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To fill their time over the holiday break, it seems, kids went to Sephora en masse. And no one on TikTok was happy about it. On the social media app, dozens of Sephora shoppers and staffers made videos complaining about the behavior of kids as young as 9 years old clamoring over Rare Beauty, Drunk Elephant, Sol de Janeiro and other Gen Alpha-beloved beauty brands. While the majority of videos have focused on Sephora, Ulta Beauty has been mentioned in some, too.
In a December 31 video with 2.6 million likes and over 25,000 comments, TikTok user @_giannalove (172,000 followers) tells a story of a post-Christmas trip to Sephora to pick up the products she wasn’t able to check off her wishlist. One such item was the viral $38 Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi™ Bronzing Drops with Peptides — the hashtag #dbronzidrops has 231.7 million views. As Gianna Caldera tells it, she knew her chances of getting her hands on the oft-sold-out product were slim, and yet, there was one box left. Another girl, who “could not be older than the age of 10,” began to approach in what felt like slow motion, according to the post. “Her fast little short hands grabbed it before me,” Gianna said in the video. Then, the younger girl said, “Well, beat you to it!”
The accusations and complaints on TikTok recall the young shoppers fighting with one another in store, leaving messes of testers, breaking testers and being rude to salespeople. There’s also a general frustration among women in their 20s, 30s and beyond that many tweens and teens can spend vastly more money than themselves on beauty products.
On January 2, Savannah Harpster (@savdoesmakeup on TikTok; 6,000 followers), a Sephora salesperson in the Boston area, made a TikTok video she called “The Epidemic of Children in Sephora.” In the five-minute video, she speaks about awkward encounters she’s witnessed between children and their parents at the checkout line, as they negotiate what to purchase. Ultimately, she blames the parents: “Let’s be real: It’s not the kids’ fault. … They’re so annoying, but it’s the parents that aren’t disciplining their kids.”
Kids, tweens and teens have always wanted to use beauty products to feel like grown-ups — though the products they used to turn to looked more like toys than $60 Drunk Elephant cream. In addition, they have always wandered the mall and gone to Sephora. And some have always behaved better than others. But like other social media phenomena, there’s now more visibility around any talking and complaining about it.
Sephora did not respond to a request for comment about the flood of TikToks speaking to this “epidemic” and whether there has actually been an increase in foot traffic of younger shoppers in its stores.
Harpster, who has worked for Sephora for nine months, said the holidays were a peak time for younger customers flooding the stores. “All of the kids are seeing what everybody else got [for the holidays],” she theorized. Gen-Z-focused newsletter After School cited Dyson hair gadgets, Sol de Janeiro fragrances and Summer Fridays lip butter balm — all available at Sephora — as some of the most popular beauty products in Gen Z TikTok Christmas Haul videos. Harpster said Fenty Beauty, Glow Recipe, Drunk Elephant and Dior’s lip oil are also among top brands and items currently being desired and purchased by younger shoppers. “Oftentimes, it’s the brands with really bright packaging,” she said.
Harpster said tweens and teens typically arrive at the store in groups: “They huddle, they like to form in packs. They don’t ever really want help from [the] employees at Sephora,” she said. She recalled a recent instance when “two girls got in a fight because they only had so much money between the two of them and the one girl’s thing cost more.” Money is a common source of conflict among younger guests, she said. And they often need instructions during the payment process. “You have to teach them how to put the chip in or how to tap,” she said.
As for young girls seeking out products with ingredients that are not appropriate for or necessary for their skin, Harpster said it’s common. Recently, a tween shopper came in looking for retinol to prevent acne scarring. Instead, “I showed her a bunch of our hyaluronic acid serums, and she got one that I suggested from The Inkey List.” Overall, she said, she tries to redirect customers to an alternative that will “scratch the itch” of whatever it is they’re looking for. With her assistance, “a 10-year-old is not going to be buying a Drunk Elephant retinol oil because it’s pink,” she said.
