Clean Living, New, Skin

Understanding the Teen Perspective on Sustainability and Skincare By Mona Van den Abeele

Collage of six teenagers, each shown in individual frames. The top row features a girl in a hijab, a girl smiling outdoors, and a boy looking serious. The bottom row includes a boy with dark hair in a chair, a girl with curly hair and braces, and a girl smiling indoors. The image represents a diverse group of teens sharing their perspectives on sustainability and skincare.

In a world where teenagers are increasingly confronted by worries and anxieties related to the expectations placed upon them, as well as social media, sustainability and environmental consciousness always seem to come last; the average teen perspective on sustainability is, therefore, one of indifference.

As a teenager myself, I can confirm that reflecting on my ecological footprint or my contributions towards our unsustainable linear economy is not a part of my daily routine.

So, why is there this sense of paralysis around sustainability among teenagers? Will we, as adolescents, ever alter our perspective on sustainability? What does skincare have to do with this?

The Role Schools Play in Shaping the Teen Perspective on Sustainability

The implementation of environmental sustainability in primary school curricula has increased over the years; the extent to which this has shaped the teen perspective on this subject is something to think about.

Some may argue that raising awareness about these issues to children at school is necessary and beneficial, because their understanding of the concepts will instil a sense of environmental responsibility in them, which, when they become adolescents, should make them consider the environmental sustainability of their choice of lifestyle. Simple, right?

But some of the teenagers who grew up with this repetitive ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ sort of narrative are now conditioned to shut their brains off at the mere sight of a green recycling symbol plastered on the first slide of a PowerPoint presentation. These teens therefore perceive sustainability as a boring lecture they are forced to attend. In fact, one such teen whom I spoke to describes sustainability as “Important but neglected”.

A direct link can therefore be deduced between the way in which schools introduce and teach the subject of sustainability to children, and the teen perspective on this topic.

The Role Social Media Plays in Shaping the Teen Perspective on Sustainability

Another cause of the teen perspective on sustainability being distorted is the growing use of social media as a platform to advocate for change.

I speak from personal experience when I say that, sometimes, the overwhelming amount of social media content displaying the destructive impacts of climate change and global warming can become demotivating and upsetting. This has led to some teenagers ignoring the movement altogether in order to avoid these negative feelings.

It feels as though environmentalist social media accounts have resorted to shaming their viewers to gain traction, unknowingly doing permanent damage to the movement as social media users get tired of being blamed. The teen perspective on sustainability is massively, if not wholly, determined by the content we consume online.

Social media platforms are also the cause of many of the products teenagers use on a daily basis. Skincare products, for example, have become widely advertised and promoted on social media through sponsorships or the companies themselves.

Hence, the most aesthetically appealing and well-advertised skincare products become viral, rather than the most effective and healthy ones.

After asking a teenager if he would still use the skincare products he uses now if they were not promoted on social media, he said “Not necessarily. For example, CeraVe is very popular and well-advertised, so I found out about CeraVe through social media and advertisements I saw, and that’s how I got to using it.”

Another teenager said “To be honest, all of the skincare I used to use was because I saw it on TikTok. Now, it’s mainly the products my doctor gives me”. It seems that the right education is what we need to make a change.

The Way Forward: Changing Teens’ Awareness of Sustainability

But if adults cannot lecture us, schools cannot teach it to us, and social media cannot blame us, how will we ever collectively change our awareness of sustainability?

The first point is that change does not occur on its own. Something else needs to change to trigger that shift. The world needs to do something, try something, anything.

I would say that attempting to diversify the way in which the teen perspective on sustainability is being shaped is better and more useful than incessantly prattling on about it, even if that attempt seems trivial or counter intuitive. Something is better than nothing.

Adapting Your Communication Style and Approach to Teens

The second point is that we need to stop overlooking the fact that teenagers have a different brain than children or adults. If you want to inspire, motivate, or interest us, consider what and how you are communicating.

You would not try to have a business conversation with a chicken. So why on Earth are you still giving hour-long speeches about polar bears to one hundred 15-year-olds who are mentally watching Netflix as time seems to stand still?

Why are you using arguments like “Don’t you care about what your children will have to go through?”, or “But in a few dozen generations, half the land on Earth will be submerged and people will die!” to convince teenagers to care? Realise that using arguments which attempt to make a teenager sympathise with people who do not even exist yet is completely useless. We don’t care!

Selflessness should not be the core of your argument when convincing teenagers to care about the movement. Think of us as the rawest embodiment of human nature; self-consciousness, social anxiety, and emotional instability don’t leave room for selflessness.

Moreover, the argument should be short-term and based on something tangible. If we can physically see and experience what your argument is about, we are more likely to respond to it, as we can draw a direct connection between our actions and the impacts of those actions.

For example, while we intellectually understand our contributions to the enhanced greenhouse effect, yada yada, that knowledge is not enough to trigger a response because it seems so distant.

The Preventative Measures to Change Future Generations of Teens’ Perspective on Sustainability

I strongly believe that addressing the main reason why sustainability becomes a stale topic as children grow up would change everything. The first time a child is told about the importance of a global issue, that child’s concern for the cause will peak for a few years, and then, naturally, it will gradually decline. That sounds obvious, but apparently, the nature of how humans process new information has been lost on many people.

I am not saying that if you want teenagers to be passionate about sustainability, you should only introduce the topic when we reach that age.

