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How is Gen Z appropriating beauty codes and hacking them?

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Generation Z, young consumers aged 13 to 26, are at a key stage in their identity construction. where self-exploration and self-affirmation are at the heart of their daily concerns. For them, beauty plays a major role, enabling them to experience their identities in motion. In the process of this creative exploration, they don’t hesitate to subvert the customs and norms of beauty to have fun, express their personalities or assert their convictions.

Beauty is a veritable playground for Generation Z. In the United States for example, 40% of American consumers surveyed said they used make-up for fun (Unfolding Gen Z Beauty study, NellyRodi 2023). On TikTok, this generation is more interested in sharing creative content (new ideas ideas, product or usage hacking) rather than taking care of their appearance. Witness the virality of the #BeautyHack hashtag and its 25 billion views, where videos using products in a different way.

For example, some users have adopted a new technique called “Self Tanning Face”, which consists of using self-tanner instead of their bronzer, creating a semi-permanent look. This trick has already been seen by more than 818 million people and takes the classic use of self-tanner a step further. In the same spirit, the “slugging” trend and its 872 million views have turned Vaseline into facial moisturizer, mascara, eyebrow fixer and even perfume. These new uses of beauty illustrate the need for exploration and fun of this young generation.

Beyond this quest for entertainment, Gen Zers are constantly exploring their identity, and beauty is one of the preferred means of expressing all its aspects.

Born with the advent of the Internet, these consumers are the first to grow up with digital: ultra-connected, with a double identity – real and digital – they are used to changing the aesthetic characteristics of their digital avatars quickly and easily. It’s a flexibility and personalization they’re keen to find IRL, by changing their hair style every day like they change their outfit, for example. On TikTok too, some Internet users use colored liquid lipsticks to temporarily dye their hair and display highly creative looks, adapted to their mood or style of the day. This new use of beauty reflects Gen Z’s need to express themselves and stand out from the crowd.

Finally, beyond the product, Gen Z is also breaking free from traditional beauty standards. This young generation wants to celebrate the individual: gender and beauty canons seem to have less and less meaning. They are looking for varied, authentic representations, with brand image and product aesthetics taking a back seat.On social networks, these young people don’t hesitate to share their acne-prone faces, skin depigmentation or psoriasis. For them, the aim is to create new, more inclusive benchmarks and call for greater tolerance. The hashtag #acnepositivism (1.2 billion views on TikTok) is proof of this. In the same vein, patches in the shape of colorful emojis to treat acne pimples are a big hit with these consumers. Whether the subject is treated more or less seriously on the surface, Gen Z is a definitively engaged generation, questioning beauty standards and challenging brands to create new products or uses at the service of individuals.

Generation Z, through its power of influence and visibility on social networks is reinventing beauty codes according to its own vision. By hacking traditional beauty usages, Gen Zers favor creativity and individual expression, and aspire to varied, authentic representations challenging established norms.



Forecasting specialist NellyRodi is an expert strategic consulting agency for the creative industries. We help businesses, their deciders and their teams – from defining their brand strategy all the way to operational deployment.

We can meet clients’ objectives for results and use our creativity, engagement and conviction to help brands. In this process we apply rigorous, finely-tuned methods, putting our consumer expertise and passion for the creative industries to work enhancing brands’ desirability.