Gen-Z is already afraid of looking old


Influencer Emma Brooks never really worried about aging – until she turned 20.

“I started freaking out,” she said. “I look different than I did two years ago…What will I look like in five years?”

Even though the oldest among them is only around 26 years old, Generation Z is already afraid of looking older. They choose makeup products with anti-aging benefits such as fine line reduction and SPF, and 70 percent use anti-aging serums daily, according to intelligence firm Circana. Botox startup Peachy said Gen-Z is its fastest-growing cohort. Prevention rather than correction has become the status quo. In a dramatic example of this trend, a TikTok titled “Things I Do as a 14-Year-Old to Slow the Aging Process” went viral earlier this year.

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“This generation is adopting older people’s skincare routines,” said Larissa Jensen, beauty industry consultant at Circana.

Today, even when 20-somethings come into dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo’s office about other issues like breakouts, most end up turning the conversation toward getting older (including, she said, more men).

Social media plays a big role. Thanks to Instagram, TikTok, and of course Zoom, people are spending more time than ever looking at their own faces. Online, they present “preventive aging” routines that include everything from using retinoids, vitamin C, and sunscreen to wearing facial tape at night and applying “baby Botox” to ideally prevent wrinkles from forming in the first place to prevent. According to Trendalytics, searches and social interest around Botox, dermal fillers and retinol increased by 63 percent this year.

“Gen Z’s early interest in anti-aging beauty has created an opportunity for brands to tap into a consumer they hadn’t considered in the category in the past,” said Rich Gersten, co-founder of True Beauty Ventures. Efficacy, quick results and cost are top of mind for the group, but there is still much to determine how their preferences will evolve as they grow up.

“It’s a bit like a generation standing next to each other. On the one hand, they care about body positivity, authenticity and credibility, but on the other hand, they place great value on anti-aging. They use filters and value perfection,” said Cristina Nuñez, co-founder of True Beauty Ventures. “There is positivity on one side and fear on the other.”

Big changes

While Generation Z has given anti-aging a wellness-centric rebrand.

For example, Dylan Heberle, a 26-year-old consultant, sees his skin care as health-related and focuses on sunscreen primarily to prevent skin cancer, with the added benefit of preventing wrinkles. He sees his nightly skin care routine as a habit comparable to exercise.

“This ties into the rise of all-encompassing self-care… taking better care of your own skin and yourself,” said Judah Abraham, CEO of Gen-Z-focused incubator Slate Brands.

Generation Z wants to slow the aging process rather than fix problems later, said Diala Haykal, a Paris-based dermatologist. The popularization of “prejuvenation” – procedures that focus on prevention – in this age group represents the most significant change in cosmetic dermatology in the last two decades, she added.

Brands are making more products to meet demand. According to Trendalytics, the volume of anti-aging-related skin care or beauty products has increased by 10 percent in the last two years. Searches for sunscreen have more than tripled, and there are nearly three times as many sunscreen products on the market today as there were three years ago. Generation Z-focused company Elf Beauty launched a retinoid last year and Bubble launched an eye cream in November.

As a result, brands specifically tailored to young skin are popping up, including Btwn, a skincare label based on the idea that teenage skin is not adult skin, and Indu, a teenage skin and makeup brand from Feelunique co-founder Aaron Chatterly and Richard Schiessl with a list of ingredients that should not be used.

Generation Z also relies on injectables because they achieve immediate results. Botox, which Heberle first learned about on social media, appealed to him as a potentially more effective and cost-effective replacement for fine line removal products. The willingness of young people to come off the streets and have an “optimization” done was not seen a decade ago, Nuñez said.

Paul Nassif, a facial plastic surgeon best known for his appearances on the E! series. On the series “Botched,” he said he’s seen an uptick in younger people seeking peels, facials and the occasional small laser. In the older generations, the clientele who received these treatments was almost exclusively over 40 years old. Instead of bringing pictures of celebrities when they come for consultations, Generation Z is bringing photos of themselves — with a filter, Nassif said.

“There’s this idea: ‘Age is a privilege.’ Let your hair turn gray. Don’t get Botox. Don’t take all of these preventive measures.’ Yes, aging is a privilege. But to live another year means to age. For me, showing wrinkles and having gray hair doesn’t mean aging,” said Heberle.

Tik Tox

When talking about Generation Z and aging, you can’t ignore TikTok.

The hashtag #antiageing has 7.4 billion views on the app. The outdated filter, which gave users a glimpse into the future, went viral earlier this year, garnering 24.5 million posts, including from Kylie Jenner. Solutions like Frownies (essentially a sticker you sleep on to smooth out wrinkles), silicone anti-wrinkle pads from brands like Dermaclara, jaw lifting chin straps from Amazon, “fox eye” face tape, and radio frequency devices like NuFace everywhere .

Gen Z’s openness to the app has helped drive demand for treatments, said Carolyn Treasure, co-founder of botox bar Peachy. When Generation Z people get injections, they often film the process several weeks apart or grimace to show how it freezes them up.

“Millennials present this idealized snapshot of the world. They say, ‘Let me tell my friends at brunch,'” Treasure said. “Gen-Z is very interested in sharing their experiences. [They tell me] “I don’t want to have a gatekeeper. I want others to know about it.'”

When they come in, they usually seem to have done a lot more research, she added.

Education, delivered primarily through social media, is playing a big role in sparking interest in preventative aging, Jensen said, as dermatologists (and high school students in their bedrooms) disseminate skin-care advice to the masses.

Still, more information doesn’t always mean it’s accurate. Many young consumers come to Ciraldo with problems that they believe are related to aging but are actually caused by premature use of harsh chemicals, she said. There also isn’t much long-term research on the effects of these “prejuvenation” treatments on a younger population.

Additionally, access to so much information can be confusing and anxious for a generation still trying to navigate the world.

“We are so young that we are very worried about getting older,” Brooks said.

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