As for impacts on the store itself, more maintenance is now required in specific areas. Those Gen-Z/Gen-Alpha-popular Drunk Elephant “smoothies” have to get made somewhere and, in-store, that’s at the moisturizer testers. Young shoppers typically use “the green one,” Harpster said, referencing Drunk Elephant’s Protini, as the brand’s Lala Retro Whipped Cream, which is, in fact, better for younger skin, has already usually sold out, thanks to its current popularity among the demographic. At her store, the pump for the Drunk Elephant’s B-Hydra serum tester has long been broken. And, as for the Bronzing Drops, “We have to take the caps off of [testers], so [shoppers] don’t walk out with them,” she said. And recently, she added, she spent hours cleaning Haus Labs foundation off of Lady Gaga’s face on one of the brand’s displays.
Ultimately, Harpster said, she tries to combat any less-than-adult behavior with stellar customer service. “[Providing] good customer service shows them that this is a mature experience; it’s not a playground for them.”
Among customers posting about related experiences is Caroline O’Connor, an MBA student who has recently visited Sephora locations both in New York City, as a tourist, and in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she lives. While visiting New York with her boyfriend, O’Connor was looking for a specific shade of Rare Beauty blush. “He was like, ‘There are a lot of kids in here.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I know. This is every time I’ve gone to Sephora over the past couple of months — it’s jam-packed,” she told Glossy. O’Connor posted a TikTok about the experience on January 1, captioning the video, “I am so glad that the children in Sephora conversation is happening.”
“I got a little overstimulated because of [so many] hands grabbing for things,” she said. On her post, comments include people commiserating: “I don’t even want to shop for anything in Sephora anymore because it’s like a daycare,” “Schools starting again, I’ll be in Sephora from 11-2 😭,” “Sephora is the new Claire’s,” and “If I had asked my mom to buy me something with a Sephora price at 12, she would’ve laughed in my face….parents are just not willing to say no.”
For her part, O’Connor said she grew up watching OG YouTubers like Jaclyn Hill and recalled saving money and paying for the beauty products she could afford with cash. “My friends and I were definitely going to Sephora, but we weren’t wreaking havoc. And we had a strict budget.”
On the flip side is the less represented vantage point of a young shopper, as seen in a TikTok video posted two days ago by user @rileylikeschickfila. Riley reported that, when she’s just tried out products on her hands, she’s noticed “fully grown adults, people in their 20s,” taking her picture. “That is weird, that’s illegal. You shouldn’t be doing that,” she said. For some reason, she states, there is a belief that nobody under the age of 15 has acne and, as such, they shouldn’t need anything besides cleanser. “Look at my face — you saw before I put concealer on it. In what world is this clear skin? All I want to do is shop in peace and try to fix this acne.”
If you go deep in the comments of these videos, you’ll find some serious debates and allegations we have neither the time nor space for here: Kids today can’t read or do math. Parents never say no, and it’s a problem. Kids should be allowed to buy products to address their acne. Perhaps this is all a generational debate. But in the meantime, hopefully there are restocks on Drunk Elephant and Rare Beauty so everyone, at any age, can have the moisturizer and blush they desire.
Spate Trend Watch: Head spas are the latest way to treat yourself
In pursuit of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation, consumers are embracing a new beauty service: the head spa, a specialized experience that centers on the scalp. And they’re posting about their experiences. On TikTok, the growing trend has 80,300 monthly views, representing an increase of 55.9%.
Integral to the head spa experience is the incorporation of massage, complemented by the use of herbal ingredients. And relaxation is the primary benefit, emphasizing the ever-growing recognition among consumers of the importance of self-care and holistic beauty practices.
Because head spas hail from Asian traditions, consumers are specifically seeking authentic and culturally rooted Japanese and Chinese head spa experiences. They’re actively searching for locations near them that offer this specialized scalp treatment.
“Brands can tap into the head spa trend by offering products for both salon and at-home use, providing a comprehensive solution for consumers seeking professional-quality relaxation,” said Yarden Horwitz, co-founder of Spate.