What to know about the tween skincare craze

Kids as young as eight are sharing complicated tween skincare routines on social media, but are they doing their skin more harm than good? Here’s what parents need to know.

Twenty years ago most tweens heading out the door to meet friends were happy enough having a clean face and brushed hair.

A light moisturiser and sunscreen was as fancy as it got.

But a worldwide social media frenzy, fuelled by TikTok and YouTube influencers, and hashtags such as #GRWM (Get Ready With Me), has seen all of that change.

“It’s taking things to a whole different level,” Sydney Skin dermatologist Dr Li-Chuen Wong says.

“We’re seeing children as young as eight, using ingredients on their skin that are designed for adults, because they’ve been following influencers and others on social media with ‘get ready with me’.”

TikTok tween skincare videos get billions of views

On TikTok, videos with the hashtag #GRWM have been viewed more than 194 billion times.

For those new to the trend, the videos showcase users getting ready for their day or to go out.

Viewers are invited to watch on as they talk through the steps in their skincare routines.

Many are using cleansers, toners, moisturisers and serums, sometimes with potent ingredients.

Dr Wong says active ingredients such as vitamin C and retinol, while helpful for adult skin, can cause irritation, dryness and even facial burns in children.

“I’ve got tweens with eczema and acne flare-ups because they’ve been using harsh and irritating ingredients on their skin,” she says.

“It’s that whole thing of wanting to emulate their influencer and show off their haul of skincare goodies on social media, but a lot of these products haven’t been tested on children or teenagers.”

Is social media sending the wrong skincare message?

While it’s natural to care about your appearance, experts are concerned the obsession with skin care and idealised social media images negatively impacts young people’s perceptions of themselves.

Helen Bird from the Butterfly Foundation, which supports people with eating disorders and body image issues, says dissatisfaction sells.

“A lot of this is pure marketing, with people profiting from ‘likes’ and new followers,” Helen says.

“But it’s inadvertently giving the message that it’s easier to live in this world if we meet society’s ideals with wrinkle-free and fresh, perfect skin, and that it takes expensive products to achieve that.

“Just as with our bodies, everyone’s skin is different and skin does change over our lifetime – change is normal.

“We need to appreciate our bodies and the amazing things they can do for us.”

How to discuss skin care with your tween

So how do you navigate skincare conversations with your tween?

“It’s pretty normal for young girls to want to experiment with make-up and that can be fun, but a hyperfocus on appearance can make young people think they’re not good enough,” Helen says.

“Help your children see themselves as a whole person – sit down with them and look through social media together and help them understand where content is just about selling products.”

And when it comes to products, Dr Wong has this advice:

“Young people can give their delicate skin the care and protection it needs by using a soap-free cleanser, light moisturiser and sunscreen.

“That’s all they really need.”

For support with eating disorders or body image concerns, call Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673), chat online or email [email protected]

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Written by Liz McGrath.