Retinol over Glitter!

When did anti-ageing face creams and serums replace Polly Pockets and building treehouses?

April 16, 2024

Skincare and wellness are one of the biggest subsections on TikTok with over 430M views! Welcome to ‘SkinTok’ – a digital realm where skincare enthusiasts’ share their knowledge, featuring product reviews, expert advice and an enthusiastic community sharing their skincare regimens. That content is aimed at an adult audience but recently a lot of pre-teens and younger users have discovered SkinTok and replaced glitter with retinol.

One of the standout brands within the ‘SkinTok’ subculture is Drunk Elephant. Think colourful logos, playful product names and funky packaging. This brand has gathered a lot of attention with its range of viral products, notably those that contain retinol, renowned for its transformative and anti-ageing effects. The branding and cult following surrounding Drunk Elephant are both based in its colourful aesthetic and promise to promote youthful skin.

Results or consequences?

However, there has been a noticeable and frightening trend among users as young as 10 to start incorporating these anti-aging products into their skincare routines. Ignoring the fact that having a skincare routine at age 10 would be laughable if it weren’t so depressing, this trend can be downright dangerous. Dermatologists have warned about the consequences of children (because that IS what they are) using active ingredients such as retinol. It can cause rashes, increase sun damage and in extreme cases can even impact bone health.

This unhealthy obsession with remaining youthful has also resulted in increased foot traffic from minors in beauty retailers like Sephora. There have been reports of pre-teens destroying testers and creating messes that take employees hours to clean up. Consequently, select Sephora stores have implemented measures, including age restrictions into stores to protect certain brands’ merchandise.

How young is too young?

In response to this trend and controversy, the beauty company Dove has launched a campaign called ‘Face of 10’. By partnering with well-known TikTok creators and celebrities such as Drew Barrymore, Dove raises an important question, “When did retinol replace glitter?” When did children stop being children in favour of succumbing to beauty standards and anti-ageing consumerism? The campaign tries to direct focus towards skin care as being an area of self-expression and enjoyment (for adults!), rather than pressure on young people to be concerned about ageing before they’re even of age.

Whilst TikTok is mostly entertaining, it often has educational tendencies that have the power to create trends and movements. Nevertheless, this kind of influence can also become misguided with viral trends and products often developing a dynamic of their own that can be hard to counteract. Brands and creators need to be mindful of their influence, especially on younger audiences. At the same time, platforms like TikTok are responsible to moderate their content and their age policies in a way that keeps trends from harming adolescents. Let’s keep the glitter for a few years longer and save the retinol for later!