How generation Alpha shapes the future of the beauty industry?

The cosmetics market as seen by Jagoda Prętnicka-Markiewicz

As reported by Vogue Business, NPR and CNN, the obsession with skincare for teens and pre-teens is enjoying unabated popularity. Most of us view this phenomenon with a mixture of amusement and horror. Because do 12-year-olds really need a skincare routine? How will these needs shape the beauty market? On this topic, an article for Wirtualne Kosmetyki was prepared by Jagoda Prętnicka-Markiewicz, Account Director SEC Newgate CEE.

The younger generation, known as Alpha, is becoming the new focus of the beauty industry. Girls and boys up to the age of 13 (the youngest members of the generation have not yet been born) are the target group for beauty companies.

Who are the representatives of the Alpha generation? And why are they important to marketers?

According to Australian research house and Gen Alpha experts, McCrindle, by 2025 the Alphas will become the most numerous generation in history, numbering more than 2 billion people. The first generation to be born in the 21st century is attracting the attention of marketers and beauty brand makers, who are already trying to win their hearts and wallets (not just through their parents’ wallets). The market is estimated to be worth $1 trillion, and by the time the eldest come of age – and that will be in 2029 – their direct purchasing power will be more than $1.7 trillion globally.

It is with great fascination that we observe that the Alpha representatives have adopted extremely advanced grooming routines that surpass even those used by their mothers from the millennial generation. #skintok. The obsessive approach to skincare by some representatives of the Alpha generation arouses surprise, jokes and even concern. This phenomenon is partly linked to the influence of social media, particularly TikTok. There is no doubt that social media platforms are central to the beauty topics of teenagers and children aged 10-12. Here, influencers are having a not insignificant impact on the beauty habits of young people.

TikTok plays a key role in shaping young people’s interest in cosmetics and skincare. In addition to influencer accounts, the filters on offer also play a big role in shaping habits. “Aged filter” available on TikTok and Instagram shows the projected ageing process of the skin, also contributing to the young generation’s fascination with the topic of skincare and anti-ageing.

New shop shelf

A group of visionary brand founders, weary of the obsessive fear of ageing youth and the strict skincare routines recommended by TikTok influencers, are creating a new beauty industry landscape for Alfa. Designed from the ground up with the very young consumer in mind, the products offer simple descriptions, pragmatic and direct usability solutions and relevant communication. They are also devoid of superfluous extras, so they are characterised by greater authenticity. They also carefully avoid excessive advertising rhetoric. Examples of such brands include products from Indu, JB Skrub, Rile, Allkinds, Evereden and Gryt. Each of those mentioned has its own approach to youth skincare, offering products tailored to the needs and values of the target group.

What sets brands designing cosmetics for teenage girls apart?

Certainly an excellent awareness of the impact of social media on young consumers. They try to build their messages on positive messages related to self-acceptance, healthy lifestyles and (sic!) mental resilience. The aforementioned Indu does not have a Facebook profile, but the brand’s TikTok videos are quite popular.

What’s more, brands vying for the youngest are seeking to build their strategies on engagement and product development in collaboration with young people. Launched in September 2023 by the co-founders of Feelunique, the brand Indu verified that 73% of teenagers want products specifically designed for them, a skincare offering. Faced with this, she and a committee of 160 teenagers collaborated on Indu – from formulas to packaging. The collective was also involved in social media ambassadorship. The most interesting part of the brand’s offering from my perspective is the ‘Colourless’ collection. This is a proposition ideal for young people experimenting with cosmetics for the first time. It includes colourless eyelash and brow gels, matte skin highlighter, lip oils and even a pH-activated lip and cheek tint for a natural blush. What’s more! The entire language and tone of the brand is vetted and co-created by a child psychologist (as mentioned by Reena Hammer, co-founder and CEO, in the UK edition of Cosmopolitan). Interestingly, each time the brands subtly suggest their values, such as sustainability. However, this does not become the main message and USP (unique selling point) of the offering. For beauty brands designing products for the Alpha generation, the key seems to be a focus on authenticity, the natural element of which (although for many of us this is wishful thinking) is not the environment at all.

In addition, the design language of the new wave of Alpha brands is decidedly quirkier than those familiar to us, aimed at older consumers. The new aesthetic renounces the imitation of the prevailing feminine drugstore style of Sephora or the Douglas chain over the years.

JB Skrub’s brand description on Instagram reads: ‘Clean skincare for boys and those who get dirty’. It all adds up, here the feminisation of messages is no longer an issue. The language of communication to Alpha, is most often characterised by not specifying a particular gender.

Miles is a plant-based deodorant brand for teenagers, launched in early 2023. Its strong, convention-breaking design supports positioning regardless of gender. Company founder Carly Broderick emphasises that this is an intentional endeavour. Miles has embedded in its mission statement the promotion of individuality and inclusivity, which are at the core of the Alpha generation’s values.

Gryt is also worth watching. It is both a product offering and an educational platform supporting teenagers and children in their adolescence. The concept is built on the promise of changing one’s life for the better – failing miserably step by step. Founded by health coach Caroline Kusnetz and experienced beauty rep Kathryn Beaton, the brand supports the formation of healthy habits at an early age. Half of the Gryt website aims to educate with, among other things, a FAQ section aimed at both teenagers and parents. In the content, youngsters can find answers to the question – Why does hair grow everywhere? Parents, on the other hand – Is there a ‘nice’ way to tell them they stink? (recommended!)

Beaton says today’s children face more pressures than ever before, from school competition to the burden of climate change, so the brand’s many initiatives support youngsters in their daily intensities with reality.

Routine self-acceptance

Alpha values are not yet definitively defined, given the young age of the generation. Most likely, as with any new generation, they will challenge many of the ideals recognised by their predecessors. All indications are that they will reject the established norms and impossible standards upheld by the outgoing Instagram beauty culture. They are also likely to question the ethics of a beauty industry that sells dreams and hyper-consumption. Brands create culture, and many professionals, experts and consumers will agree that today’s beauty culture is detrimental to impressionable and insecure teenagers. So on the one hand, a beauty routine; on the other, acceptance and confidence. Or maybe… this routine leads to self-acceptance?

One thing is certain, the Alpha generation will have a gigantic impact on the future of the beauty industry, and the brands that manage to understand and adapt to its expectations can gain the loyalty of consumers for a long time to come.

Jagoda Prętnicka-Markiewicz
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