17 December 2023
Meet skincare’s newest influencers: Generation Alpha. Defined as the generation born after 2010, this demographic of children pre-teens has emerged as a new and growing market for the beauty industry. Here’s how the trend of “Baby Beauty” and tween skincare will shape the marketing and development of beauty products in 2024 and years to come.
On TikTok, where #GRWM and beauty reviews have been viewed more than 157 billion times, Gen alpha content creators are now joining the beauty bandwagon along with Gen Z and Gen Z and millennial skinfluencers. Baby beauty influencers like North West and Penelope Disick are giving their celebrity influencer mothers, Kim Kardashian and Kourtney Kardashian respectively, a run for their money. Penelope’s #GRWM makeup routine on TikTok has racked up 8.6 million views; and North’s version has also garnered an impressive 1.2 million views on TikTok. Gone are the days of cute baby videos or unboxing of presents by Generation Alpha, these days it’s all about skincare routines and makeup videos by tweens. Just like seasoned pros, tweens are dishing out skincare advice like the use of active ingredients like retinols for anti-aging.
The popularity of tween/ Generation Alpa/ Baby Beauty influencers has spared debates in the mainstream media. Social concerns range from the impact of social media normalising changing beauty standards; and how this obsession in skincare and makeup among this impressionable demographic may impact their psychological health. As a mother of young children, I agree that these are legitimate concerns. But in this blogpost I will instead pivot the discussion to the areas of my expertise: whether children and tweens need a skincare routine; and how young influencers are shaping the beauty industry.
Products targeting the adolescent market are peppered with claims like the use of “mild ingredients” and “free of toxic ingredients” that are most often substantiated and smack of greenwashing. Going by the claims of beauty products marketed for children, it may seem that children and tweens need skincare products specially developed for them. To answer the question of whether children and tweens need specialised skincare products, we first have to understand the key features of adolescent skin.
CHILDREN VS ADULT SKIN
Before reaching puberty, the skin of children differs from adults in a few ways:
• Children have thinner stratum corneum than adults1
• Children has lesser amounts of oil and natural moisturising factors in their skin2-5
These differences between the skin of children and adult translate into
• Children having thinner skin than adults1,6
• Children have high rates of transepidermal water loss than adults2,3
• Children may be more sensitive to inflammation and irritation7
Just like adults, children are exposed to similar environmental stressors like UV rays and environmental pollution. Children too, like adults, require a healthy skin barrier for regulation of the skin’s normal functioning. The anatomy and physiology of children’s skin also makes them vulnerable to adverse effects such as skin allergy and allergic contact dermatitis8.
Although the paediatric skincare market is valued at least USD$1.7 billion; robust evidence-based guidelines for recommendations on skincare for children are lacking8. Current guidelines from various associations are based on expert opinions8. Broadly, these guidelines recommend the following steps:
• Facial cleanser: A basic, gentle cleanser for removing dirt, oil and pollution
• Moisturiser to support the skin barrier function and reduce dryness
• Sunscreen to protect against sunburns and other signs of UV damage. The earlier that sunscreen use is started; the risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging also reduces.
These general recommendations should be tweaked for any of your child’s specific needs. For example, a child with eczema would have different skincare requirements from a prepubertal child experienced increased oiliness.
Skincare for children needs to reflect the delicate nature and needs of the paediatric group such as thinner skin and immature skin barrier; and increased risk of dryness, irritation and inflammation.
Skincare for children tend to be marketed as “hypoallergenic”, “clean”, “natural” and other terms that may suggest that the products are safer for children’s skin. Even though robust, data backed guidelines are lacking, the general consensus in the medical community is that skincare that is devoid of unnecessary ingredients that may trigger inflammation (e.g. fragrances) are preferred. Active ingredients that may cause irritation such as retinoids and exfoliating acids can compromise the skin barrier and cause prolonged irritation in children.
Active ingredients in skincare that are safe with a low risk of irritation; and support the skin barrier in kids are:
• Hyaluronic acid (explained in Everything You Need to Know About Hyaluronic Acid)
• Ceramide (explained in Ceramides in Skin Care: A Relief for Sensitive & Dry Skin)
• Niacinamide (explained in Niacinamide: A Versatile Skincare Ingredient)
Baby beauty and Generation Alpha influencers sharing their #GRWM with the trending skincare products may make it seem that adult skincare can be used on children. However, skincare formulated with adults may contain a concentration or combination of active ingredients that children’s skin is unable to tolerate. Secondly, though not always true, adult skincare products typically contain inactive ingredients that improve the experience of using the product (e.g. fragrance), which may trigger irritation in children.
The skincare market is diverse; and there are also skincare products that can be used by adults and children. Examples of brands that can be used by both audiences are CeraVe, Cetaphil and Dove. If you prefer to use dedicated products that cater your child, there’s no lack of selection. The choice is yours.
CONCLUSION ON BABY BEAUTY & GENERATION ALPHA SKINCARE INFLUENCERS
Baby beauty and generation alpha children are fuelling a new market for the beauty industry; and companies are aware of this. From beauty companies catering specifically to this demographic; and tailoring their packaging, strategies and marketing to appeal to them. It is no surprise that cosmetic brands like e.l.f. Cosmetics, Glow Recipe, Sol de Janeiro and Glossier and popular among kids. The ongoing discourse about children becoming obsessed with using beauty products; and generation alpha influences fuelling this drive will continue to evolve.
As a parent myself, I am also concerned about the implications on children’s self esteem and perspectives on beauty standards. At the same, I believe that as parents we should have an open mind about these trends so that we can better help our children navigate these trends. The world that our children will grow up in is vastly different from ours afterall. I’m open to my kids sharing my skincare (specially sunscreen) within safe limits. What are your thoughts on this?
1. Infant skin microstructure assessed in vivo differs from adult skin in organization and at the cellular level. Stamatas et al. Pediatr Dermatol. 2010 Mar-Apr;27(2):125-31.
2. Water-Holding and Transport Properties of Skin Stratum Corneum of Infants and Toddlers Are Different from Those of Adults: Studies in Three Geographical Regions and Four Ethnic Groups. Mack et al.Pediatr Dermatol. 2016 May;33(3):275-82.
3. Barrier function and water-holding and transport properties of infant stratum corneum are different from adult and continue to develop through the first year of life. Nikolovski et al. J Invest Dermatol. 2008 Jul;128(7):1728-36.
4. Patterns of follicular sebum excretion rate during lifetime. Piérard et al. Arch Dermatol Res. 1987:279 Suppl:S104-7.
5. Water sorption-desorption test of the skin in vivo for functional assessment of the stratum corneum. Tagami et al. J Invest Dermatol. 1982 May;78(5):425-8.
6. Skin thickness in young infants and adolescents: Applications for intradermal vaccination. Saitoh et al. Vaccine. 2015 Jun 26;33(29):3384-91.
7. Early inflammatory processes in the skin. Stamatas et al. Curr Mol Med. 2013 Sep;13(8):1250-69.
8. Market trends in baby skin care products and implications for clinical practice. Gao and Simpson. Pediatr Dermatol. 2014 Nov-Dec;31(6):734-8.