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NOW READING Gen Z vs. Millennial Beauty: It’s All About Skincare, Diversity, and the Digital Age

Gen Z vs. Millennial Beauty: It’s All About Skincare, Diversity, and the Digital Age

Remember when you were a teen? What did your beauty routine look like? One thing’s probably for sure: It pales in comparison to the elaborate beauty routines of Gen Zers today. How the new generation of beauty trendsetters are shaping what ends up on all of our vanities.


If you’re a millennial, I want you to think back to your teenage years. What was your skincare routine like? I’ll detail mine, from what I remember.




1. Wash face with Noxzema or Neutrogena Acne Wash (the grapefruit one).

2. That’s it.




1. Maybe??? Wash face with Noxzema or Neutrogena Acne Wash.

2. If I had a pimple, I’d put toothpaste on it before I went to bed.

3. Sometimes, I’d use the Neutrogena oil free moisturizer. Sometimes.


And even though I was definitely way more beauty obsessed than my peers (I had nearly every single M.A.C eyeshadow by the time I was 18), skincare was not my forte. But was it really any of ours? Back then, all the beauty focus was on makeup — if you had acne, you could just cover it up using a concealer. If your skin was dull or dry, you’d just use a liquid foundation. I had a copy of the iconic Bobbi Brown Teenage Beauty Book and there was one six-page chapter about skincare. But the information was pretty basic and generic — don’t forget to wash your face, use an SPF 15 (?!?!!), don’t drink or smoke, and make sure to drink eight glasses of water a day. And honestly, I didn’t care about that. I wanted more information about makeup!





But now, Gen Z is running things, especially in the beauty and skincare world. Beauty startups and companies are realizing the power (and extra money) Gen Zers have and are shifting their marketing to appeal to the younger generation. Unlike us millennials, who had to use our janky one-use cameras for special occasions (which we’d develop and then cut out the photos to place on our binders), Gen Zers are faced with the unique experience of growing up in a digital age, where they are expected to not only document every waking moment of their lives but look good doing it. Millennial Marketing said it best:


“Growing up in the age of social media and selfies, Gen Z obsesses more over their appearance than previous generations. … Teens know they can be photographed anytime, anywhere, and they expect those images to end up online. With their carefully curated personal identities so public on social media, they are hyper-conscious of the way they present themselves.”


Enter the rise of Gen Z beauty.


In the past couple of years, we’ve seen brands launch with their sights set on Gen Zers. Think Millie Bobby Brown’s Florence by Mills skincare line, Fourth Ray Beauty by Colourpop, C’est Moi, Kylie Cosmetics, Evenprime, Higher Education … the list goes on and on. And not only that, major prestige brands have tapped Gen Z stars like Zendaya (Lancôme), Kaia Gerber (YSL Beauty), and Yara Shahidi (Bobbi Brown) as brand ambassadors, eschewing the older actresses and models that these brands normally choose. And these companies have one thing in common — they know that their target audience is way more skincare savvy than previous generations and, in turn, are actually focused on safe, non-toxic, sometimes organic ingredients that deliver results.



gen z beauty
Yara Shahidi for Bobbi Brown



Gen Zers are also concerned with the environment, race, LGBTQ people, climate change, politics, and animal rights, and they want to buy products from brands whose values align with their own. One of the main reasons Fenty Beauty has managed to be so successful is that from the beginning, they made sure all shades and types of people were represented in both their marketing and products. They don’t sell their products in China, which means they won’t test on animals (China requires animal testing on all products sold there). And Fenty Beauty’s social media team has their eyes on the pulse of trends relevant to millennials and Gen Zers alike — think ASMR videos with Amandla Stenberg or tapping TikTok legend Rosa for a series of Twitter videos.



@fentybeautyRosa had to show the ##FENTYBEAUTYHOUSE how it’s done 😂😂 @adamrayokay thanks for stopping by!!♬ original sound – fentybeauty


And the icing on the cake is that there are truly no rules for beauty with Gen Z. We millennials had the Bobbi Brown Beauty Book telling us to not apply oil so we don’t look shiny, and shiny doesn’t look good in real life (I think recent trends will tell us otherwise), but Gen Zers are more willing to experiment with their looks. Think everything about Euphoria, colorful eyeshadows, unicorn hair and wigs, bold lips, the list goes on. All of that translates to way more dolla dolla bills for beauty brands. According to, Gen Z spends more money on beauty than apparel, a huge turn from previous generations.






