Are Teenagers Obsessing Too Much About Skin Care?

Are Teenagers Obsessing Too Much About Skin Care?

Is anyone you know especially interested in skin care? Do they seem to know, or want to know, everything about various products, skin types and beauty treatments? Are you someone who fits into this category?

The New York Times recently reported that beauty stores like Sephora and Ulta are seeing a surge in new customers: tweens and teens on the hunt for acne and anti-aging skin care products that are meant for adults.

Why do you think skin care is so popular with young people right now? What do you think about this trend?

In the guest essay “Toxic Beauty Standards Can Be Passed Down,” Alexandra D’Amour writes that the enthusiasm teenagers — and their mothers — have for skin care veers into unhealthy territory:

Wrinkles are the new enemy, and it seems Gen Z — and their younger sisters — are terrified of them. A recent video on TikTok that has garnered more than eight million views features a 28-year-old woman showing her “raw,” procedure-free face, meaning no Botox or fillers. As some women and girls cheered on her bravery, others were left horrified. “Praying I’ll never look like that,” one comment read.

Gen Z-ers are being introduced to the idea of starting treatments early as preventive treatment. They are growing up in a culture of social media that promotes the endless pursuit of maintaining youth — and at home, some of them are watching their mothers reject aging with every injectable and serum they can find. Jessica DeFino, a beauty writer, recently coined the term Serum Mom to describe a mother who is “obsessed with meeting a certain standard of beauty and nurtures the same obsession in her children.”

For me, lessons of preventive skin care came from social media, not my mother. I was a few years shy of 30, digging into Instagram and series like Emily Weiss’s Into the Gloss’s Top Shelf. My skin care regimen suddenly became a 10-part routine, each step promising beauty and extended youth.

Since then, the rise of TikTok seems to have increased the way anti-aging beauty standards are consumed and internalized. Many girls and women now have endless access to social media posts of skin-care purchase hauls and plastic surgery before-and-after slide shows.

There’s a nickname for tweens and teenagers who have been influenced by social media to get into skin care: Sephora Kids. Johanna Almstead, a fashion industry friend, tells me that in her local mothers group chat, nearly every mom had “Skincare, skincare, skincare!” on the holiday gift lists they were given — by their fifth graders. Her 10-year-old daughter doesn’t have access to social media, but she is exposed to this skin care obsession through friends, who are copying TikTok beauty influencers and whose parents are buying the products for them — acids, peels and toners — even though many of these products are meant for actually aging or acne-prone skin.

Representatives for the pricey brand Drunk Elephant (a tween favorite) posted on Instagram in December a list of products safe for kids and tweens. Buying a 10-year-old a colorfully packaged lip gloss or adult moisturizer may seem trivial, but it seems to me it can create a pipeline to a 15-year-old discussing forehead wrinkles on TikTok. We need to be wary of how the cosmetics industry can manipulate both mothers and kids and how, by backing it, we as mothers create a new set of worries for our children.

Students, read the entire essay and then tell us:

  • What do you think about what you just read? Did anything surprise you? Does the essay feel accurate to you in terms of the interest people your age and younger have in skin care regimens and products?

  • Ms. D’Amour writes that purchasing a young person skin care products meant for adults can “create a pipeline to a 15-year-old discussing forehead wrinkles on TikTok.” Do you think this theoretical “pipeline” is concerning? Is it concerning that some teens and tweens worry about wrinkles?

  • Ms. D’Amour writes:

Mothers are both victims and perpetrators of a culture that sells women the lie that we aren’t enough exactly as we are. And yet, if a mother’s insecurity can fuel her daughter’s own self-loathing, a mother’s radical self-love might just protect and even heal her daughter from a toxic culture.

What do these ideas mean to you? Have any adults talked to you about taking care of your skin or dealing with insecurities about your physical appearance? What sorts of messages do you get from your parents or other adults in your life about body image? Do you think they struggle with their own feelings about “being enough”? Or are they at peace when it comes to their looks? Do you think social media also affects how they see themselves?

  • Have you heard of “looksmaxxers,” an online community of young men devoted to making the most of their looks? Do boys also deal with pressures and insecurities about their looks because of what they see online and hear from other people?

  • Do you have any role models or people whom you admire for their approach to their appearance? Why do you look up to them? What have you learned from them?

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public and may appear in print.

Find more Student Opinion questions here. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate these prompts into your classroom.