How my daughter is buying into anti-ageing, luxury skincare aged 10 and a bit

Brands must address targeting of young girls with beauty products, writes Anniki Sommerville, Director of Strategic Insights at Differentology.

Anniki Sommerville



I am standing in Sephora. It’s that weird time period between Christmas and New Year, and I’ve taken my older daughter, who is 10, to spend her Christmas money. She asked for money because she wants to ‘buy skincare’. I don’t fully absorb the fact that she means ‘luxury skincare,’ until we arrive at the store, and I’m confronted by hordes of other 10-year-old girls (the oldest perhaps 13) shoving one another out the way to get to the most desirable beauty stands. The stands that attract the highest volume of girls are - Glossier, Drunk Elephant, Kylie Cosmetics, Refy, but there are a heap of other brands too.

The weird thing is that there aren’t many women my own age browsing - they seem to be acting as ‘beauty wing-women,’ for the tweens who whoop excitedly as they discover another product they’ve only seen virtually or heard about via friends during school lunch break.

There is a special stand in the middle of the store which showcases ‘Tik Tok’ and social media brands- those that have been advertised by influencers. We have queued for 10 minutes to get inside, but once we’re finally permitted entry my daughter goes quiet. She is overwhelmed. It’s very busy, and there are lots of elbows being used. Some of the star products have disappeared because they’ve been bought already. I look around and many of the girls have the same expression they’d have in the presence of a celebrity, awaiting an autograph. Their parents stand nearby looking awkwardly at their phones, and shout incredulously when they hear the prices of some of the products in their kids baskets.

‘You don’t need an anti-ageing cream!’ one of them screeches loudly, ‘Your skin is perfect. Why do you want to spend 40 pounds on that?’

We leave hurriedly without having bought anything and I have a sinking feeling. I love beauty products. I am however an older woman, and so the whole ‘anti-ageing skincare’ category is one I know inside out. I’ve shopped these aisles many times. I understand (some of the time) the claims, and know (more or less) what is realistic and what is pie in the sky. I’ve researched the claims myself in focus groups and depth interviews. I’m not a 10 year old with a brain that is still trying to distinguish fact versus fiction.

A recent study demonstrated that teen girls in the UK who say ‘make-up is their favourite hobby,’ are 49% less likely than average to feel confident ‘all the time’, and 32% are more likely to cite mental health as their top concern. So being into skincare from a young age is arguably not a good thing for developing brains. Many 10-year-olds are not officially allowed to be on social media, but will likely feel drawn into that world via their peers. A quick rummage in any rucksack will sometimes reveal premium lip glosses that have been taken into school as trophies. Even if you create some boundaries at home then that doesn’t mean that every parent is the same.  I interviewed a few other parents, and they felt unhappy at the ways in which their daughters were being made to feel at such a young age:

‘My daughter is 11 and she doesn’t have social media but her friends all do and the messaging filters though. It’s intense. These voices creep in- it feels relentless and expected. Recently at a sleepover she was mocked for not owning a make-up brush set and not knowing how to contour or highlight.’

‘It’s hideous. They’re fed these expensive brands through social channels, We have started calling them the ‘Stepford Tweens.’

‘Can we stop normalising £70 serums as stocking fillers for tweens? I’m all for letting them experiment with skincare but they are clamouring for expensive products I can’t justify and it’s constantly being thrown at them!’

Gifting influencers with beauty products and asking them to review them is a highly effective tool for brands, but is it ethical when these brands are targeting such young girls?

Anniki Sommerville, Director of Strategic Insights at Differentology

Parents feeling blindsided by kids who are in love with not just anti-ageing skincare, but the premium luxury category as a whole. If we rewind to our own generation, Gen X women might have seen beauty content and messages, but the channels weren’t as sophisticated, we didn’t have multiple touchpoints, and we didn’t have people we admired telling us that make up and skincare should be a priority already. There wasn’t the same sense of collective hysteria. Now it’s a bit like the scary Child Catcher from ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,’ but this time he’s using glow-imbuing highlighters and shimmering lip oils to attract kids rather than sugar-laden lollipops. 

Haven Gazra is 7 years old and has a following of 4 million on TikTok. In some content she shares her skincare routine and make up heroes. Gifting influencers with beauty products and asking them to review them is a highly effective tool for brands, but is it ethical when these brands are targeting such young girls? And how can a brand talk about being ‘pro-ageing,’ if at the same time it’s making young girls feel terrified at the prospect of wrinkles?

These are questions that aren’t being tackled at the moment. Instead, young girls lunge at serums, creams, foundations, and plead with their parents to have the latest ‘must have’ buy. There is obviously the financial pressure that makes things challenging, but also the fact that products are not necessarily designed for kids in the first place. If parents turn away from these pleas then their kids might get ostracised. It’s a depressing cycle. 

What do we need? 

We need more brands considering their mission statements and ethics- do they want to actively go after young women and what impact does this have on older consumers too? Many of the women I spoke to are in their forties and will not buy these brands because they feel that they are being manipulated. We have seen more brands prioritising sustainability and diversity and the way we market to children is another aspect of this.

I spoke to Emma Worrollo, Playful Den, Play researcher and Gen Alpha expert. Emma feels more positive about the future, and believes there is a way to re-frame the phenomenon: ‘My 10 year old daughter and 9 year old niece spent over an hour doing their skincare at a sleepover recently, but what I heard coming out the bathroom was not anxiety about their looks or an obsession with 'being pretty', it was instead squeals of delight, sensory joy at the feel of the different products and a lot of role playing at being an adult - a staple of kids' play. There is no getting around that kids are exposed to a lot of branded content that fuels a desire for expensive products placing pressure on parents and kids, but as long as the interest in the skincare practice is light-hearted and playful (and safe!), it could actually be an opportunity to create a foundation for relaxing, nurturing self-care rituals and a way of getting comfortable and familiar with their bodies.’

So there could be some positive news for parents as long as their kids are seeing it as playful self-expression rather than a pressure to remain young forever. Meanwhile I try and convince my daughter that her skin is perfect. That she’s beautiful. That contouring doesn’t make her a better human. She doesn’t quite believe me.


If you want to find out more about child mental health, social media, and screen time then tune in for Differentology’s live webinar on 9th Feb where we discuss the impact channels have on children, and what brands can do to help and support. To find out more click here.

Guest Author

Anniki Sommerville



Anniki Sommerville is a published author, insights consultant and comedian. Her latest book is available to order on Amazon and all good book retailers. Read more of her musings on work, life and midlife on Substack.

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