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TikTok influencers pushing costly and inappropriate skincare for tweens

Kids head to Sephora and Mecca for skincare, as experts warn against unsuitable and even dangerous products.

teenager applying facial cream in front of mirror
Last updated: 22 February 2024


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Need to know

  • Children are being sold expensive, and in some cases, inappropriate skincare products from major retailers
  • Parents say social media influencers are pushing the trend
  • Dermatologists advise parents to take the opportunity to discuss skincare in a positive way with young children

Parents say that social media influencers are encouraging their tweens to seek out expensive and at times age-inappropriate skincare products from popular retailers such as Mecca and Sephora. 

The trend of skincare products being marketed to kids as young as eight and nine years old is only growing, thanks to the popularity of influencers on social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube.  

"Every time we go to the shops she wants to go into Mecca and Sephora and look at all kinds of products," says Amy from Sydney about her nine-year-old daughter. 

"I'm worried that once they are in the store are they receiving the right information? Or is a nine-year-old being sold an $80 bottle of something not appropriate for her skin?"

Serums and skin needling

Kate from Brisbane says her 10-year-old daughter regularly watches influencers on YouTube, often young girls themselves, marketing products that her and her friends will then try to get their parents to buy them. 

"I even know from my own experience, you go in [to the stores] and you ask for something, and the staff will steer you towards certain products, often the more expensive ones," says Kate. "Whether they're right for you or not is a different story." 

It's not something a 16-year-old needs and it literally makes your skin bleed

Maggie, mother

Claire* took her 13-year-old daughter to a beauty store in Sydney's CBD (not Sephora or Mecca) and was guided by sales staff towards a serum she was told was suitable for her child. The serum left her daughter with a bad rash and burns on her face.

"It had good reviews and it says it brightens your skin and moisturises and all that, but I guess everybody has different skin," she says. 

Sydney mum Maggie* says beauty culture doesn't only affect girls, and she worries about the pressures placed on her 16-year-old son. 

"He recently bought a needling skin roller, which is something I have heard about beauticians using to stimulate collagen production. It's not something a 16-year-old needs and it literally makes your skin bleed," says Maggie. 

mother and daughter shopping for cosmetics online

Parents should be careful when searching for kids' skincare online that the products returned in search results are actually suitable.

Skincare chemicals kids should avoid 

Pediatric dermatologist Dr Li-Chuen Wong says she has noticed the trend of younger children buying skincare products. 

"They want to do the same skincare regime as influencers, who say that they need these huge, complicated regimes using quite harsh products that are incredibly expensive as well." 

Wong warns against the use of any products containing retinol, a popular anti-ageing ingredient that can lead to skin irritation and reactions, as well as harsh exfoliating scrubs. She says chemicals like peptides, vitamin C and some eye creams are also unnecessary and potentially damaging. 

It's completely not necessary in tweens and teenagers who actually have truckloads of great collagen and elastin

Dr Li-Chuen Wong, pediatric dermatologist

"These products haven't been tested on tweens or on the skin of tweens and teenagers ... they're expensive, and can have some detrimental effects if used inappropriately.

"It's completely not necessary in tweens and teenagers who actually have truckloads of great collagen and elastin," she adds.

'Seek expert advice'

Parents and carers should be careful when searching "kids skincare" on retailer websites. For example, the Sephora website returned results that are unlikely to be suitable for children, such as the $138 Murad Retinal ReSculpt Eye Treatment at Sephora.

We're not suggesting that the store promotes these products to children, but unaware buyers may assume these products are suitable for younger skin.

evereden kids multi vitamin face cream

The Sephora website says this $54 face cream is "made for children aged 4+". Listed ingredients include collagen, which pediatric dermatologist Dr Li-Chuen Wong says is "completely not necessary" for children or teens.

And even when products do appear to be formulated for children, you're looking at sky-high prices, such as $54 for a 50mL jar of Ever Eden Kids Multi-Vitamin Face Cream at Sephora, or $77 for the 50mL tube of Dr. Barbara Sturm Baby & Kids Face Cream at Mecca.

Mecca responds

Sephora did not respond to our questions about whether expensive or inappropriate skincare products were being marketed to children, or how sales staff are trained to respond to young customers instore. 

Mecca told us age was "just one of the factors" that needs to be considered when it comes to someone's skin. 

"With the rise of TikTok, customers have access to more information, beauty hacks, tips and tricks than ever before. As a result, we're seeing customers of all ages coming into the store to try out new products and brands that they've seen online," a spokesperson says. 

We're seeing customers of all ages coming into the store to try out new products and brands that they've seen online

Mecca spokesperson

"Just because a product works for one person, it doesn't mean it will work for everyone, so we always recommend seeking expert advice."

"If parents are concerned about their child's skin condition, we'd always recommend speaking to a medical professional and accompanying their child when visiting our stores," they add. 

How to talk to kids about skincare 

Dr Wong says there is a positive side to young people showing an interest in skincare, as long as they can be directed away from inappropriate products and towards building healthy routines. 

"We can use this as an opportunity to talk about introducing a sustainable, uncomplicated and simple skincare regime, like washing your face, moisturising, and the importance of using sunscreen."

Wong suggests parents could also talk about how starting sunscreen early is good protection from ageing and skin cancer. 

"It really goes down to educating the family and giving them the ability to say no to their children. But we also need to be getting these messages out there on the same platforms that young people are using," she says. 

*Names have been changed.

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.