Looking Good Gen Z!

How the youngest digital natives are disrupting the face of modern beauty and fashion.

Smiling, young Gen Z woman.

(Ly4ezarnaya / Shutterstock.com)

Are next-gen young people rejecting the beauty aspirations of older generations, and standing up for authenticity, self-acceptance, sustainability, and inclusion, spurred by influencers they look up to on the social media they are so attached to?  This seems to be the conclusion of journalists as well as some recent surveys into the attitudes of Gen Zers, born between 1997 and 2012, as defined by Blogilates, and even brand campaigns.

Keeping it real

Commenting on what it sees as a transformation sweeping the beauty industry, Grass outlines that these members of a generation known for its progressive perspective and commitment to inclusivity, share beauty standards that are less about conformity, and more about self-expression. This approach suits this next-gen’s more inclusive and realistic grasp of the world.

This outlook is seen in Gen Z’s demand for diversity that embraces a broader range of skin tones, gender expression and body shapes.

This socially conscious, value-driven attitude, less motivated by purchasing,  is also apparent in a heightened consciousness about the environment when Gen Z consumers make beauty product purchasing decisions. This translates into interest in cruelty-free, ethically sourced products from brands transparent about product origins including sustainable sourcing, and eco-friendly packaging. 

Quoted by Blogilates, cultural historian and Director of Public History at the University of Nevada, Deirdre Clemente, puts it this way: “Gen Z is disrupting the fashion and beauty standards in all ways, but they are one of the first generations that are not motivated by pure consumerism. Gen Z is a different type of consumer and they are really pushing into self presentation and a level of realness that is unseen before.”

One model example is Emma Chamberlain. As a list of Gen Z celebrities who’ve challenged Hollywood “traditional” beauty standards on Buzzfeed reveals, this US media personality and YouTuber has always been open with her fans about her acne journey. 

The allure of social media influencers

The social media channels Gen Z love are seen to play a key role in shaping their beauty and body image attitudes. Grass and other commenters have pointed out how authenticity and relatability are valued over perfection, a take articulated by influencers

Current social media clips are different from those created by millennials from around 2010, Blogilates details. While millennial clips zoomed in on the highlight reels of their best moments or photos, and were, in a more toxic fashion,  intended to stir up some envy, Gen Z, as London-based sociologist and influencer, Rukiat Ashawe explains, are about curated imperfection instead. 

Social media platforms today are now spaces where real beauty experiences are celebrated and shared. Think creators who are not afraid to post blurry photos and TikTok videos showing themselves without makeup or with messy hair and clothes.

Respected gymnast, Simone Biles, is one Gen Zer who in her actions and words has spoken out on the beauty of authenticity. Four years ago, she was involved with a “Beauty is NO COMPETITION” campaign. In her viral post on X, she criticized being hounded by a judgemental competition on her looks that she didn’t sign up for. Her empowering message is clear, however: “Nobody should tell you or I what beauty should or should not look like.”

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A post shared by Simone Biles (@simonebiles)

A recent article in India Today points out that being raised with the internet and social media, has made Gen Zers more informed and conscious of their buying choices on the environment and society too. The paper quotes a dermatologist, Dr. Ishmeet Jaur, who sees this generation of digital natives as trendsetters, influencers, and conscious consumers steering the beauty industry toward a more sustainable and ingredient-conscious tomorrow. He notes that brand packaging now reflects this interest in diversity and inclusivity. This means that “we see brands showcasing a variety of skin tones, hair types, and body shapes on their packaging and getting favored more.”

And more proof that this attitude is going global. The SAYS blog, for instance, in an article entitled “How Gen Z Influencers & Creators Are Redefining The Current Beauty Standards In Malaysia,”  discusses how this generation is shaping the beauty industry by pushing for body positivity and inclusivity and telling brands what they find beautiful.

A shout-out to recent polls and brand campaigns

While the consumption of social media still has a documented power to trigger teen worries about appearance, as Beauty Matter details, several polls, and recent brand campaigns indicate a more disruptive, Gen Z-led attitude 

A 2019 study from Viacom, quoted in Paramount, finds that Gen Z are unapologetically themselves. Eight in ten of Gen Z and millennials surveyed said that “being yourself” is the phrase that best fits their personal definition of beauty. They expect the brands they buy from to see them as unique individuals, so distancing themselves from the “unattainable”, less relatable ideals of beauty culture that came before them.

This Gen Z disruptive vibe is increasingly reflected in brand campaigns aimed at this generation. Happi reports on Colgate’s new mission to close gaps, but not those between the teeth. Named “My Smile is My Superpower,” its campaign aims to send out a message of embracing all smiles, irrespective of the perceived imperfection in size, shape, or shade of teeth.