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'Sephora Ten-Year-Olds': a Product of the Online Influencer Trend or Something Deeper?

TikTok has brought forth a new phenomenon: Sephora ten-year-olds. The phrase, which feels like the embodiment of a huge, deep sigh, describes the influx of social media-savvy preteens taking up lavish skincare routines, hoarding retinol bottles and treating the American beauty store chain Sephora like it’s the holy land. What has accumulated is a multitude of TikToks, created by these mini-adults, most of which are centered around makeup and the quest to perfect what is already baby-soft skin. One of these videos cropped up on my feed, and I was filled with existential dread; it seems that social media is still playing its role in nourishing the dichotomy in which women in particular are told to stay youthful while being forced to grow up all too soon. Playing around with makeup as a means for fun and self-expression is healthy for children, don’t get me wrong, but watching a ten-year-old outperform me in the makeup department feels unnerving. 


Skincare is sold under the premise of self-care but has evolved into something that TikTok creators capitalise on, through filming aesthetically pleasing nighttime routines and ‘get unready with me’ videos. At this point, I wonder how much of the self-care we are shown is true to the original message; if self-care is reduced to digital content - and is potentially lucrative as a result - is it even self-care anymore, or is it just a means of creating generating income and feeding into TikTok capitalism, and why are children a part of the target demographic? 


Let me paint a picture: self-described influencer Natalie, 24 years of age, living in a trendy American city (let’s say Boston), shares her 5-9 routine with us mere mortals who didn’t go to Pilates or refill their Stanley flask with frozen fruit ice cubes that day. She oozes elegance with her ten-step skincare routine, consisting of high-end brands like La Mer and Drunk Elephant. In true girl-boss fashion, she relays to us how essential taking time for yourself is. Natalie’s got her shit together (or so we presume), so naturally, the comment section is a battle zone, flooded with accusations of her tone-deaf privilege. Regardless of this, the Sephora ten-year-olds, with their impressionable minds, have found a new inspiration. Of course, there is worse content children could be consuming, and perhaps these kinds of videos give them something to aspire to. The makeup industry has experienced a similar fate; what should be used as a means to celebrate self-love and creativity is now being farmed for content, for vanity’s sake. Our girl Natalie has all good intentions, but she’s unfortunately associated with a wider issue. There is now a mini-Natalie who, instead of playing Barbies with her friends, is doing cut crease eyeliner on TikTok live - just like all her idols do. 


Children today are unique, in the fact that it’s they are a part of only generation to be born into the age of the (fully-realized) internet, so is it any wonder that they are becoming social media moguls already? The modern ‘influencer’ craze seems to be appealing to young people, and as much as older generations bemoan it, it’s making headway in the world; there are approximately 64 million Instagram influencer accounts across the globe (TrendHero, 2023). But we have to remember that social media, and all of its shortcomings, is easily within the grasp of children’s hands. And God, even just talking like this makes me sound like an ancient and decrepit 21-year-old, but I can’t help but worry about these kids. Anyone can view your TikToks, and follow you on Instagram - as long as you have social media, you are putting yourself on public display. Not all content is suitable for children, yet most of it is visible to children, so who and what are you ‘influencing’? 


In a way, I think that skin care is becoming the new diet culture. Social media is a breeding ground for vanity anyway, but these two things seem to have become intertwined with unrealistic beauty expectations. Should kids and young people be exposed to such standards so directly? Are they becoming targets? Labour has said it is “open-minded” about banning social media for under-16s. I wonder what that, if at all sustainable and reasonable, would look like. My only hope is that the Sephora ten-year-olds don’t grow up too quickly, and instead head to the park with their friends instead of a beauty store. 

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