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How TikTok is fuelling young people’s obsession with anti-ageing

With more social media users buying into the idea that perceived flaws must be dealt with before they’ve even begun, Gen Z now spends more on skincare than any other generation.

At 26-years-old, my skincare routine consists of splashing my face with cold water, aggressively rubbing my makeup off with a towel, and lathering on some moisturiser if I can be bothered.

My minimalist approach is worlds away from some Gen Zers who’ve recently been posting tips to avoid signs of ‘ageing’. A teenage TikToker has gone viral for sharing a multi-step anti-ageing regimen that makes Gwyneth Paltrow look chill by comparison.

Her video received widespread negative attention online, with many vocalising fears that Gen Zers are feeling pressure to conform to unattainable beauty standards.

Lambasting the ‘bleak’ nature of the industry and the increasingly harmful impact of social media on the self-esteem of impressionable young women, one Twitter user wrote, ‘I hate how so many girls are losing their childhoods to social media and the beauty industry – there’s something so sinister about a 14-year-old girl obsessing over slowing down the ageing process.’

And she’s right. The routine, which involves apple cider vinegar pills, retinol (which according to Healthline can help reduce the development of wrinkles), and ‘three fingers’ worth’ of sunscreen would be, as some have argued, acceptable if the sole focus were UV protection.

Meet the teens obsessed with anti-aging skin care | CNN

But it isn’t. It’s yet another example of how kids are being made to fixate on their appearance and buy into the idea that perceived flaws must be dealt with before they’ve even begun.

‘This is so disturbing,’ responded @fruitlo0pzZ to the aforementioned tweet. ‘It’s why I believe we should have separate social media for minors and adults because they are consuming the same content that we are. A 14yr old shouldn’t be living a life like a 30yr old. I feel like the lines are becoming blurred.’

Unfortunately the popularity of elaborate beauty regimens doesn’t seem to be abating any time soon.

This is because anti-ageing messaging remains rife on social media, reaching consumers with pocket money and a curfew, as reported by CNN in 2021.

Additionally, exposed to infinite images of supposedly ‘perfect’ faces and bodies online every single day and living in the age of filters and influencers that relentlessly promote cosmetic procedures, it’s no wonder Gen Z now spends more on skincare than any other generation.

Viral TikTok trend exposes mentality around aging | Fortune

While previous decades saw such products marketed at teens primarily focused on eliminating zits, now the narrative is increasingly shifting to preventing fine lines.

Brands like Spoiled Child have even released a line of anti-ageing products for Gen Zers, with an ad campaign slogan touting ‘GETTING OLD IS GETTING OLD’ that barely tries to conceal its ageism.

That these immense pressures have become virtually inescapable for even the youngest members of Gen Z is a damning indictment of the industry at large and it’s something that urgently needs confronting.

‘A lot of beauty trends today are all about getting the skin in real life to look as filtered as possible, which generally means no deviation in tone, or texture, poreless, wrinkle free, no fine lines, just sort of this flat, reflective, shiny glow, which is not what a face looks like. That’s what a phone screen looks like,’ Jessica DeFino, a beauty critic whose newsletter, The Unpublishable, seeks to debunk myths about the beauty industry, tells Mashable.

‘There is a glorification of youth tied up in that because part of this flat, glassy skin means trying to mitigate any sort of wrinkles, fine lines or, sagging that may appear as you get older.’