WHY NOW, WHY GEN Z?
Traditionally, conversation (and advertising) promoting skincare has been focused on the pursuit of more youthful skin and so it might feel counterintuitive that Gen Z (today’s teenagers and early to mid twentysomethings) are the ones driving skincare momentum. However, it’s less of a mystery when you analyse the micro factors at play. At its most universal, the application of skincare (regardless of the complexity) is rooted in a routine - a ritual, a moment for self-care, and to enjoy simple pleasures. Research from The Youth Lab highlights that 78% of younger people are “focused on the little things that give personal joy.” In a tough and rapidly changing world, the human need to engage the senses and feel good is a powerful motivation for younger people - helping teens and young adults turn their favourite skincare choices into daily routines that help them feel organised and accomplished.
Teens navigating their way into adulthood naturally seek out like-minded communities for inspiration; the face (the canvas for crafting identity) being naturally at the heart of inspiring content that they seek. The goal of most skincare is ‘good skin’ - which is understood to come from slow, steady improvements and getting to know and be an expert in your own skin. Skincare communities are proving to be a uniting force in helping younger people connect and validate their own diverse beauty norms (however they identify).
AS SHARED ON SOCIAL
Social media is the centre of skincare conversation; on average Gen Z social media users spend 2 hours and 30 minutes on social media platforms daily where aesthetic trends and AI filters are some of the most popular and easily shared content globally. Trends change constantly; be it the pursuit of ‘glass skin’, the benefits of sulphur for acne, the practice of ‘Slugging’ & ‘Glow-ups’ and the infamous ‘padded hairbands’ debates’ …Growth in Tiktok and YouTube reels in particular have helped fuel a consistent stream of skincare content to an inspo-hungry audience.
In past generations, the secrets to beautiful skin were thought to be the domain of gatekeepers like dermatologists, celebrities and millionaires. Now, skincare advice can be found online, by anyone with a real appreciation for skin treatments. Young skincare enthusiasts can find like-minded ‘skinfluencers’ with the same skin challenges or goals as they have - from everyday experts like Clara Dao to young down-to-earth professionals like Dr Shereene Idriss and all the way through to Gen Z-aged celebs like Penelope Disick and North West. Social media has not only proved to be inspiring but also reassuringly relatable; Gen Z will always be able to find someone, with the same skin challenges, who they can identify and connect with. Several savvy celebs have really understood this, launching their own brands into the market and winning love from younger skincare fans - like Selena Gomez and Rare Beauty, and Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Skin.
DUPES, FRUITS & ‘BABY BEAUTY’ PRODUCTS
Social is naturally where many skincare fans will find product and brand inspiration, with beloved ‘Baby Beauty’ fans brands coming from every corner of the world. In recent years, the ancient wisdom behind Korean and Japanese skincare rituals has proven to be a mega hit with western audiences - with brands like Drunk Elephant (and their best selling ‘Sunshine Drops’), Glow Recipe (and their iconic watermelon range) and Laneige (with lip products that are constantly in demand) dominating the wishlists of skincare lovers everywhere. The appeal of these products? From their bright colourful packaging to gorgeous, instagrammable bottles, they literally jump off the screen and ‘add to cart.’ With fruity flavours like ‘gummy bear’ and scents like ‘raspberry smoothie’ they naturally appeal to a more youthful palette. Simpler, legacy brands like CeraVe and The Ordinary have also managed to carve themselves a new space in younger fans hearts as effective, hardworking staples that everyone wants.
“I spend about €100 - €150 euro a month on skincare stuff. I don’t think it’s even that much, my Tatcha serum is over a hundred quid alone. I have my usual products that I buy whenever there’s a discount code, and then I save up my loyalty points to try something new. I just love skincare, but my mam thinks I’m a bit mad.”
Niamh, 24, The Love Network
Finding the ‘next’ big product is the mission of dedicated beauty fans; some readily making trips to their top skin-destinations to find ‘trending in the country of origin’ products before they go mainstream. For those buying online, sites like YesStyle specialise in having a steady stream of new products to stock up on. Many of these sites operate referral or loyalty programmes, incentivising the sharing of products among friends which all adds up to a nice credit cache for more purchasing.
And then there’s dupes. To make their money go further, younger skincare fans are open to trying similar and exact dupes of their most coveted premium and designer products (a ‘dupe’ is an alternative or direct copy of an expensive brand). Despite the risks involved, for younger people, sometimes it is just about getting kudos from being seen to have the latest brand…
Tweens AKA Generation Alpha are coming up hot on the heels of their Gen Z cousins. Inspired by older influences, balancing their ‘asks’ to parents is challenging, as many of these products are not designed for their skin needs. Holiday season saw many parents perplexed and somewhat horrified at the high-end, detailed skincare asks coming from their 10-13 year olds. Parents are genuinely concerned about the potential impacts on their still-developing young skin, and the fast-growing culture of expensive, premium products making their way into their children’s bathrooms and bedrooms. Aestheticians and dermatologists have advised caution, as more adult skincare formulations may in fact skincare issues like acne, sensitive skin and rosacea on pre-teen skin. Brands also have a real responsibility to their communities; Drunk Elephant has received recent backlash for questionable advertising, whether or not the brand intentionally marketed its product to children.
“Generation Alpha, which are children born in 2010 and later, have become budding experts in serums, toners, moisturizers and sunscreens. In their quest to mimic the cool teenagers they’re watching on social media, some know more about the ingredients in those products than their parents do.”
CNBC Nov 2023, ‘Barbie who? Gen Alpha kids ‘obsessed’ with skin care could fuel holiday spending’
The success of brands in the Gen Z beauty space is not just down to how they look - the brands behind these products know how to speak to the needs of younger audiences.
Brands in Daily Rituals: We know that Gen Z audiences are seeking joy and grounding in their skincare routines - it is a powerful place for brands to connect with their community in a way which empowers them to feel positive about their choices.
Responsible Communication: We know that Gen Z are seeking community and inspiration. Brands have a responsibility to be accurate with advertising, and to be mindful of how they engage with their community - especially when pre-teen shoppers are trying to edge into spaces and places where they might just be too young for.
Understand your Audience: Knowing your audience, and involving them / those who inspire them in responsible communications is key to success:
"We have noticed the relatively recent influx of Gen Z and [the younger] Gen Alpha adopting healthy skincare habits. They want to have a conversation, not be marketed to, and we deeply respect this."
Nicola Kilner, the CEO and co-founder of The Ordinary, NPR Interview 2023
AUDIENCE INSIGHT VIA THE LOVE NETWORK
The Love Network is THINKHOUSE’s platform for the Creator Economy; a tech-enabled, custom-built platform that helps brands grow brand love through a global network of Creators, Influencers and Changemakers. It capitalises on the latest technology to identify and measure the most impactful communities and networks of people to garner insights, broadcast brand messaging and drive conversation in culture. We grow brand love and engagement by listening to young people and partnering with creators to tell brand stories. Contact us for a one-to-one introduction.