Is the Fear of Aging Polluting the Fountain of Youth?

Girl Using Skin Care Lotion Adobe Stock 509704583
Image by Yakobchuk Olena at Adobe Stock

The Mercury News featured a story on May 8, 2024, about the U.S. State of California’s proposed bill to prohibit the sale of certain anti-aging products to children ages 13 and younger.1 More specifically, the bill would ban the sale of an over-the-counter (OTC) skin care or cosmetic product “advertised to address skin aging that contains vitamin A or its derivatives [including but not limited to retinoids and retinol] or an alpha hydroxy acid [including, but not limited to, glycolic acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or citric acid],” as of Jan. 1, 2025. It would also require verifying the age of the buyer.2

See related: Gen Alpha Anti-aging Skin Care Ban Under Consideration in California

The Guardian reported3 in March that Swedish pharmacy Apotek Hjärtat banned the sale of anti-aging skin care to consumers 15 and under without parental consent due to “potentially damaging effects.” When Bubble Skincare launched an exfoliating serum in the U.S. earlier this year, per Bloomberg, the brand advised many of its pre-adolescent consumers to not buy it, as the serum was “too harsh” for their skin.4

National Geographic5 extended the concern for potentially negative impacts even further to kids’ mental wellness. It April headline read, “What is our fear of aging doing to our kids’ mental wellness?” This story referenced the so-called “Sephora kids” effect, where age-obsessed tweens began bombarding the retailer in search of “potions they think will keep them forever young.”

The Mercury News1 continued its story with the tale of a 14-year-old girl interested in skin care who used her mother’s anti-aging products that contained ingredients such as retinol and hyaluronic acid. While these are well-known to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, they caused her young face to turn red and blotchy. This is one relatively minor example of what all the hubbub is about – concerns that anti-aging products used by younger consumers could potentially harm them.

The Culprit? Social Media.

Where are they getting this idea in the first place? Many sources are pointing to social media. The BBC reported the “Sephora kids” phenomenon in January, citing the hashtags #sephora or #sephorakids on TikTok and Instagram.6 The Guardian highlighted that TikTok has millions of videos dedicated to teenage girls using skin care – and what’s more, that younger generations of influencers are coming through. “[I]t’s now the children of the Kardashian family sharing skin care routines online,” the Guardian reported.7

An April report in The Week stated, “Social media has encouraged children and teens to delve into anti-aging treatments for skin way earlier than necessary. … The interminable quest to prevent aging has also gone further, as younger adults opt to have preventative cosmetic surgeries before they show signs of aging.” The source added that with social media's influence only growing, “growing old is going out of style.”8

Fear of Aging

“The youth of today find aging a positively terrifying event,” dermatologist Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., explained. “This is unfortunate since aging is part of life, just like eating and sleeping. This concern has led teenagers to consider anti-aging products and procedures at a young age, based on the premise that if you start anti-aging activities when you are young, you will not appear old. There is no proof that this assertion is correct.”

She continued, “Teenagers are now opting for botulinum toxin injections before lines occur on the forehead, in the frown area and around the eyes. However, botulinum toxin has not been around long enough to observe what happens when a 16-year-old has injections consistently until age 65. Does the 65-year-old look younger than her counterparts having undergone a lifetime of botulinum toxin injections? I am not sure.

“However, there are some considerations that should be discussed. There is excellent evidence showing that after prolonged injections, the muscles of the forehead and frown begin to atrophy or shrink after disuse. This happens to all muscles of the body. A weightlifter begins to lose muscle mass immediately after stopping weightlifting and must resume the stress on the muscles to recover the lost muscle mass. The facial muscles cannot bulk up like the arm and leg muscles, but there is concern that facial muscle mass loss will lead to loss of facial skin because the muscles take up space under the skin. This could actually lead to additional folds on the face.

“There is thought that botulinum toxin could decrease the fine lines and wrinkles on the face by preventing the muscles from pulling on the skin where the muscle attaches. This is a possibility; however, the face will age in response to sun exposure despite the use of botulinum toxin.”

