Shopping With the Sephora Tweens After School

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

Just after school finishes, the Sephora in Atlantic Terminal Mall, Brooklyn, gets surrounded by kids wearing JanSport and Herschel backpacks. “Oh look, Sephora! Should we go see the 10-year-olds?” a girl with glitter eye shadow and two silver star clips in her hair joked to her friends before walking into the shop. As it turns out, she was 12. While it seems everyone knows about the “Sephora tween” stories emerging, no one actually thinks they’re the Sephora Tween. The discussions around the swarms of 10-year-olds infiltrating Sephora started at the end of December 2023, when TikToker Chloe Grace asked her followers if they too had noticed an uptick of tween girls in the stores. Since then, people have called it an “epidemic,” claiming the preteen girls are destroying the samples and bullying workers for Drunk Elephant.


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Fox, who’s using a nickname, 14, and her younger sister, 9, came to the store together after school, whispering to each other in the aisles and finally landing on a Glossier lip gloss. “I like the Dior lip gloss, but I don’t have money for that,” she says. Fox says that she doesn’t even buy that much, instead, it’s a place to hang out with friends. “When I go with my friends, we’ll be inside for hours but only spend, like, $10 on two face masks.”

Ava, 12, has been coming to Sephora since she was 10. She usually comes to the stores with her mom: “If I see it on TikTok, then I’ll go and see if it’s in store and try it.” Ava’s personal favorite brands include Rare Beauty, Summer Fridays, and Sol de Janeiro — all of which have viral products on the app.

Employees at the Atlantic Terminal Mall Sephora Aaliyah White, 21, and Jania Albright, 20, say it all started with the Drunk Elephant’s bronzing drops, which went TikTok-viral last year. “Everyone was coming in for those drops, then it started escalating,” says White. “I feel like it wasn’t too intense until the holiday season.” Despite this, both say they haven’t experienced a rude tween customer. “They’re not rude, they’re just acting like 10-year-olds,” Albright adds.

And they come into the store knowing exactly what they want: “They don’t even ask for anything. These kids are very knowledgeable about what they want.” Albright says after asking where Drunk Elephant or Charlotte Tilbury is, they’re usually not receptive to advice like: Perhaps you don’t need retinol. “Young people come in and just buy unnecessary skin care that they don’t even know anything about,” she says. Albright tries talking them out of it, usually to no avail.

A 15-minute subway ride away, at the Sephora in Union Square, New York, similarly looks like an after-school program around 3 p.m. on a Monday or Tuesday. Even in pouring rain, teenage girls are running into the store in pairs or groups of two or three. The 14- and 13-year-olds there also think the 10- or 11-year-olds shouldn’t be using a retinol. “I just think it’s weird because you have such good skin when you’re younger,” says Louisa, 13. “TikTok is ruining everything.” Louisa’s friend Sophia, 14, says she started coming into the stores when she was 12. “We started off with things like mascara or an eyelash curler,” she says. They now come to Sephora together twice a week after school.

Veronica, 13, says her mom has banned her from Drunk Elephant, but the pair still come to Sephora once a week. “When I got to a certain age, [12,] I realized that it doesn’t matter about the products that you’re using or if they look ugly with bad packaging — it’s about what works for your skin,” she says. (She uses retinol for acne.)

For what it’s worth, after spending hours inside the two Sephora stores, I didn’t see a 10-year-old buying out Drunk Elephant’s cream or frantically using up all the testers. I did, however, see some kids, still in their school-uniform skirts, coming in alone and filling up their carts with Saie skin tints, Fenty lip glosses, and Paula’s Choice serums. I also saw groups of tweens politely congregating around different product sections — pretty similar to what I did when I was their age at the mall. But the image of 10-year-olds rampaging through the store and running up their parents’ credit cards has become something of an urban legend — even to the tweens shopping at Sephora.

“I’m poor,” says Michaela, 12, who was shopping with her three friends. “I don’t know how they get Drunk Elephant because I come here and get a lip gloss.” Sofie, her friend, 11, says that groups of tweens like them hang out in Sephora because of today’s easier access to beauty. “There’s so much pressure to look perfect,” she says. “Whenever I see a Sephora, I walk in.”

Shopping With the Sephora Tweens After School