Beauty Stores Like Sephora Draw Teens Driven by Social Media

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Sephora has emerged as a retailer of choice among teenagers and preadolescents. Its new chief executive sees both a challenge and an opportunity.

Impelled in large part by TikTok to seek beauty products meant for adults, younger customers — teenagers and even preadolescents — are proving to be a mixed blessing for retailers like Sephora and Ulta.

Retail analysts say that as the beauty stores attract a new generation of shoppers, they will need to make sure that the experience remains fulfilling for their older, core customers — including some who may not enjoy stores full of tweens and teens.

“So much of luxury and prestige is the experience,” said Simeon Siegel, a retail analyst at BMO Capital Markets. “Making an adult feel special is very different than making a college student feel special, which is dramatically different than making a tween feel special. Making sure it speaks to all generations is important.”

Teenagers in the United States have said Sephora is their favorite beauty retailer, surpassing Ulta, according to a survey released in October by the investment bank Piper Sandler. The survey found that teenage respondents spent 23 percent more on cosmetics, skin care and fragrance in 2023 than the year before.

Teens and tweens, particularly girls, have always experimented with and spent money on skin care and makeup. But this recent shift from drugstore mascara and blush to the high-end serums and lotions that Sephora carries and are documented on TikTok is leading to younger and younger customers wanting to buy these expensive products once they see that their friends are doing the same.

But some dermatologists are questioning whether all the skin care and makeup products young customers are scooping up at retailers like Sephora are necessary. They say that skin is sensitive at that age, and that too many products can cause irritation. Ingredients like retinol or skin care routines that involve multiple steps may not be suitable for people in their teens, they note.

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