What Are All These Preteens Doing in Sephora?

Black Friday is not what it used to be. Stores like Victoria’s Secret and Walmart saw crowds lining up for hours only to brawl spectacularly when the clock struck midnight. These days, we just check out online. The crowds are nonexistent and the sales are just as disappointing.

But, in stark contrast, brick-and-mortar stores are bustling with activity during the holiday season. Everyone scrambles to get last-minute gifts or fill their time in their hometown malls. This is where the brawls happen. This is where this story takes place. And this is where we have to ask ourselves, what happens when your would-be opponent is a pre-teen girl? To brawl or not to brawl.

A viral TikTok over the holiday season asked this existential question. User @_giannalove became the talk of the internet when she recounted a shopping nightmare: being beaten to the last of a product by a tween. The product in question was the viral Drunk Elephant bronzing drops. This detail adds insult to injury. Imagine finding the always-sold-out product of your dreams only to be thwarted by a middle schooler.

But in the tween’s defense, I understand. I would have fought a grown adult for the trending Jack Wills undies in middle school or the Aeropostale tops all the cool girls had. But herein lies the difference between childhood in the 2000s and in the 2020s. In my day, I wasn’t competing with adults because they didn’t like the things I liked. Or rather, I didn’t like the things they did.

My first forays into makeup were with Barbie lipgloss and the Taylor Swift perfume (all of which have kind of come back in style). These were the coveted items on my Christmas wishlist — not expensive skincare marketed to adults. However, TikTok has democratized access to information and the ads for beauty brands and skincare products have reached middle schoolers.

Now, preteens are using medical-grade skincare made for adults, including retinol — an antiaging product recommended for mature skin. They all want a routine akin to Cassie from Euphoria — and they’re just as crazy. Meanwhile, adult women are trying to regain their youth and indulge in childish whimsy by wearing bows and ballet flats. And we’re all meeting in the middle at Sephora. What freaky Friday spin-off is this?

But can children indulge in their skincare fantasies? Should they? Or are they sabotaging their skin?

According to a report by Health Reporter, “TikTok influencers and advertisers are fueling this trend, turning beauty routines into a social media sensation among young users. Experts and parents are worried.”

Rosmy Barrios, MD, Medical advisor for Health Reporter, said: “I recommend avoiding products with retinol and vitamin C for young skin. The reason is that teenagers may not need these treatments, and gentler alternatives can be substituted. For example, mild cleansers, non-comedogenic moisturizers, and products with ingredients like hyaluronic acid or niacinamide can be considered. These options are generally well-tolerated by young skin and provide a more balanced and suitable skincare regimen for adolescents.”

The verdict is in: Tweens, please chill out.

While gentle ingredients and dermatologist-prescribed acne products might be suitable for younger skin, harsh ingredients might do more harm than good. And besides, teenage acne is mostly hormonal. Your skincare haul isn’t going to change it.

So preteens, please kindly step out of Sephora and leave behind some Drunk Elephant products for the rest of us.

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