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The Spartan Review

The Student News Site of Athens Academy

The Spartan Review

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Sephora: The New Playground: Consumerism and Superficiality in Generation Alpha’s Young Girls

Sephora Store
Sephora Store

It’s December 28th. I walk into my local Sephora with a recently acquired gift card. As soon as I open the doors, I’m greeted by employees with wide, red smiles. Flashy new products are displayed with strange catchphrases like, “Reveal your baby-like complexion!” My nose is berated with the store’s signature headache-inducing perfumed scent. Nothing is surprising. Until I’m looking at the shampoo stand and notice two girls to my left, around 10 years old. I hear them talking to each other, in influencer-esque voices (ie. “It’s like soo cute.”), discussing which product one of them should buy.

 

 I find the situation humorous. At their age, I was attempting to make slime with glue and my dad’s contact solution, certainly not perfecting my skincare routine. But as I walk around the store, I notice the mini gurus have multiplied. Everywhere I look, there are girls significantly younger than me, admiring perfumes, skin treatments, and makeup. I see one girl, who had to be around 8, gushing with her sister over Selena Gomez’s blush. The whole scene seemed strange, like I had stepped into a nightmare-induced Chuck E. Cheese-turned-Sephora.

 

This curious consumerism in young girls that I witnessed at my local Sephora seems to be a widespread phenomenon. Preteen girls on social media show their Christmas hauls filled with the viral Stanley cups, skincare products, and $130 Roller Rabbit pajamas. Girls as young as 8 make “Get ready with me” (GRWM™) videos of their skincare and makeup routines, full of acids and creams that likely do more harm than good for their youthful skin. In fact, the hashtag #kidsatsephora has over 5 million views on TikTok, with users sharing their humorous reactions to the same influx of children at the popular makeup store (Yaptangco). 

 

These #kidsatsephora are all part of Generation Alpha, a generation classified as those born from 2010 to 2025. They have had access to devices and social media at an early age and consequently grow up with all of the harmful effects the digital world brings. According to Statistical Analyst Rohit Shewale, the average screen time of kids ages 8-12 in the United States is 4 hours and 44 minutes per day. Consequences of social media, especially on young girls, are in no way unknown or infrequently discussed – insecurity, body image issues, cyberbullying, and more are some commonly acknowledged repercussions. 

 

In addition to these, another issue of social media is its widespread promotion of careless consumerism. Generation Alpha has grown up being fed a plethora of advertisements on every screen they use, whether it takes the form of small boxes on the bottom of their screen (“Click here for 15% off your first purchase!), a YouTube ad, or a video of an influencer unboxing the new PR package they just received on Tiktok or Instagram reels. This constant exposure to shiny, perfect products used by shiny, perfect people can easily fuel a shallow consumerist attitude in this young generation. 

 

As with many other issues of social media, such as body insecurities, young girls are generally the most susceptible. A study done by the University College London revealed that girls spend more time on social media and have an increased risk for its negative physiological effects (Harding). Women are commonly targeted in products meant to fix flaws that they are taught to believe they have. Social media influences women, no matter how young, to believe in and idolize unrealistic beauty standards that they are told can only be attained through the products marketed to them. It feeds them insecurities and then tells them they have the perfect cure for these unacceptable imperfections – which not only include current appearances, but also future flaws that must be prevented. Try this filter that will show you in old age – look how hideous you’ll be in 60 years! You don’t want to look like that, right? Buy this $68 retinol product and you won’t have to! 

 

And it’s working. Drunk Elephant, a skincare brand initially marketed towards millennials, has blown up among Generation Alpha. Polypeptide Cream, Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops, and Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil were just a few of their products that could be found on thousands of girls’ Christmas wish lists. The craze sparked controversy when concerned parents raised questions about the products’ safety regarding young skin, as many include ingredients like acids and retinol (Yaptangco).

 

 Drunk Elephant’s founder, Tiffany Masterson, responded to the worries in an Instagram, writing in the caption that yes, the brand’s products are safe for kids and tweens, though she recommends they avoid products with harsher ingredients like acids (Yaptangco). Regardless, an eight-year-old’s obsession with anti-aging skincare is not a pretty picture, one that reflects the superficiality that social media ingrains into youthful minds.

 

The idea of young girls wanting to be older than they are – trying on their mom’s clothes, giving each other makeovers – is nothing new. However, now that they have access to social media and can see what all of the “cool girls” have in an entirely new scope, this common attitude can easily manifest into excessive capitalistic urges. Insecurities are more accessible than ever, making the desire to purchase certain products to fix them in turn stronger than ever.

 

Ultimately, social media’s influence on young girls’ consumerist urges is a reflection of the bigger issue of how common it is for girls at any age to be unsatisfied with their appearance. A little girl buying a skincare product that all her friends have is not a problem; the problem is when she buys it out of fear of being ugly without it. If Sephora is the new hang-out for young girls who want to see their friends and act older than they are, so be it. But if it’s the place where they frequently go for the beauty elixirs they consider the cure for their imperfections, it seems misguided to dismiss the makeup and skincare craze in these tweens as a harmless trend. 

 

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Rachel Wicker, Guest Writer

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