Pre-Teen Girls Are Getting Really Into Skincare – But Should They Be?

We chat to the experts.

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich

In the age of TikTok and ‘Get Ready with Me’ videos, young pre-teen girls are being heavily influenced. 

They’re also begging their parents to purchase products from brands such as Drunk Elephant, Glow Recipe and Rare Beauty. But why are 10–12-year-olds playing with makeup and skin care, and should they be doing so so young?   

The subject has repeatedly has been chatting about on TikTok, with many people doing story times on their experiences at beauty counters with the rise of viral skin products.

One TikTok star and ex Sephora employee Olivia Vaphiades recently shared her encounter with a 10-year-old girl looking to purchase Drunk Elephant’s retinol oil – an occurrence that’s happening more and more often. 

@jc.dombrowski The fact that kids were literally using these on themselves right in front of me 😭😭😭 worst acne or infection of your life coming right up… #drunkelephant #skincare #sephora ♬ Everybody – Nicki Minaj

With their colourful and unique packaging, Drunk Elephant in particular have mastered marketing to a younger audience. But several concerned adults are questioning whether their products are safe for children to use. However, Drunk Elephant says they are.

Posting on their Instagram last December, the skincare brand said, “Can Kids and Tweens use Drunk Elephant?’ with the caption, “Yes! Many of our products are designed for all skin, including kids and tweens. First, I would say stay away from our more potent products that include acids and retinols—their skin does not need these ingredients quite yet.”

That being said, many of these products contain anti-aging ingredients, and although many skin care experts say to start using these products young to prevent wrinkles, I don’t think they mean as young as 10 years old.   


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People shared their views on the brand’s statement, and many were not happy. One person said, “No KID needs skincare, but unfortunately social media is convincing them they do,” while another said, “The only reason kids use Drunk Elephant is for their amazing packaging and fitting in.”   

Similarly, skincare brand Glow Recipe states on their website that their viral watermelon toner is suitable for all ages and skin types, “looking to smooth texture, hydrate, and decongest pores.”

But young girls shouldn’t feel like they must buy these products to feel beautiful.   


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A post shared by Alix Ashley Earle (@alix_earle)

A simple skin care routine is a great way to practice self-care, and this can be done without using products that are not produced for children. 

Award winning beauty expert and skin care consultant Sally Foran, A.K.A IrishBeautyFairy, tells us that as long as pre-teens are only using a gentle cleanser, moisturiser, an SPF (or even a hydrating serum) that is okay.

“It’s when they go into the actives, which they do not need… It can destroy their skin barrier and lead to all sorts of problems, that’s where the issue is” she added. 

“Kids could go straight into a really strong retinol and have flaking, redness, irritation and damage their skin barrier.” Sally explains how the wrong ingredients can do harm, “A lot of dermatologists are saying that they are seeing a lot of people in their clinics with damaged barriers from all of these actives.”  

With the mix of genius marketing and packaging, skincare products are the latest trend for pre-teens to engage with. There are more products out there for young girls to use that are appropriate for their skin and are much more affordable. But it seems that taking care of your skin isn’t really the interest here, it’s the TikTok videos they can make with the products, to be like their favourite influencer.  

Skin health expert, Corinna Tolan, has a parent’s perspective. As a mother of two daughters, Corinna believes that skin care is self-care, but that parents need to be aware of what products their children are putting on their faces.

“We always want to teach our children that method of self-care, self-love and self-soothing, which is exactly what skin care should be for them,” she says. 

“The skin care sector is a very competitive area, these brands are going to include ingredients that make changes to the skin very quickly because they are trying to get a client to feel a difference and repurchase, so as a result, they lean heavily on acids and retinols.” And this is where young girls could run into problems with their skin. 

We can’t blame these teens for wanting to follow a trend, but how does a parent say no to their child when they look for these products? Corinna explains that the beauty sector is a large contributor to global waste – and also very expensive.

“This is another avenue to limit their impulsive buying of skin care products,” she says.   

“From an affordability point of view things like headbands and jade rollers, those kinds of things that aren’t going to upset the skin barrier but still encourage them to practice self-care are good options.”

Let’s not pretend we all didn’t play with make-up when we were kids. We played with our mam’s, or our older sister’s make-up. Skincare wasn’t really a thing, at least not to the extent that it is now.

What happened to pre-teens shopping in Claires or buying drugstore make-up? Many of us weren’t allowed to buy or wear beauty products until we were 14 or 15, but the pressure for Gen Alpha to buy expensive skin care and make-up to fit in is all too real.  

The growing trend of pre-teens using skin care reflects the influence of social media on young people. But the importance of educating younger audiences about the appropriate products for their skin and reminding them that beauty comes from within is key. 

Words by Abby Sammon