Business Categories Reports Podcasts Events Awards Webinars
Contact My Account About

Just the Numbers: Gen Z's Appearance-Based Social Media Concerns

Published August 8, 2023
Published August 8, 2023

The younger generation and social media are growing up together. Today, 97% of teens are present online, with 32% admitting they spend an average of five hours a day scrolling through social-based apps. Spending a significant amount of time on social media has led to Gen Z becoming a heavily comparative generation, constantly studying their bodies against the next persons; so much so that four in ten say social media has caused them to feel anxious about how they look. To accumulate further information regarding Gen Z's appearance-based relationship with social media, personalized prescription skincare company Curology revealed its Back to School: Unfiltered report. The study presents data from 2,000 US teenagers and young adults aged 14 to 22. BeautyMatter lays out the key findings.

Social Media Standards: 

  • 72% of teenagers state they feel pressure to look "perfect" due to the higher beauty standards set by social media.
  • 75% believe that standards are high on social media due to the heavy use and promotion of filters.

The Consequences: 

  • 25% go as far as to say they're uncomfortable sharing their bare face on social media without makeup or facial filters.
  • 37% wish they could "walk around with a facial filter on" in real life.
  • Nearly half of young Americans are anxious to return to school this fall.

The Cause of Insecurity: 

  • Acne is the number one reason students edit their appearance with social media filters.
  • Those with severe acne were twice as likely than those with almost clear skin to be concerned about "living up to" the image they've created for themselves online (20% versus 11%).
  • 59% of students with acne report feeling nervous about making new friends and socializing when returning to school.
  • 49% state that during a breakout, they would rather stay at home than go out in public.
  • 61% say breakouts make them not want to have their photo taken.
  • Nearly 4 in 5 respondents (77%) agreed that having clear skin makes them feel confident and empowered.
  • 77% of students said they wanted to improve their skin as part of their overall wellness.

Curology's findings solidify the issues social media is presenting to younger generations. For many, filters are now being used as a digital shield, causing a love-hate relationship with how they perceive themselves, leading to real-life appearance anxieties. Back in March, the Bold Glamour filter rose to popularity on TikTok. It's an AI filter that adds makeup elements to the user's face while altering appearances by lifting cheekbones, making the nose smaller, and enlarging lips. Because it is an AI filter, many flagged that they were struggling to tell if people were using the filter or not—leading to considerable concern across social media about the damage this could do to those who turn to the filter frequently, which could eventually lead to a distorted image of themselves in reality. The apprehension caused by the filter led beauty brands to speak out, including Dove, which encouraged users to reject the Bold Glamour filter and instead post their real faces under the tags #detoxyourfeed, #speakbeautiful, and #turnyourback.

Also hoping to encourage young consumers to feel good in their skin, Curology wants to make effective skincare accessible for all but recognizes that financial burdens, especially for young people, can make this complicated. To tackle this issue, the brand provides the Curology Access Program. This monthly initiative offers a credit of up to $485 to 200 teenagers from families that qualify for the National School Lunch Program or young adults who provide documentation of financial need to be used on skincare. To date, over 6,000 young people have benefitted from the program, marking an almost $3 million investment from the brand.

"With the rise of social media filters, students today are under more pressure to look 'perfect' than ever before," says Curology Chief Executive Officer Heather Wallace. "Struggling with acne and other skin issues can be a deeply emotional experience. Our goal at Curology is to encourage students to feel comfortable and confident in their skin. With access to our licensed dermatology providers and effective treatments, we aim to provide students with skincare that actually works."

In an age where endless data is presented to prove the struggles social media is posing to young people, brands should work to uplift young consumers and encourage them to love the skin they're in. While social media is highly beneficial for sales and marketing, its risks to mental health are worth reflecting on, ensuring all measures are taken to help consumers stay positive when interacting with brands online. While long-term beauty standards will be challenging to diffuse entirely from society, campaigns such as the Curology Access Program and Dove’s Detox Your Feed are set to create a new perspective and outlook for young consumers. After all, some progress is always better than no progress, especially when it comes to self-love.


2 Article(s) Remaining

Subscribe today for full access