gen alpha

Ulta Targets 8-Year-Olds For Self-Care 'Joy'


Ulta recently unveiled its latest report on the state of the beauty business, revealing that Generation Alpha -- kids born after 2010 -- now begin experimenting with beauty products at age 8. And while 77% of parents of these young consumers say they think that’s normal, it is substantially younger than Generation Z, whose girls took their first steps into beauty and treatment products at age 12.6, and boys at 13.4.

The research, part of Ulta’s Joy Project, indicates that Gen Alpha boys are just as intrigued with beauty and personal care products as girls, with 30% of males saying they are "very interested" in beauty and personal care products.

While many are still little enough to ride in car seats, Ulta says these Gen Alpha shoppers have strong opinions and brand preferences, and 97% agree that “skincare is self-care.”



Popular “Get ready with me” videos on YouTube and TikTok are fueling the trend, and pediatric health experts are alarmed about what’s come to be called the “Sephora Tween invasion." They note many of these kids are purchasing skincare products designed to prevent aging, with ingredients meant for people who are decades older.

As a result, doctors worry about everything from skin irritation to encouraging ageism. “Family physicians can help tweens and families decipher the potential risks of these products and recognize the dangers of unrealistic beauty ideals,” writes Jennifer Middleton, MD, MPH, in a blog post on the American Academy of Family Physicians website. “Having a healthier attitude about aging can lead to healthier lifestyle choices. Prioritizing a positive self-identity for girls, beginning even at very young ages, enables them to question society’s impossible standards for women’s appearance.”

Experts also believe the trend contributes to stigma about “good” and “bad” skin and may encourage ageism.

Ulta acknowledges “mixed perceptions” but says the research shows this earlier experimentation is positive for mental health. “We believe beauty is a force for good, for all,” says Michelle Crossan-Matos, chief marketing officer. “Beauty has always played a role in many people’s lives as a form of self-care, self-expression, and joy. Some of my fondest, early memories were of watching my mother practice her beauty rituals, which she eventually passed on to me and me onto my children,” she says in an email to Marketing Daily.

“This act of joy and connection is a normal part of growing up, and we found that it can also help kids establish a healthy relationship with beauty and a positive self-image—especially when knowledge is being shared through trusted sources like parents and siblings.”

She points out Ulta’s research finds that parents and peers influence product selection, with 79% of parents saying they want “to play an active role in their beauty discovery. Parents also find beauty as a way to bond with their children.”

Whether prepubescent beauty routines are good for kids or not, they are boosting the beauty industry. Circana, the market research company, recently reported that millennial households earning $100,000 or more with kids spent 10% more on beauty products than those without kids. And those households increased their purchasing frequency by more than 15%.

As part of the new report, Ulta Beauty is kicking off #JoyForward, an effort to spread 10 million moments of joy with the world’s longest compliment chain. Working with beauty brands E.L.F. Cosmetics, Polite Society and Beekman 1802, as well as influencers and store associates, it’s inviting fans to share about the people in their lives and what makes them beautiful inside and out.

Ulta is also spreading joy through digital promotion on Ulta Beauty-owned channels, a custom TikTok filter, and paid sponsorships with iHeart Media and Spotify. Store associates are helping by handing out joy cards, pins and stickers.

The point, says Crossan-Matos, is that beauty can be rooted in joy no matter how old a person is. “Our report reveals that 93% of teens and adults believe that they, personally, deserve to experience joy and happiness in their life—and beauty discovery helps fuel feelings of joy, with 77% of all generations agreeing that maintaining a beauty or wellness routine helps them feel more joy on a day-to-day basis.”

These youngest customers find joy through beauty as a part of self-expression, and 91% “believe beauty is about looking and feeling good more than it is about appearance.”

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