Hailey Bieber: The Face of Gen Z’s Anti-Aging Crisis

Hailey Bieber has been called a lot of things – Nepo Baby, Mean Girl, Trophy Wife, Clout Chaser, Stalker, and worse. But she’s without a doubt a defining beauty icon, particularly for Gen Z. Most profitable for Hailey though has been her impact in the world of skincare. Hailey’s rise in the skincare community has coincided with a crisis of the younger generation fearing aging at ever-earlier points. Gen Zers have started using stronger skincare ingredients and getting procedures, lasers and injectables all in the preventative battle against aging. So is Hailey Bieber really that into health and skincare, or is her glow only skin deep and she’s just taking advantage of a market and generation already trending that way?


Gen Z has created a whole new industry – anti-aging…for young people…very young people. And this youthful health-conscious beauty standard is perhaps best embodied by… Hailey Bieber.

Hailey Bieber has been called a lot of things – Nepo Baby, Mean Girl, Trophy Wife, Clout Chaser, Stalker, and worse.

Krissy: Who the f**k does Hailey goddamn Bieber think she is? Like b*tch we only know who you are because your last name is Bieber. - @krissybenz/TikTok

But she’s without a doubt a defining beauty icon, particularly for Gen Z. Hailey gets her nails done, glazed donut nails trend. Cuts her hair, bobs trend. She gets IV therapy with fellow health enthusiast Kendall Jenner; she wears oversized blazers and low cut jeans, you get the picture.

Mikayla Zulli: These pants are an exact ‘inspired by’ moment of Hailey Bieber’s famous parachute pants. - @mikayla.vallati/TikTok

Most profitable for Hailey though has been her impact in the world of skincare. In fact, you could argue that the 26-year old #skingoals mogul is the first supermodel to be best known for her skin instead of, say, her hair or body. While she didn’t create the terms, Hailey capitalized on phrases like “dewy” and “glazed donut” skin, and in 2022 launched her skincare line, Rhode, based on an aesthetic that highlights a flawless, glowing, taut, plump, pore-less, blemish-free and notably line-free face.

Hailey’s rise in the skincare community has coincided with a crisis of the younger generation fearing aging at ever-earlier points. Especially after the pandemic’s onset, Gen Zers have started using stronger skincare ingredients and getting procedures, lasers and injectables all in the preventative battle against aging.

Megan Lombardi: Millenials and Gen Z, this one is for you. I’m gonna teach you one anti-aging hack that you need to start doing now. You are gonna thank me years from now. - @megan.lombardi/TikTok

So is Hailey Bieber really that into health and skincare, or is her glow only skin deep, and she’s just taking advantage of a market and generation already trending that way? Here’s our take on Gen Z’s obsession with the Hailey Bieber look and why a profitable industry is now being targeted at teens and women in their early 20s.

Hailey Bieber is certainly an it girl, but while she’s acted, hosted, vlogged, and of course modeled, she’s not truly known for any of those things. And though thousands of articles have been written about Hailey Bieber’s influence, it’s hard to pin down why she’s just so influential. Of course there’s the widespread interest in her marriage to Justin Bieber. But some have said she’s so popular because she’s the perfect blend of aspirational and accessible. Her style, hair, nails and makeup may cost thousands of dollars, but it’s simple pieces that are easy to duplicate. Like Kate Moss, who in the 90s was also able to transcend the “model” identity through her distinctive personal style and high-profile love life, Hailey has a striking ability to sell anything she wears, does, or even drinks. And long before she became this omnipresent as a fashion, style, and beauty icon, she was planting the seeds for her brand.

Let’s jump back to 2018. Hailey, then a Baldwin, was engaged to Justin Bieber. She was a successful model, but wanted something of her own, around the time brands like Fenty Beauty and KKW Beauty had recently launched. Hailey became the new face of makeup and skincare line BareMinerals, and their PR team sent her on a media blitz. To promote the brand, The New York Times wrote a piece entitled, “How Hailey Baldwin Gets Her ‘Glowy’ Look”. Glamour wrote how she will be “glowing” on her wedding day. Multiple videos on YouTube showed her make-up, favorite products and skin routines.

Even then, the focus was on her glow, her indelibly perfect skin. She was doing eye masks on planes before it was popular, and spoke about glow drops way before Alix Earle pushed them on the world.

In 2019 and 2020, Hailey filed to trademark for “Bieber Beauty” (which was rejected due to potential confusion with her husband) and “Hailey Bieber” for a whole bunch of fashion products including shoes, bathing suits, dresses, jeans, lingerie, loungewear, footwear, hats and more. So this begs the question: was she really as passionate about skin care specifically as she’d like us to believe? Or did this just end up being simply the easiest, most popular and most profitable avenue she could take in the 2020s.

In 2021, she laid the groundwork for a skincare line – constantly speaking about her routines and favorite products and her skincare research in a series of profiles, get ready with me’s, and Instagram content that were clearly all working towards filling what she saw as a gap in the market.

And finally, after four years of dropping crumbs, in 2022 she launched Rhode Skin, and engaged in an enormous media blitz to promote it.

Hailey Bieber: I’ve been working on this for the last almost two and a half years. - Good Morning America

And it paid off. She won Beauty Inc’s 2022 Newcomer of the Year Award, she was on the cover of Forbes 30 Under 30, and quickly after launch, Rhode was fully sold out of product. They were also said to have made eight figures in profit last year. And while her brand’s reviews are actually middling, that doesn’t matter because she’s solidified herself as the skin queen – as Rhode’s CEO wrote, “She is the de facto beauty whisperer of this generation of women”.

