In 2008, Kim Grustas went on a search for skincare products she considered safe, effective and age-appropriate for her tween daughters. She couldn’t find anything meeting her requirements and channeled her frustration in a manner familiar to many independent beauty brand founders: She started a product line, Good for You Girls.
The line struck a chord with other moms sharing Grustas’s frustration. Its sales have doubled since last year, and Good For You Girls is now sold on QVC and Amazon as well at spas and salons. Grustas attributes the brand’s recent strength to a rising demand for clean beauty, social media buzz, and mounting interest among young consumers.
Good For You Girls isn’t the only brand that’s responded to that interest. The field of beauty brands aimed at teens and tweens is swelling. Saribelle, C’est Moi, The Better Beauty Box and Prep Your Skin have joined the market with Good For You Girls to tend to transitioning faces.
These brands are shimmying into a segment that may be as tricky as the tween and teen years. They have to attract adults whose children don’t always follow their leads, be cool while being family-friendly, price deftly for beauty budgets that aren’t typically towering and retain customers’ attention even as they might turn their gazes to brands directed at older audiences.
Conquering tween and teen shoppers is tough enough. Imagine having to win over moms, too. Jennifer Stippert, co-founder of The Better Beauty Box, an ingredient-conscious service for tweens and teens, says, “We have to sell our subscription twice: First to the girl who will wants to receive the box and, then, the adult that will be paying for it.”
Despite the obstacles, beauty brands trading in goodies for girls could be poised for gains. “With beauty having such a big moment, now is the time for a tween beauty market. Tweens are finding it easier than ever to partake in beauty culture due to widespread social media usage, especially YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat,” says Anagha Hanumante, senior intelligence analyst at CB Insights. “Retailers such as Riley Rose, Ulta and Sephora are already targeting younger shoppers, which could eventually translate to a more tween-focused market. However, the biggest challenge facing brands is whether parents will support tween-focused beauty or view this trend as over-consumption.”
For some independent brands, beauty’s big moment and the broader interest in all things clean has opened the door for a thoughtful and natural approach to tween and teen personal maintenance. It’s an opportunity brands such as Good For You Girls, Saribelle, C’est Moi, the Better Beauty Box and Prep Your Skin are determined to seize to expand awareness — and their businesses.
It’s moms with natural inclinations that are moving the needle, according to Kelly Barker, co-founder of skincare brand Prep Your Skin. She says teen girls would rather spend their money on “lattes, clothes and makeup” than invest in a clean skincare routine. Prep Your Skin customers are moms looking to start skincare routines for their daughters or moms looking to clear up their daughters’ breakouts. Barker says, “Mom has the buying power. Most of these girls aren’t spending their own money on skincare.”
Barker appeals to moms by encouraging them to look at their daughters’ skin through a long-game lens. She says, “It just makes sense to spend a bit more now to protect your children’s skin, so they don’t have to worry as much about skin cancer and potentially spend thousands of dollars on products and procedures in the future.” The long-term vision seems to be a successful selling strategy. Barker shares Prep Your Skin’s revenues soared 222% in 2017 and are on track to climb 180% in 2018.
A misstep in consumer targeting can spell trouble for teen and tween brands. Daniella Wrubel, founder of Saribelle, was thrilled with substantial orders coming in at the outset of her natural skincare brand in 2016. To nurture retail relationships, Wrubel hired a sales rep known for her ties to drugstore chains. “I let the rep convince me to market Saribelle to adult women,” she recounts. “Our products are specifically formulated for young skin. I didn’t expect them to perform on adults.” Marketing to adults wasn’t effective, and Saribelle’s sales dipped.
Later, Wrubel had a rep tell her the Saribelle’s “immature” packaging needed to be sexier. Wrubel ignored that advice. “I worked two years to develop that packaging specifically for young girls,” she ways. “I learned to go with my gut.” The lesson paid off. In the last few months, Saribelle’s sales numbers have trended upward.
