Not All Skinfluencers Glow: On Saying No to Tween Skincare


A girl using skincare. We were shopping for a back-to-school outfit at an outdoor mall last August when I first noticed my ten-year-old daughter eying Sephora from across the way.

“Look, Mom! Sephora! I love that place!” she said, then asked if we could go in.

I turned to her, confused. “How do you know about Sephora? That’s for makeup and stuff,” I said, shaking my head. “And it’s expensive. Even I don’t shop there.”

She shrugged. “My friends go! That’s where they get their skincare. Just like the girls on YouTube!”

I groaned, my ongoing disdain for YouTube telling me it was time for another detox.

That day, instead of indulging her dreams of Sephora, I directed her toward Starbucks, already proud I was willing to indulge her tween love of coffee shops with a vanilla bean smoothie.

As the school year started, the memory faded. Fifth grade meant more tests and homework and gymnastics practices. There was little time to dwell on much else.

But throughout that fall, more hints of a budding interest in skincare emerged. There was talk of skincare at sleepovers, friends discussing lotions and serums and beauty routines, and even (denied) requests for skincare products at Christmas.

By the time we entered the New Year, my daughter was begging for a skincare routine of her own, talking of toner, cleanser, moisturizer, and more.

As a forty-year-old woman who has never owned or used toner, I tried to compromise by buying a drugstore bottle of gentle face wash. But my daughter was unimpressed. When I asked her why, she quickly told me she needed a better brand, something like Drunk Elephant, Glow Recipe, or Bubble.

The brands rolled off her tongue as if she were giving me a grocery list. But these requests were light years away from strawberries and granola bars.

So I shook my head. “No,” I said. “You don’t need that stuff. You don’t need any of it.”

My daughter sighed. “But Mom, why not? My friends use it! Most of it is organic. It’s good for you.”

Again, I put my foot down. “Sweetheart, you have perfect skin. Many of those products are for skin that’s older and skin with wrinkles. You only need moisturizer when your skin is dry and sunscreen when you go outside.”

“Can we buy Drunk Elephant moisturizer?” she asked.

Shaking my head, I turned to the internet.

A 50ml container of Drunk Elephant moisturizer came in around $59. At Glow Recipe, it costs $40. Bubble, a skincare brand that has taken tween marketing so far it now sells stuffed toys in the shape of moisturizer bottles, was the most affordable at $16.

But none of that could compare to the $15 price tag on the 568ml bottle of Cetaphil already on top of our vanity.

Skincare is big business, with some experts estimating the global market will grow to $167 billion by 2030. As the market grows, brands continue to target younger demographics, such as tweens, who may have disposable income from birthdays or babysitting jobs.

But should my pre-pubescent child be spending her money on skincare products that are, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, harmful?

Some experts point out that learning to care for your skin at a young age can be beneficial. It can teach self-care and help girls learn to protect their skin from sun damage. And I understand that letting tweens experiment with age-appropriate skincare products is harmless fun to many.

Yet still, my mind thought about all the other messages it was sending, the messages woven into the words my daughter was already using about how she needed special moisturizers to make her skin “glow.” And I realized then that even if most of the products she wanted wouldn’t physically harm her, they still weren’t right for our family.

Because she already glows without the moisturizer. Every day she glows when she tells me about what she learned in school, about the new challenge she overcame in gymnastics. She glows when she’s out on her bike and when she comes in after playing in the snow. When she talks about her friends and when she tells us a joke.

I thought back to the article I published a year ago on telling my daughter she was pretty. About how I wanted my girls to know they were beautiful just as they were. Here we were twelve months later, and I could see doubts creeping into my oldest’s mind. The first thought is that maybe beauty doesn’t come from being yourself. That maybe beauty lives in expensive bottles.

The thought was both heartbreaking and infuriating, and I found myself irate with all the companies targeting children, all the ten-year-old “skinfluencers” pushing products on girls like my own.

But I also knew I couldn’t change the marketers and that anger wouldn’t help my daughter.

So, as I again clamped down on YouTube, I discussed it with my oldest girl. I told her she was beautiful without expensive skin creams and that the girls she saw promoting them were being paid by companies. I told her how certain creams could even harm her still-baby-soft skin. Then I told her that if she ever needed some treatment, be it for teenage acne or something else, I would be the first in line to help her. I wanted her to know that skincare wasn’t evil, just unnecessary right now.

Which is why we are sticking to the basics – drugstore lotion and sunscreen. As for self-care, if she ever needs a pick-me-up, I told her I’d always be there to take a walk, have a conversation, or draw a bath with a bath bomb.

The day will come for makeup and moisturizers. A day when maybe she can teach her skincare-illiterate mom about toner and peptides and all the rest. But that day is not here yet. Today, I am sticking to my original message. You are beautiful, just as you are.

And for now, my daughter seems to have accepted my decision. Just as long as I keep taking her for the occasional treat at Starbucks.

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Jackie Nastri Bardenwerper
Jackie Nastri Bardenwerper lives in Fairfield, CT with her husband and three children, ages 10, 7, and 4. She is the author of several novels that encourage tween and teen girls to listen to their inner voice, from saving the family fishing business in ON THE LINE, to following a passion for crafting in SALTED CARAMEL DREAMS, and exposing a friend’s hurtful social media platform in POPULATTI. She is currently working on a new children's book series and a new novel on motherhood. She also shares her own motherhood experiences on her Instagram @jnbwrite. When not writing, you can find Jackie and her family enjoying Fairfield’s beautiful coastline where they love fishing, swimming and sailing.


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