The explosion of 'Sephora kids': the obsession with cosmetic routines reaches children | Technology

Children imitate what they see, and in the age of the internet, what they see on social media are obsessive habits with perfection and beauty. The culture of skincare (skin care, in English) is the increasingly popular trend of sharing routines that involve the use of multiple products. Serum, retinol, collagen, peeling and hyaluronic acid are words that have already established themselves in everyday language. The unrealistic standards imposed by this obsessive skin care, Combined with social pressure to look impeccable, they have founded a disorder called cosmeticorexia, that defines the purchase and excessive use of skin care products. The phenomenon has spread mainly among women and in an age range that already reaches the youngest ones. Beauty stores are now flooded with girls and preteens hooked on cosmetics they don't need, and this practice not only alters the expected behaviors of this age, but can have effects on health. Skin experts warn of an increase in cases of irritation, acne and dermatitis among the youngest, as a reaction to the powerful active ingredients contained in the products they use to imitate the influencers.

It is easy to find the trend on the networks. Just use the search engine on platforms like TikTok or Instagram to find fitness routines. skincare with minors showing cosmetics as if they were toys. In one video, a nine-year-old girl walks through the aisles of a beauty store adding products to her basket. “I, as a spoiled mother, am going to let her use them and I am going to buy them for her,” explains her mother, who is recording her. The publication, accompanied by the legend Sephora kids (Sephora kids, in English, in reference to a popular beauty product store) was shared by the account Candela and Dani, who has more than 130,000 followers on TikTok. There are many similar examples on this platform, where invitations to skin care abound.

To open an account on TikTok you must be at least 13 years old, according to the policy of safety and well-being of minors on the platform. Those under that age can only appear on an account managed by an adult. Therefore, in many of the tutorials of the Sephora kids, the mothers are next to them while they apply the products. This is the case of Kassie, a six-year-old American girl who looks at the camera with her mother sharing her facial care and makeup routine in a video that has been viewed more than 33 million times.

To measure the rise of beauty routines It is enough to observe the data referring to the volume of content related to these practices on large digital platforms. In the Google search engine, the word skincare has appeared more and more over time, with an accelerated rise since the pandemic, the year of TikTok's big explosion. In this social network there are about 17 million publications under the hashtag #skincare. Furthermore, the labels #SephoraKids either #ChildSkincare (skin care for children) grow in content and accumulate more than 400 million views.

Increase in dermatitis

Dermatologist Alejandro Lobato recently received a 13-year-old patient at the Sea Hospital in Barcelona. In the consultation, the boy, accompanied by his mother, showed him the “eight or nine products” between creams, masks and shampoos that are part of his skin care routine. “I was very surprised that a teenager had that obsession and that his mother didn't see anything wrong,” says the specialist. After the visit, he investigated and realized, when discussing it with colleagues, that it was becoming more common. “A lot of the responsibility lies with social networks,” says Lobato.

A recent study conducted in the United States addresses the causes and effects of this phenomenon: cosmetics contain ingredients that are toxic to minors or very powerful active ingredients; and as a consequence, there is an increase in contact dermatitis. Dermatologist Alba Calleja, from the clinic Doctor Morales Raya, confirms that in Spain it has observed more pre-adolescent patients with this skin condition, in addition to cases of irritation and acne.

The problem, dermatologists explain, is that minors use products that they do not need, such as retinol, hyaluronic acid or anti-wrinkle creams. “It makes no sense to use retinol before the age of 25 or 30, it is a product that is used against aging,” explains Calleja. And in many cases, adults don't have healthy skin habits either. “The people the children are imitating would probably not be recommended for the routine they are exposing. People in general do very complex routines with eight or more products. In the morning and at night,” adds the dermatologist.

The consequences are not only physical, but can also affect mental health and cause self-esteem crises, anxiety or depression. “Adolescents, at that age, tend to suffer more problems with self-esteem and emotional changes,” says Calleja. And she points out that the requirement of having smooth and perfect skin from a young age is “unreal”, since all skin has imperfections.

It is not all bad news for this specialist: she considers it positive that it has become “fashionable” to go to the dermatologist. “If people come earlier, patients with a disease can be prevented or treated early,” explains Calleja.

An expanding business

He TikTok effect It is almost always the same: one or more content creators record themselves using and recommending a product or brand, the videos go viral and soon after the creams, serums and oils disappear from the stores. A good part of the influencers from the beauty world charge to promote and direct their followers towards personal care products.

The saleswomen of these establishments attest to the cosmeticorexia. They serve increasingly younger customers who almost always come looking for a special product or brand. “On the weekends, 12-year-old kids come in groups asking about something they have seen on TikTok. Even if it is expensive, what becomes fashionable sells out quickly in stores and online,” says one of the workers at a well-known beauty store in Puerta del Sol, in the center of Madrid. On the social network itself, videos circulate of other employees sharing the employees' favorite items. Sephora kids.

One of the latest favorite brands of girls who are fond of cosmetics is Drunk Elephant, a line of creams that calls itself “clean beauty” because it claims to “choose ingredients based on biocompatibility.” Its products star in many of the most viral videos. The brand was acquired by the Japanese business group Shiseido in 2019 for 845 million dollars (about 790 million euros). The Statista data show that the sale of children's and baby skin care products generated revenue of approximately US$4.135 million worldwide in 2021, an increase of almost US$233 million compared to the previous year. “It is estimated that this market will grow continuously in the coming years until reaching around 5.6 billion in 2026,” describes the platform.

Retouching in photos, filters that lighten skin, and expensive products impose standards that are impossible to meet, affecting the self-perception and self-esteem of minors. “It is important for children to know that the smooth skin they see on social networks is not real,” warns Calleja.

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