet children believe these creators reviews at face value. 

Even the Sephora workers have responded to the “skincraze” phenomenon that’s taking over their stores. They report that the 11-year-olds in Sephora are out of control, always asking for the same brands and products that are going viral on TikTok. They’re known to be disrespectful to employees when they’re unable to accommodate their request due to the popular demand for these products in certain shades that everyone wants. They’ve even destroyed or damaged displays, using Sephora locations as their own personal playground to try everything and pay for nothing. 

Maybe there are certain stores where it is acceptable for children to run free and be wild, but a place like Sephora isn’t one of them. Sephora has a reputation for being a high-end beauty provider, primarily appealing to adult women and young adults looking for products that are a step above what you’d find at the drug store. Sephora carries a wide range of luxury brands such as Dior, Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent and more. I’m talking about over $100 dollar eyeshadow palettes and foundations, not child’s play.  

If this new influx of young shoppers is off-putting to the desired, mature customers, Sephora will be looking at losing their most reliable and highest spending customer base.

Beauty trends that gain extreme traction on TikTok lead to products selling out, which is obviously great for business for those industries with products going viral. Ultimately, brands hope that their products will go viral on TikTok to generate a fast and reliable influx of sales generated by the influencer and their loyal following. 

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While this may seem like a success for the beauty industry, I think it’s important to talk about the implications of young girls being so obsessed with following beauty trends and feeling the pressure to always have the hottest new product. 

They’re little girls. They should be able to be little girls. 

They have their whole lives to grow up, wear makeup, and do skincare, and by the time they actually need it, they’ll be cursing the pimples and fine lines they’re trying to erase. 

Many girls my age wish we could go back to the days of clear, soft looking skin, but the ones who have it are too busy covering their faces in layers of serums and moisturizers and makeup to enjoy it! 

The idea that we constantly need to be purchasing the next best thing feeds overconsumption in a capitalist landscape. Technology’s ability to expand the reach of beauty brands has created a new, younger audience to market their products to, fueled by the popularity of TikTok.

I don’t say this to discourage little girls from doing makeovers with friends or family, because a little lip gloss and some shimmer never hurt anybody. I’m simply arguing that a child doesn’t need a retinol cream from Drunk Elephant or an Armani foundation in middle school, nor should they feel not cool enough if they don’t have it. 

I advise all young girls and parents of young girls to be mindful of their shopping habits and conscious of what ingredients are going in the products you’re influenced to buy. 

And to the influencers who promote these products, although I understand you’re doing a job by working with a brand, I urge you to consider your audience and what products align with whoever that audience is when choosing brand deals.  

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