If you’re into BeautyTok, you’ve probably scrolled through countless videos of Sephora employees being transparent about their interactions with tweens seemingly bombarding their store. Starting with rude encounters, to disrespectful blurts, and ending with a complete mess of product shuffling through serums and moisturizers. Many users took to social media to amplify concerns regarding their behavior, while others found it semi-excusable.
There are three main issues arising from virality. Many are focused on conduct and demeanor, feeling as though tween customers are obligated to their help, even as employees are assisting other workers. The first video that came across my algorithm that kicked off was a stitched video of an original clip amplifying the wildfire moment. The TikTok starts with a user saying that an influx of younger girls are noticeably going to Sephora and Ulta, to which Sephora employee user @gigipimpin magnifies the statement. “Not only is it little girls, but it’s little girls with no [expletive] respect,” she blatantly opens. “Where the [expletive] are you all’s parents? These little children come in there like they run s–t.” She recalls an incident during her shift where a mannerless tween interrupted her, assisting another guest shoving a Rare Beauty blush in her space, followed by bombarding questions asking for a specific shade. Though the employee politely reprimanded her as she was helping another guest, the little customer insisted that she was in a rush and needed help immediately. The video worsens as a friend comes along who also needs assistance looking for shade and even goes on to hit the employee, evidently not on purpose but also not apologetic. The video was a snowball effect of other Sephora and Ulta employees venting about similar situations or creatives uploading mockery skits.
The second issue is whether or not tweens should use skincare for mature skin. There have been many new ingredients and chemicals that have taken over the beauty industry in recent years. There are AHA’s, BHA’s, collagen, retinol, niacinamide, acids, and more dedicated to acne, scarring, hyperpigmentation, blemishes, pores, or dark circles. Although these issues aren’t a predominant factor for tweens, brands have been leaning their packaging towards millennials and other Gen Z, which might appease Gen Alpha. The upcoming generation starts in 2010, making the oldest of the age 14 years old – think middle school and high schoolers. Topicals, Rosen Skincare, and Bubble have a more youthful look to their products, from pinks to pastels and fun fonts. Curology is the Proactive of this time, except the brand offers a personalized experience and accessibility to a dermatologist. Even Olay’s recent Super Serum launch features iridescent packaging that sticks out from its mature branding.
Drunk Elephant is the brand that seems to have Gen Alpha in a chokehold. The Houston, Texas-based skin care has a minimalist yet pastel-heavy branding. Many videos show teens who have numerous products in the entire line. The first product featured on the D.E. homepage is their Bora Barrier Repair Cream, and as you continue to scroll, the Bouncy Brightfacial Masque Illuminator to the A-Shaba Complex Eye Serum. Each focuses on wrinkles, tone correction, and restoring the skin barrier- all of which seem a bit much for a tween. However, Sula Labs Chief Executive Officer & Chemist AJ Addae disagrees. Her stance – it makes sense. “There are several peer-reviewed studies citing that adolescents experience acne more than any other age demographic,” Addae tells G.U. “Acne, of course, results in a slew of effects for teenagers, including hyperpigmentation, increased flakiness, dryness, and sensitivity, ultimately making sense that teenagers seek treatments that boast instant gratification for their skin concerns. In fact, it’s widespread for dermatologists to prescribe treatments with less-than-gentle ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and retinoids to teenagers for this reason.”
Although not as pressing, the third eyebrow-raiser is how exactly Gen Alpha is affording these brands. The Drunk Elephant skincare collection ranges from $16 to $134, Topicals lasted Slick Salve balm goes for $16, and Tatcha, who’s also been rising in Gen Alpha, goes as low as $29 to over $90. It’s evident that money comes from family or birthday and Christmas money, but is spending that much on tween skincare too much?
The flip side to the tween versus skincare debate comes down to one user who says adults are being too harsh to the generation, calling them haters. @portofsomalia took to TikTok to say that adults are in the wrong. “I hate the Sephora kid’s conversation, and I’ll tell you why. One you all got on a kids app where they were doing renegade at three x speed, and started marketing watermelon-smelling serums to children that have watermelon-smelling markers. Products that look like Crayola themselves did the packaging for and y’all mad at the kids when there’s no discernment. Take it up with the brands and their parents stop yelling at the kids. Some of it is a little foolish. Don’t go in there buying retinol serums, stop tearing up the store. We all agree on that, but artistic expression comes on.”
Everyone was once a tween and 14. For my generation, Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, Noxzema, and Proactive were the leading skincare brands aimed at the younger and older demographic. One could argue that Proactive’s celebrity branding persuaded teens to seek the instant gratification of Kendall Jenner’s clear skin with its signature three-step program. The grapefruit cleanser by Neutrogena convinced teens that their skin would be juicy and hydrated from their water-heavy commercials all day, but it did nothing. Much more research, specifically on all skin types, is much more prominent in skin care today, which affects how Gen Alpha consumes products and brands.
“I recommend that teenagers first educate themselves on their skin behaviors to the fullest extent that they can, so that they can shop off of their skin’s true needs, rather than off of the appeal of skincare brand offerings” Addae suggests. “When it comes to selecting products, the best product to be excited about is a sunscreen that complements your skin tone and skin behaviors, followed by a solid daytime and nighttime moisturizer for both the face and body, and something soothing — whether that’s an essence or a product with an array of hydrators or occlusives. Minimalism and accessibility to buy the product wherever you can, so that you’re not switching it up too much is key.”
We can all agree that the behavior is a verified issue, as no one should disrespect an employee. However, thanks to TikTok, Gen Alpha is a predominantly social media-driven group, arguably more than Zillennials. Gatekeeping is nonexistent now that influencing has become a semi-reputable career. If we’re emulating the influencer vibes as we prepare for a day out, how can we expect the young ones to avoid following suit from overexposure?
“Y’all sound like hater adults, the same hater adults you never wanted to be, and I hate that for you,” said Portofsomalia.