Until 25-year-old influencer Adriene Davidson saw a video of 23-year-old YouTuber Kiki Chanel documenting her Botox experience, she didn’t realise people under 50 got Botox.
“I saw her results and I was like ‘I need this right away,’” said Davidson.
Davidson shared her experience, from the doctor’s chair to her frozen-forehead results, with her 569 thousand-plus TikTok followers. Expecting backlash, she began the video with a disclaimer, saying “I know this isn’t for everyone.” But the comments that accumulated were predominantly positive: curious 20-somethings posed questions while her older followers offered praise, saying they wished they had started getting treatments earlier.
Interest in cosmetic procedures has surged among young people in the last few years, as they seek out procedures to both prevent ageing and make enhancements. Young people’s attitudes towards cosmetic procedures, including plastic surgery, temporary “lip flips” and wrinkle preventers, have become increasingly positive — so much so that some clinics are shifting their businesses to cater to younger consumers. They’re offering more of the quick, immediate-results procedures the social media generation wants while offering new patients on TikTok and Instagram content that demystifies procedures and explains new methods and results.
“It [is] no longer taboo and [is] actually considered something acceptable … even something to kind of be embraced,” said Dr. Beth Preminger, a plastic surgeon and member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “Why not do things to make you feel great about yourself?” she added, saying it’s now seen as empowering.
The space is only poised for more growth. According to Dr Kay Durairaj, a facial plastic surgeon known as “Dr Kay,” who boasts over 300k followers on both TikTok and Instagram, as well as mega-influencer clients (including 19-year-old Nessa Barret and 16-year-old Cynthia Parker), social media has created a large population of people interested in injectables but not currently getting them — an audience ripe for conversion.
“The demand is going to be so huge — we’re educating this whole generation of TikTok, younger clients who are going to come out ready to get things done,” said Durairaj.
Social Media Started the Fire
Social media has played a major role in normalising cosmetic procedures. Jillian Dearwater, a 20-year-old senior in college, said that she previously thought Botox and the like were reserved for only a certain type of person — namely, a Real Housewives star — thanks to the way cosmetic procedures like lip filler were depicted in pop culture.
She got her first procedure, a “lip flip,” (a non-invasive and relatively inexpensive procedure where Botox is injected near the upper lip to pin it up and make it look plumper) in December 2020 after learning about it on TikTok. The #LipFlip hashtag, filled with videos of users sharing their experiences, including before-and-afters, currently has 71.3 million views. Dearwater’s video has 78,000 likes.
“People were getting it all over TikTok, it was all I could see like, ‘Oh, I got a lip flip today,’” Dearwater, who paid $40 for her procedure, said. “I was obsessed with it because it was just like the new thing that everyone was doing.”
Her experience introduced Dearwater to the wide world of cosmetic procedures. Now, she says, she’s contemplating lip fillers and wants to try Botox.
“When I went [to the clinic] and they were telling me all the different procedures they do, I was like ‘Oh my god, I need to do everything,’” said Dearwater. “If I had enough money to be doing it every weekend, I would definitely be going.”
Davidson loves the exploratory component of learning about cosmetic procedures on social media and often logs on to discover new procedures as well as consulting a clinic or spa’s Instagram content to determine where to get them done.
Clinic owners and doctors have seen the growth of cosmetic procedure-centric content on social media, too, and are using it as a lesson in how to boost their own businesses. Dr. Dmitriy Schwarzburg, owner of Skinly Aesthetics, said that growth no longer just depends on procedure performance, but whether clinics can visually market to consumers.
“You can’t just concentrate on what you do best,” said Schwarzburg. “You need to show it off in a certain way and fashion that is attractive to this younger generation.”
Skinly Aesthetics has shifted its content to meet Gen-Z’s preferences. Two years ago, the company’s Instagram was filled with informative videos and posts about certain procedures. Now, it emphasises styled photos and obvious before-and-after shots. The company also does paid advertising on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.
Schwarzburg says there is a greater return on investment in targeting younger people because they don’t just create content, they share it.
“It propagates,” said Schwarzburg. “Their friends, their acquaintances, people they don’t know, they share it … My older clientele would not do that, so that post essentially stops with them. It doesn’t go anywhere.”
For Durairaj, people under the age of 30 have grown to make up 25 percent of her client base, but 80 percent of patients come to her from social media. Gen-Z, she said, is capable of building desire beyond their generation — she has had clients come to her after their grandchildren show them her TikTok content.
“People who question TikTok as a valid form of engagement for older age groups, they’re just not thinking outside of the box and they’re not recognising that’s how everyone communicates,” Durairaj said. “Families talk that way, grandkids talk to grandparents, that’s how you’re going to grow your reach.”
A Greater Change
This snowballing interest has contributed to a shift in how younger consumers think about beauty at large. While Gen-Z clearly wants to achieve certain looks, they’re much more interested in problem-solving and prevention than covering up imperfections.
“People are really aware that there’s no amount of makeup that can give you … that glazed doughnut-type skin,” said Claire McCormack, an editor at Beauty Independent. “You’re only going to get that by taking good care of your skin.”
Glossier’s recent launch of a retinol product is a good example of how brands are reacting to that shift, as they attempt to help consumers solve their skin concerns instead of hiding them. Doctors, like Durairaj, too, sell their own take-home skin care solutions. Because of that, Gen-Z’s approach to makeup is to view it as more of an artistic pursuit — McCormack points to the emergence of beauty brands like Kulfi and Tood, which centre around experimentation with bold colours, sparkles and gems.
“Makeup brands are exploring being that more creative outlet rather than like, ‘Okay, what you come to us for is to cover your ‘imperfections’ and cover your blemishes — we’re an outlet for you,’” said McCormack.