What I am saying is that sustainability (or the lack thereof) should not be treated as shocking or dramatic, because while this will illicit the most intense initial reaction in children, their concern will quickly fade, and soon enough, you’ll be re-reading this blog for guidance on how to capture even the slightest sliver of a teenager’s attention.

Treat sustainability as a regular, day-to-day routine. Discuss the sustainability of the products you use in your home with your children and teens, but do not dwell on it or let it turn into a lecture.

The best strategy to increase the awareness teenagers have on sustainability without negatively impacting our perspective on it is preventing the topic from becoming dull in the first place. This would help change future generations of teens to be more informed on sustainability without perceiving it as today’s teens do.

How Sustainable Skincare Can Shift the Teen Perspective on Sustainability

As I mentioned earlier, using an argument based on something tangible is more effective in swaying a teen’s perspective on sustainability than one which is figurative or far-fetched; the use of physical objects makes the cause more believable and realistic.

You can start with skincare. For better or for worse, most teens care about their appearance. Hence, many of us spend time finding and using skincare products to maintain clear skin.

I would advise you to use this area of interest to your advantage by showing that you both value our wants/needs, as well as the sustainability perspective of the products they use. But before you fall into the trap of mentioning pollution and polar bears to your pimple-faced teenager, consider focusing on our health and our needs; make it clear that using these sustainable skincare products is for our benefit, not the environment’s.

Furthermore, have meaningful conversations with us to turn this sustainability goal into a collaborative project. Acting like the all-knowing saint of sustainability will not only make us irritated as they are being bossed around, but also feel as though they can passively follow along.

We may be more motivated to do our own research and exploration into sustainable skincare products and to take ownership of our own skincare routine when given the freedom to do so. This feeling of independence is key in prompting us to learn more about sustainable skincare.

The Benefits of Using Sustainable Skincare Products

Switching from conventional, chemical skincare products to sustainable and chemical-free will bring several benefits to the user:

  1. Health and safety: Sustainable and chemical-free skincare products do not compromise the health of the user to function properly. What people tend to forget is that whatever they put onto their skin will not only be absorbed deeper into the skin, but it will then be present in the bloodstream and interact with cells around the body, causing hidden but long-term health issues.
  2. Cost effectiveness: Sustainable and chemical-free skincare products typically appear expensive at first glance, but their durability over multiple years will save you money.

For instance, the average spends of one person on drugstore skincare products to cleanse and exfoliate the skin as well as remove makeup for a period of 3-4 months is:

Cleanser: AED 65
Exfoliator: AED 60
Cotton pads for makeup removal: AED 12
Makeup remover: AED 15
In total, that amounts to AED 152.

For a period of 3 years, that would be AED 1,596.

Contrastingly, a Face Duoglove from HALO, manufactured by ENJO, which is a sustainable skincare tool that acts as a cleanser, exfoliator, and makeup remover, costs AED 175 for a period of 3 years.

Hence, although the conventional skincare products are initially AED 23 cheaper, they are around 9 times more expensive in the long run.

We can, however, criticize the accuracy of that calculation as we are not considering the cost of washing the duoglove weekly, which includes both the washing machine cycles and the detergent added. However, that does not considerably change the values so, as a general rule, long-lasting products are cheaper long-term than less durable ones

The Effectiveness of Sustainable Skincare Products

Finally, and most importantly, sustainable skincare products can work as effectively if not more effectively than conventional, chemical products.

Companies such as HALO which do not solely market their skincare products based on the fact that they are environmentally sustainable are more successful in changing the teen perspective on sustainability, because they seriously value the actual functionality of their products.

This is because, since sustainable skincare products avoid the use of harmful agents and chemicals, companies designing them prioritise the physical properties of their products, including the material, technology, and mechanisms they are based on.

Therefore, expertise in the company is fully directed towards researching and developing the effectiveness of the product rather than embellishing it with fragrances and aesthetics. There must be a correlation between how sustainability-focused a company is and the effectiveness of its products.

HALO is one such example; products manufactured by ENJO utilise specifically designed technology to lift and trap bacteria/dirt out of your pores. From my own experience, their seamless cleansing pad and face duoglove are now all I need to efficiently and comfortably remove makeup, as well as generally clean my skin before moisturising.

I find that some cleansers or exfoliators are quite harsh, making my skin feel dry and look dull after using them, even while following those products with a moisturiser. I also notice that I often dread doing my skincare routine because it becomes tedious to use more than three products, and I would much rather sleep a little longer than spend time on that.

I am, therefore, considering moving away from conventional products to make my skin healthier and save some sleeping time. Then again, it will take patience to convince myself to make that change, since I am currently secure in my routine.

In conclusion, the teen perspective on sustainability and skincare depends on what we are taught in school and the content we consume on social media, but it is subject to change if our awareness of the concept of sustainability changes.

Some ways in which our awareness can be heightened is by adapting our communication style and the tone with which we treat the subject, as well as involving sustainable skincare in the discussion.

Mona Van den Abeele

Young woman with shoulder-length brown hair smiling warmly while sitting outdoors. She is wearing a sleeveless black top, and the background features lush green trees and a clear blue sky.

Student at NLCS Dubai

My name is Mona and I am in grade 10, North London Collegiate School Dubai. I chose HALO Middle East for my internship because I am passionate about the seemingly trivial yet important decisions we as consumers make, how these impact our ecological footprints, and the role the company plays in urging their audience to make lifestyle changes and strive to become more sustainable. Through this experience, I hope to develop skills such as persuasive writing and adapting the content I create to different social media platforms.

Mona’s Favourite ENJO Skincare Products

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