Is TikTok Killing ‘Millennial’ Beauty?

“I don’t believe you need an excess of products,” he tells Glamour. ”I don’t believe you need to spend a lot of money on products, that you need products that have a fancy smell or a fancy texture or excessive packaging. In terms of achieving good skin, all you need is a simple, relatively affordable, basic routine.” 

This less-is-more philosophy is clearly resonating with his audience, which skyrocketed from nearly nothing earlier this spring to his current fanbase of 6.6 million followers.

“I think particularly for a Gen Z audience—who is really trying to cut through all the marketing claims of an oversaturated industry—it’s beneficial for them to just hear the basics you really need in terms of functionality,” says Yarbro as to why he thinks he’s had such success with younger consumers on TikTok. 

This doesn’t mean young people are uninformed about skin care, though. In fact, Yarbro says it’s just the opposite. “I think brands underestimate the intelligence of Gen Z,” he says. “The thought process is: ‘Oh, this is skin care specifically designed for teenagers, so we need to make it colorful, we need to make it fun, we need to make it smell really good.’ But really all these aesthetic-focused demands are opposed to what Gen Z is actually demanding, which is further knowledge, education, and simplicity.”

This education may be what makes TikTok so singular in its ability to influence. While Instagram and YouTube allow content creators to go more in-depth by allotting them longer timeframes to post, there’s no comparison when it comes to the exposure rate on TikTok. On other social platforms, a user needs to actively search for content relating to skin care, but on TikTok, the algorithm works like throwing spaghetti to the wall and seeing what sticks. Once a user actively likes a skin care or beauty video, they’re served more of that kind of content until their feed is overrun by skinfluencers preaching the importance of barrier repair and the benefits of mandelic acid. 

Juliette Cacciatore, a 22-year-old student—who, full disclosure, happens to be my sister—says that aside from topicals from her dermatologist, she never she never showed an interest in any sort of skin care regimen despite having dealt with acne since high school until she discovered the TikTok, and never followed beauty creators on any other platforms. 

“It changed my entire routine,” she says. “I do feel like I know so much more, I’ve heard a lot of theories debunked, and a lot of ‘you should have never have used this.’ I didn’t know what a humectant was until someone told me on TikTok.” Among her favorite products are the CeraVe Healing Ointment, which she uses for “slugging,Telescopic Mascara, and Good Skin Days C’s The Day Serum. Nothing costs more than $26. 

Alessandra DeMarino, 23, agrees that a large part of the draw of TikTok—and the products she discovers there—is the emphasis on education. “It has definitely shifted my old Instagram buying habits, where I bought things more so based on aesthetics and claims.” DeMario says TikTok allowed her to see the results of items instead of just packaging, which in turn has influenced her to purchase. 

The looming question: Why are younger people on TikTok seemingly rejecting what Millennials are still obsessing over? According to Jenni Middleton, director of beauty at trend forecasting firm WGSN, a hallmark of Gen Z’s buying habits is scrutiny. “Gen Z want to be assured that what they are buying will work for their skin and hair, and that’s why we’re seeing this shift,” says Middleton. “Their scrutiny about ingredients stems from their comfort in the URL world, where they can do huge amounts of research.” 

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