So are you a Gen Zer or a millennial (or other??)? Let us know because it’s time for a giveaway!


All you have to do is comment below and tell us whether you’re a Gen Zer or millennial, and what your experience in beauty growing up has been like!


The first 25 commenters will receive a coupon code for a free box of Laneige Perfect Renew Regenerating Masks* in your next order!


*U.S. orders only. Beauty Advisors and employees not eligible


Sheryll Donerson got her start as a beauty writer by writing K-beauty reviews for her blog, The Wanderlust Project. These days, she's lifting heavy weights, eating tacos, drinking (too much) coffee and is 1/4 of the beauty podcast, Beauty Beyond Basics (or Triple Bees for short). You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @sheryllrenata.



everytime i see or hear the word "noxzema" i shudder, lol. Don't forget the st ives peach exfoliating cream!

It's amazing to see how time really does push people in newer directions and ways of thinking. I'm a millennial and when I was in high school my skin care routine was soap, water, and no moisturizer because I was "trying to control my oily skin". Now, my routine is more than just two steps and it has been nothing but good to my skin and looking back at old photos I can really see the difference. GenZ know what they want to see in skincare and the beauty industry and I think it's very admirable.

Looking at the comments after reading such a thought-provoking and insightful article makes me both glad and wanting to console a lot of you! Times changes, the beauty industry is certainly just like it, ever-changing. And with those changes, trends change, what’s hot and what’s not changes, what’s popular and in-the-now changes. EVERYTHING changes, including what we think we know. Don’t be so hard on yourselves for the ‘soap, water, lotion’ routine, it brought you here eventually! We all start somewhere and learn as we branch out and try new things with new routines.

I’m glad I read this article and... Read more

I am considered a millennial. Growing up, and in high school, my routine was as follows:
AM wash face with warm wash cloth. Sometimes I would use a cleanser.
PM wash face with cheap cleanser and moisturize
I wore makeup and this was all I did, and was STILL advanced in skincare beyond my peers.

I love seeing the boldness that GenZ is bringing to the beauty industry!

It is amazing how much has changed since then. I now have the whole proper and healthy morning and night time skin routines, with more advanced products. Cleanse,... Read more

I'm ashamed to admit it but I used to only use water, soap, and lotion -that's it! It's a good thing that I had a clean diet, I was drinking plenty of water, and I was pretty active growing up for the most part because skincare was the least of my concerns. I just knew that I didn't want ashy skin and that lotion helped. I also knew my dry skin would irritated me if I didn't use lotion so it was my go to. ... To be honest, my skincare journey didn't began until my third year of college but since... Read more

Time really does change everything. I would grow up using Clean & Clear and wow have I evolved. Such a great article on the transformation of generations.

Im a Gen Zer and I was born in 97. In middle school I was definitely using the Neutrogena acne wash and cleansing wipes. That was it! In my senior year of high school I was more into makeup and had almost every MAC lip (mostly matte colors). I was really influenced by my two older sisters who are millennials also different music artists I liked. The Gen Zers are changing the game. There are definitely no rules for beauty with them.

Me being a Gen Xer, I was more into
Skincare when I was a teenager, mostly influenced by my mother. It’s nice to see the Gen Zer’s are getting into the skin game and not playing rules in the makeup game! My theory with make up has always been, break the rules just as long as it looks good! I’m glad there is a more freedom of expression with makeup on both genders as well. In my 20’s I started my career in cosmetics. And at night, I would show my creations on my face when I went out. Back... Read more

I firmly believe that the social consciousness of the modern makeup consumer is directly related to what we could call a liberation of beauty expression, in which more and more people are trying new things and re-defining what it can be. The euro-centric, hetero-patriarchal model of beauty is something that has impacted our society on a global scale for far too long--and a painful part of this is that how we are perceived by others greatly impacts how we are treated in this world. As a latinx, gay, transgender, drag queen, the way I express my beauty and relate to... Read more

Beautifully articulated, Sean!

Love the article! From what I remember I would just use a face wash in the mornings and at night. Didnt really know much about skin care or how to take care of my skin. I am still learning because throughout the seasons I'm either really oily or really dry. Anyways self care is the best care