We didn’t have this on our 2024 bingo card, but the once-adult sanctuary of Sephora is experiencing a pre-tween takeover and TikTok is the epicenter of this new trend. Videos are flooding the platform, showcasing stories of 10 to 12-year-olds confidently navigating the aisles, trying on products and even mimicking adult skin-care routines. But as the viral sensation grows, so do concerns about whether children this age should be delving into the world of adult skin-care at all.
“When I read about 10- to 12-year-olds taking over Sephora I have many thoughts,” says Vienna, VA dermatologist Brenda Dintiman, MD. “One is that they are being marketed to very heavily.” While it’s true there is a focus on catering to younger consumers, how young is too young? Here, top dermatologists weigh in with their thoughts and best advice for middle school parents trying to navigate this fast-growing trend.
Is 10 Too Young for a Routine?
On one hand, experts say introducing good skin-care habits early on can be beneficial, but on the other, the potential risks of using adult products on developing skin should not be overlooked. The consensus among dermatologists is clear—education, caution and a focus on skin health are key.
West Palm Beach, FL dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD sees the trend as a valuable teaching moment. “If they can get advice on which products to use and how to use them correctly, then I think it is fine. It is better that they learn correctly at a young age than to not learn at all.”
“There is nothing wrong with initiating and instilling good hygiene practices in our youth—if we could only get the young men involved too,” adds Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Dr. Janet Allenby. “This is such a precarious age; the hormones are changing and they are wanting to start expressing themselves as individuals.”
Northville, MI dermatologist Farhaad Riyaz, MD, says it’s way too soon to use ingredients that are formulated for adults. “At 10-12 years old, children’s skin is still developing and is more sensitive than adult skin. However, they are old enough to learn healthy habits. I ask parents to encourage a focus on skin health, not a beauty routine. Many products marketed to younger audiences may contain ingredients that are too harsh for young skin. Stick to simple, hypoallergenic products.”
“This age group should be using a daily gentle cleanser followed by a sunscreen for their morning routine, and for evening, a gentle cleanser before bedtime would be optimal,” notes Southlake, TX and Monroe, LA dermatologist Janine Hopkins, MD. “Products I would recommend for 10–12-year-olds would be products made by brands like CeraVe, Cetaphil or LaRoche Posay.”
“It’s never too early to begin good skin care, but beyond a good cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen, there is little need for 10-year-olds to invest in a plethora of skin-care products,” adds Washington D.C. dermatologist Tina Alster, MD.
Huntington Beach, CA dermatologist David Rayhan MD warns against using comedogenic products. “Children in their early adolescence are already developing acne,” he warns. “Parents should be careful not to purchase comedogenic or pore-clogging products that can exacerbate acne.”
Choosing gentle skin care at this precarious age is important, says Dr. Allenby. “If they are starting to get acne or excessively oily skin, gentle skin care is very appropriate. More aggressive treatments may be explored if the acne is becoming a real problem,” she explains. “Parents should be responsible for anything in the cosmetic realms.”
This is also an appropriate time to bring your child to a board-certified dermatologist for recommendations. “If parents or children are interested in starting a skin-care routine, I recommend consulting with a dermatologist first. They can recommend products and routines that are safe and effective for young skin,” says Dr. Riyaz.
Los Angeles, CA dermatologist Jacquiline Habashy Hakim, MD cautions that the first signs of acne should not signal a Sephora run without supervision. “A specific concern such as acne does require a routine in order to improve. As always, parents should seek guidance with a board-certified dermatologist to understand what is appropriate for their children at any age.”
Raising Courteous Consumers
While the majority of complaints on TikTok have been about store etiquette, Dr. Riyaz adds this is an opportunity to educate Generation Alpha on how to correctly and courteously try out products in-store. “Complaints about store etiquette are valid. Parents are responsible for making sure their kids don’t make a mess in any store, not just Sephora.”
“When shopping in store, instead of letting the kids run around unsupervised, I’d suggest making it a fun bonding activity,” says Greenwich, RI dermatologist Caroline Chang, MD. “I learn so much walking the aisles of Sephora with my daughter. Had it not been for a recent conversation about skin care, I would never had heard her say: ‘Oh mom, I don’t need makeup right now, I’m beautiful just the way I am.’”