Topical Concerns

Considering topical products, Draelos noted: “Many youths are also purchasing topical preparations with anti-aging ingredients such as retinoids, bakuchiol, green tea, growth factors, exosomes, etc. Is it worthwhile to use anti-aging moisturizers at a young age? Indeed, it may be helpful to put moisturizer on the skin. The moisturizer will protect the skin barrier and the active agents may protect against oxidative stress.

“Films over the skin surface can trap nanoparticles found in pollution and prevent the nanoparticles from touching the skin and inducing reactive oxygen species. Topical antioxidants can also quench reactive oxygen species. Whether the moisturizer will be anti-aging when started young has not been proven. However, it is best to address aging at the preventative stage rather than the reversal treatment stage.”

She did note that stronger concentrations of anti-aging ingredients for younger skin could be concerning. “Since these ingredients used in cosmetics must be safe, they are on both adult and children’s skin. However, the ingredients can cause irritation, and this may be more prevalent in younger skin. For example, retinol [can be irritating] in both adult and young skin and could cause a retinoid dermatitis.”

So, what might younger consumers safely do to maintain their appearance? “Looking young means sun protection and sun avoidance,” Draelos responded. “It also means a healthy diet full of antioxidants and a healthy body with excellent rest and avoidance of excessive alcoholic beverages and cigarettes and vaping. Healthy skin means avoiding living in a polluted environment and wearing sunscreen. It is possible to begin these youthful lifestyle habits as a teenager and reach the age of 65 looking great!”

Gen Alpha: Large and in Charge

While the risk vs. benefit factors of anti-aging skin care for tweens are debated, what is not in question is the spending power of these young consumers; aka Generation Alpha (born between 2010 and 2024). Global Cosmetic Industry previously reported Circana data showing that Gen Alpha continues to drive prestige beauty sales among households earning more than $100,000, with kids' households growing at twice the rate of households with no children.9

Notably, "spending per buyer was directly influenced by the presence of children. Among households with children, the average spending per buyer in Q1 increased at five-times the rate as those without children," per the firm. Gen Alpha households are also more brand-sensitive than their peers and often engage in categories more than their counterparts. For example, 44% of all U.S. adults with children of any age have purchased skin care, perfume, makeup and/or hair care in the last three months. Yet 60% of parents with children ages 6-11 have purchased hair care products for their children in the last three months, while 46% bought skin care. Interestingly, 30% of this group purchased makeup for their children in the last three months, while 20% purchased perfume.9

As of spring 2024, U.S. teens' beauty spend reportedly has risen 8% year-over-year to $339, per the Piper Sandler Companies' 47th semi-annual "Taking Stock With Teens" survey. This represents the highest spend recorded since spring 2018.10

Considering tweens are positioned at the corner of purchasing power and product demand, it’s only a matter of time before tween-targeted anti-aging (or perhaps pre-aging or never-aging?) products hit the shelves.


1. Lam, S. (2024, May 8). “Age before beauty?” California bill seeks to ban sales of anti-aging cosmetic products to children. The Mercury News. Available at

2. Ligiscan. (Accessed 2024, May 10). California Assembly Bill 2491. Available at

3. Bryant, M. (2024, Mar 20). Swedish pharmacy bans sale of anti-aging skin care to children. The Guardian. Available at

4. Neumann, J. (2024, Apr 5). Tweens obsessed with skin care drive brands to say: Don’t buy our stuff. Bloomberg. Available at

5. Blakemore, E. (2024, Apr 3). What is our fear of aging doing to our kids’ mental health? National Geographic. Available at

6. Taylor, M. (2024, Jan 22). “Sephora kids” and the booming business of beauty products for children. BBC. Available at

7. Marsh, S. (2024, Apr 20). “Kardashian children are sharing skin care routines:” Experts on Gen Z’s aging fixation. The Guardian. Available at

8. Rao, D. (2024, Apr 3). The never-grow-old generations are here. The Week. Available at

9. Global Cosmetic Industry. (2023, May 8). Gen alpha’s 9 favorite beauty brands.

10. Global Cosmetic Industry. (2024, May 1). Teens x beauty: A growing love affair. Available at

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