The never-grow-older generations are here

 White pills with beauty related words including skin, beauty, hair and anti-aging.
White pills with beauty related words including skin, beauty, hair and anti-aging.

Generation Z and Alpha are scared to age. Social media has encouraged children and teens to delve into anti-aging treatments for skin way earlier than necessary. Using intense chemicals on young skin leads to a myriad of other conditions and allergic reactions. The interminable quest to prevent aging has also gone further, as younger adults opt to have preventative cosmetic surgeries before they show signs of aging. With social media's influence only growing, growing old is going out of style.


Children and teens are being sucked into the world of anti-aging, thanks to social media. Deemed "Sephora kids," today's youth are storming beauty stores for skin care products that were never designed for them. Teens spent 33% more on cosmetics and 19% more on skin care in 2023 than 2022, according to a report by Piper Sandler. "They're celebrating birthdays at Sephora, rattling off beauty products' chemical properties, trading samples and sending each other videos of morning skin care routines," said NPR.

The products coveted by today's youth include ingredients like vitamin C and retinol, which are strong and made for use on older skin. "It's worrying to see so many kids diving into skin care routines that aren't designed for them," said dermatologist Dr. Andrew Kane, to ITV News. Children's "skin barriers are more sensitive to the active ingredients in these products."

Many place responsibility on influencers and cosmetic companies. The brand Drunk Elephant, popular among Gen Alpha, is "distinctive for its bright colors" said Salon. Influencers are also sharing their "elaborate, irresistible routines." Dermatologist Dr. Brooke Jeffy said to USA Today "Skin care and some of these brands, they've just become a status symbol."

The latest

Children's interest in high-end skin care products is not only expensive but can also be harmful. "They don't understand the function of skin and that it's not just this wall you can throw anything at," said Jeffy.

"Many of the trendy creams are harmless, but there are concerns around products designed specifically for older skin," said ITV News. "Strong ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, hydroxy acid and anything labeled as 'brightening' or 'anti-aging' can cause lasting damage if used incorrectly." Specifically, overusing strong skin care products "can lead to skin rashes like contact dermatitis," said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist at the Mount Sinai Hospital, to Health.

Young skin "has plenty of collagen and fast cell turnover … and hasn't accumulated much damage," said Axios. "At 9 or 10 years old, the skin barrier is not fully formed and is easily damaged by products with active ingredients like vitamins A and C," said CNN. Skin care is important for all ages, but strong chemicals are not required for young skin.

The reaction

The younger generation's obsession with anti-aging highlights the profound effect of social media on beauty standards. "With filters, people don't really seem to realize what skin looks like," Michelle Wong, a cosmetic chemist, said to Axios. Instead, normal textures in the skin are viewed as flawed. A 2021 study of 200 American teens said "87% use a filter on social media, and nearly 1 in 5 use a beauty filter on every single one of their posts."

The fear of growing old has also spilled into younger adults. "A growing number of people under 30 in the U.S. are shelling out thousands of dollars for cosmetic procedures including fillers, skin resurfacing treatments and neuromodulator injections like Botox," said CNN. Many have little to no wrinkles, instead using these procedures as a preventative measure. Social media has put a pervasive negative spin on aging, exacerbating younger people's worries far earlier.

Nonetheless, dismissing the younger generation's concerns is not optimal. "Gen Z and Alpha's interest in skin care may well represent … a longing for self-care and purpose during volatile times," providing "stability when so much feels out of control," said Dr. Daniel Glazer, a clinical psychologist and co-founder of Therapy Rooms, to Salon. "Rather than stigmatize their attempts at control or self-soothing, I believe we must guide youth to channel this energy into realms that uplift humanity" — rather than keeping the mirror focused solely on themselves.