It’s a trend for the young that never dies.
The desire to find acceptance during the age of awkwardness is something that has plagued the teenage experience for decades. However, that “experience” has heightened expectations for teens to meet, particularly teenage girls. A new age of perfection is established and with it comes standards that push girls to attain the highest level of beauty and grow up quicker. The force behind this matter is no other than social media.
Social media’s rise and omnipresence is clearly seen especially with its use among teenagers. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says teens spend nine hours a day on average looking at screens, with many of those hours spent looking at social media. It is here that they are met with the pervasive images and messages that create the foundation for what teens think they should be doing with their appearance. This issue is then perpetuated by social media algorithms, which continually allow the promotion of content displaying these unattainable standards. From here, teen girls are met with a constant reminder of what the ideal woman looks like. This continual repetition of information creates an echo chamber, leading teens to believe that this is the norm.
The concept of trends on social media alone doesn’t lead to problems. After all, trends transgress all age groups and establish new interests and norms within a society. The issue lies in the focus of these trends. Particularly, teen girls get swept up in popular products and standards whose intented audience should be older consumers. When these trends find their way to teens however, it can have devastating effects both physically and mentally.
Such an example is the all-too-common fear of the blemished face. Stemming from worries of acne, aging and everything in between, preventative skincare routines have found a large audience on social media, which includes many teen girls. As a result, there has recently been a rise in teens using harsh or unnecessary skincare products, like retinol. Retinol, a type of vitamin A, is primarily used in anti-aging creams, but can also be used to help acne when prescribed. But many instances of its use just aren’t necessary. Young teens and girls will post TikToks of their skincare routines, including these anti-aging products, where they hope to “slow down the aging process as a 14 [year old],” as this TikTok shows. At 14, it’s more than clear that no teen needs to be worrying about aging.
The issue becomes greater when the products become harsher. Teens still have relatively young and healthy skin, and adding on products that are designed for older adults creates a greater susceptibility to them damaging their skin barrier from pollution and UV rays.
Even looking beyond the matter of physical damage, there is also the destruction to their self-esteem. Teens will grow up believing that aging, blemishes and any signs of a well-lived life on their body shouldn’t exist. There is the idea that there will always be an ideal image to attain, and the attempts to achieve that are beginning at younger ages.
The image of perfection doesn’t end with the use of products. For nearly every girl, the teenage experience isn’t complete without a dilemma concerning the “ideal” body type. By not understanding varying body types and the differences in an adult body versus an adolescent one, teen girls find themselves encapsulated by the lauded standard seen within society’s “most gorgeous” celebrities and influencers. They do whatever they can to mimic how these women look, from putting on full faces of makeup at the age of 13, eating 1200 calories a day, to attempting quick fixes with 10-minute “Victoria’s Secret abs” workouts.
What teen girls don’t realize is that most of these individuals go through great lengths to maintain their physical appearance. Those displaying this concept of perfection turn the impossible into possible with extreme diets, vast amounts of exercise and cosmetic surgery – measures teens can’t and should definitely not pursue.
As social media continues to become integral to teenage life, these factors affecting teen girls won’t leave. These detrimental trends will remain, looming over adolescents and affecting their self-esteem, simultaneously taking away from what remains of their youth.
The childhood experience is a finite one, and teen girls should be enjoying it to the maximum. Amid the years they have left before they enter into the adulthood, their focus should be on the blissful moments around them, not on growing up to fit into a one-size beauty standard.