The upward trend in the sales performance of tween and teen beauty products may cascade. “While nail, lip and other color cosmetics have been historically popular intro beauty categories for tweens, we could see other areas like skincare and haircare gain more traction,” says Hanumante. “Ultimately, product positioning is key. Brands will have to appeal to tweens while simultaneously [convincing] parents that their products meet a need and are safe for regular use. For example, tween beauty products that offer health and wellness benefits (e.g. sun protection products/SPF) could encourage parents to allow their kids to participate in better-for-you beauty, especially if parents are making similar purchasing decisions for themselves.”
Skincare and makeup brand C’Est Moi, which means “it’s me” in French, stresses education to clarify issues around skin issues, particularly acne, and products for them. “It’s insanely frustrating to see the acne products marketed to teens,” says Jennifer Saul, vice president of marketing at C’Est Moi owner JAKKS Pacific Inc. “Their young delicate skin can’t take actives like that all the time. It’s really intense.”
Young girls, not dissimilar from everyone else, can fall prey to a barrage of marketing. JAKKS’ Saul is frustrated with the teen-centric makeup brands she spots on shelves. “It makes me crazy to see these products made in China and specifically marketing them to this age group,” she says. “It’s negligent in general to allow your children to use these products.”
An ingredient deck scrubbed of suspect compounds has never been more relevant. Recent reports that makeup sold by Claire’s Accessories and Justice contained asbestos have heightened consumer attention. The reports help distinguish brands widely known for pure ingredients from the rest, but could tarnish those without a clear natural bent.
“When stories come out like [the one about asbestos found in Claire’s], we get lumped into that mess,” says Carissa Rossi, digital acquisitions manager at TownleyGirl. “We make sure we dot all our i’s and cross our t’s. Ensuring our products are safe is an investment, but well worth it for the sake of our relationships with our licenses.” TownleyGirl reigns supreme with licenses that read like a four-year-old’s Christmas list: Disney Princesses, Trolls, My Little Pony, Vampirina, Minnie Mouse, Frozen and Play-Doh.
Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, wasn’t surprised by the asbestos revelations. He says, “There are two main reasons why products for younger people are more likely to be contaminated. One: No regulation. We need to ensure all products on shelves meet a basic safety threshold. Two: Tweens and teens don’t have income, so they are buying cheaper products, products from brands that cut corners.”
Cook continues, “If a brand is EWG-certified like C’Est Moi, mom knows that the entire line was put through rigorous testing and review.” But moms and kids are often not on the same page. Cook acknowledges a critical challenge is persuading teens to be ingredient-savvy. He says, “We try to convince them to just turn that box around. The front of the package is so much less important than the back.”
Beyond pure ingredient stories, today’s tween and teen brands deliver empowering messages tailored to the gen z mentality. “The ‘Instagram Face’ has really hurt girls’ underlying need to find and celebrate their own individuality,” says Grustas of Good For You Girls. “It is a mask that makes everyone look the same.” She’s peeling back the mask to improve young skin – and switch tweens and teens onto proper skincare before bad habits take hold.
- It’s been a struggle to sort out where teen and tween brands fit into the beauty market. Do they target moms or girls? Do they try mature messaging or keep it youthful?
- Despite the struggles, tween and teen brands could be poised to make gains. Girls are getting involved in the beauty market at younger and younger ages, thanks to social media. Moms are seeking better-for-you products for themselves and their children, a trend that figures into skincare and makeup purchases, among various beauty categories.
- Revelations about asbestos in makeup sold at teen-oriented chains Claire’s Accessories and Justice has raised awareness about ingredients in beauty products aimed at girls. Brands like C’est Moi producing clean beauty products can distinguish themselves from those that rely on synthetic ingredients and possibly attract customers.
- Teens and tweens are incredibly tricky consumers, especially for brands positioned as healthy, natural or clean. They don’t necessarily want to spend their meager allowances on clean skincare and makeup products, and aren’t especially attuned to reading labels.
- Tween and teen beauty brands are experiencing growth. Prep Your Skin’s revenues, for instance, soared 222% in 2017 and are on track to climb 180% in 2018.