Gen Z and Alpha on Cosmetics and Ageing Badly |

Gen Z beauty
via Pexels

Gen Z and Gen Alpha may be some of the youngest demographic, but youth, as they say, is wasted on the young. Cosmetic procedures come and go. Dermal fillers are the new thing for Gen Z. Since the 2010s, Singaporean youth have no issues with plastic surgery. Back in the 2010s, a lot of teens underwent cosmetic surgery for issues ranging from double eyelids to breast augmentation. (Heck, even fish get plastic surgery in Singapore.)

Gen Z may be the first generation to popularise vapes, facial fillers, and expensive facial care products – but the irony is that, according to experts, it’s making them look older than millennials. Yikes.

So what procedures are super popular among this generation, and why is that?

Baby Botox

If you’re on TikTok constantly, you’ll see a constant barrage of young women showing off their skincare routines. And the pressure to conform is high. Teens and women in their early 20s are applying expensive serums, utilising anti-wrinkle tape, and even opting for Botox because they want to look even younger.

Google ‘Baby Botox’ in Singapore and you’ll come across a plethora of outfits marketing the service to young customers (ie. Gen Z). There’s also something called ‘Preventative Botox’, a ‘prejuvenation’ where botox is injected even before any visible signs of ageing appear!

Botox works by temporarily paralyzing muscles in order to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. And these are only temporary measures, meaning a top-up will always be necessary to maintain that wrinkle-free look. Yikes.

Dermatologists warn that excessive and prolonged use of Botox can weaken and flatten the muscles, leading to thinner and looser skin, as well as the possibility of adjacent muscles being recruited during facial expressions. For example, excessive forehead Botox can result in squinting through the nose and developing wrinkles along its sides. This means that additional Botox may be necessary for these newly recruited muscles.

Last year, data from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery revealed that 75% of plastic surgeons witnessed an increase in clients under 30.

Social media skincare for Gen Z

Social media is a big culprit in pushing the big anti-ageing regime to teens who don’t need it at all. TikTok – or SkinTok – is a huge influence. The “Get Ready With Me” (#grwm) videos are hugely popular, and often feature expensive skincare products.

It’s not surprising that Gen Zs look to social media platforms for skincare advice. They spend a lot of time on it, and they don’t normally ask their parents for skincare advice. And with a plethora of skincare content online, it can be hard for shoppers to know who the real experts are.

Some popular GRWM skinfluencers

According to Statista’s e-commerce database, the largest portion of accounts on TikTok and Instagram consists of nano-influencers who have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers. Digitally adept Gen Zers rely on them to shape their buying choices, seeking products that resonate with their values and tastes.

A 2023 report by Meta and Bain & Company on Southeast Asia’s digital consumer landscape found that 72% of Singaporean Gen Zers favour online shopping. The emotional engagement of “shoppertainment” appeals to them as they would rather buy from content creators who provide a dimension of authenticity to the product. These live-streamers would often demonstrate the products live, adding a later of credibility.

Not only are they influenced by watching TikTok clips, they’re also influenced by parasocial relationships. Whether it’s interacting with skincare influencers (aka “skinfluencers”) or Asian celebrities, it makes Gen Z feel like expensive skincare or even plastic surgery is just a rite of passage.

There’s also the pressure to look good in order to compete for attention. Studies have shown that comparing yourself to those you see as better can harm your self-esteem, known as upward social comparison.

Children are the beauty industry’s future

With stiff competition among skincare brands for the older generation, companies are now turning to a younger, fresher generation. And the young don’t even need advanced skincare for at least another 2 decades – that’s how they build early insecurity!

Pint-sized beauty influencers, or “Sephora kids,” have propelled the hashtag #teenageskincare to over 25 million views on TikTok. You can see some sharing their 12-step skincare routines! These are literally children – some of them primary school age. What child needs that much routine?

Social media users have observed an increase in the presence of young teens exploring beauty stores like Sephora, specifically for skincare products designed for older women. Some brands, such as Drunk Elephant, are a huge hit with teens, who are consuming products like anti-ageing retinol cream. They cost over S$100 for a 30ml tub!

Some young kids at skincare stores

Unless prescribed as a treatment for conditions like acne, many dermatologists recommend using retinol only in your 20s. This is because teenage skin tends to naturally regenerate quickly, so the potent effects of retinol may not be necessary. Young skin is typically susceptible to increased oiliness and hormonal fluctuations, so consistent retinol use could potentially lead to excessive dryness, redness, and irritation. Products intended for older skin can be too harsh and disruptive to a younger skin’s microbiome.

The Gen Z pressure to look good

What’s driving the sudden preoccupation among the youth with their appearance, and why are they taking extreme measures? A common explanation points to the pandemic, which shifted many school activities online. This exposed kids to constant scrutiny of their appearance on screen during Zoom sessions.

Additionally, the pervasive influence of social media and parasocial relationships significantly shapes their perceptions of beauty standards and product usage. With Gen Z and Alpha constantly glued to their phones, they’re bombarded with relentless marketing messages. While this presents a lucrative opportunity for skincare brands to tap into new markets, it also poses a risk of fostering unhealthy obsessions among impressionable young minds.