A recent study from SpaSeekers named Hailey 2022’s leading celebrity beauty icon, citing a 421% increase in searches for her makeup looks on Google and more than 167 million views on TikTok. She’s profited from the fact that her skin has become the ideal, rather than the efficacy of her products. Just as Kylie Jenner was able to profit from lip kits that she sold after getting lip injections, Hailey Bieber is profiting from skincare products that she and her team created after she already had “perfect skin”. Perfect skin that is the obvious result of genetics, the world’s best dermatologists and aestheticians, expensive healthy food, and overall, money.

Sophia: This is my first time seeing Hailey Bieber’s skin and that is the skinniest skin skin I have ever seen in my life. Like that is literally skin. Like I’ve never seen someone with more clear skin in my life. - @sophiaacsta/TikTok

Right now, Hailey has been going through a PR rough patch, pitted yet again against Selena Gomez, and being labeled as a “mean girl”. TikTok has been ablaze for weeks with the ongoing drama between the two, including years and years of receipts. However, unlike Selena, Hailey never took a break from social media, and is still posting close-up skin pics and promoting her brand. And the truth is, she’s not going anywhere, because of her inextricable link to Gen Z’s obsession with youthful wellness aesthetics. So how did we get here?

In their youth, millennial’s main beauty goal was, and remains, thinness. But it seems that Gen Z’s main beauty goal is to appear healthy, and to appear young.

Typically, one is expected to struggle with age, desirability and mortality during their mid-life crisis. That’s when TV and movies have taught us that men turn to younger women and faster cars, and women turn to face lifts, lasers and peels.

The quarter-life crisis came into the lexicon sometime later, and usually involves the anxieties of entering the adult world without any clue of how to manage it. But now, the two crises have seemingly overlapped and extended earlier into a new crisis – where teens and young adults are the ones already trying to stave off aging. Cosmetic companies used to market skincare to teens based on just one thing - clear skin. Zits were the enemy, not fine lines. And it used to be believed that when lines began to appear in your 30s and 40s, you worked to make them look less noticeable with makeup and creams.

Anna Coleman: I’m old!

Tess Coleman: I beg your pardon! - Freaky Friday

For centuries, women developed little hacks and tricks to minimize the appearance of wrinkles. All that’s changed along with the new perspective on aging: companies began to realize that they could market anti-aging products to younger generations by teaching us about so-called preventative measures. They sell the idea that you should be fighting off the onset of wrinkles before you can even see them. So if you can see any fine lines, well you’ve already lost.

Barney Stinson: I’m doing so much flinching. It’s bad for my skin. I’m getting crow’s feet. Crow’s feet! - How I Met Your Mother

During the pandemic, teens and young adults had all the time in the world to learn about Korean 12 step skincare routines, sit under at home LED light masks, or accidentally burn their faces with strong acids. Overnight, Gen Zers were becoming wannabe aestheticians, and when restrictions softened, they could embark on the next so-called line of defense, Botox. Or, how it’s recently been marketed, Baby Botox. From 2000 to 2018, the number of people aged 20 to 29 getting Botox went up by 39.4%.

On top of that, Gen Zers spend more than any other age group on skincare. So this isn’t just a factor in young peoples’ self-esteem - it’s a drain on their wallets as well.

Beyond just skincare, the focus on holding onto eternal youth is embodied in the popularity of wellness trends. Recently trending on TikTok was the idea of “hot girl walks”, on which users record themselves “manifesting” and “optimizing themselves”. Similarly, the “that girl” trend shows mostly young women living life seemingly correctly – with beautiful, pleasing, morning routines that involve skincare, a workout, journaling, meditation and a healthy breakfast.

I’m gonna try a “that girl” morning routine. First, I’m making my bed. Can we appreciate how aesthetic that looks by the way… - @honeybobabear/TikTok

However, “leveling up” with these unrealistic lifestyles requires expensive products, beautiful facilities and lots of free time. So while self-care is no doubt important, what these videos are often more about is the aesthetics of self-care.

And then there are the beauty microtrends sold as aesthetics, like, recently in the beauty and skin corner of TikTok, the “I’m cold aesthetic”, “clean-girl”, and “vanilla-girl.” Girls are constantly being sold new looks to copy, which of course includes purchasing lots of new goods. Many have attributed the clean-girl and vanilla girl looks to the surge in Hailey Bieber’s influence – the simple, sheeny base, barely there makeup, and of course, perfectly bronzed whiteness. These microtrends in particular have come under heavy fire for the way they value lighter skin tones and reframe white beauty standards with styling methods that women of color originally created and were long mocked for. Nevertheless, Hailey has become the face of well…faces. So it makes total sense that she’s figured out how to capitalize on this moment. Baby Botox was already booming, Gen Zers were already using strong ingredients like retinoids ,and Hailey looked like the “after” pictures.

There’s a paranoid feel to some of this health and youth mania in Gen Z. When Kendall Jenner talks about her health obsessions in her 20s, her level of fears and fixation can even sound a little concerning.

Kendall Jenner: All my friends make fun of me. I have this whole new room in my house that’s all these crazy gadgets and gismos. - The Kardashians

But Hailey Bieber seems to always remain calm, cool and just embodying this moment of a generation expecting they’ll never have to age.

Today’s young people have been fully incepted by Big Cosmetics and Big Dermatology about the way one’s skin should look in your teen’s and early 20s. And to many, Hailey Bieber’s skin is the way your skin should look.

Veronica: You guys know that Hailey Bieber is like my style icon, my beauty icon, I love her and one thing she is known for is her flawless skin. - @veronicaiizi/TikTok

Millennials promoted detox teas and juice cleanses, and gen z promotes skincare. But underneath it all is the same anxiety which seems to hit earlier and earlier, and continuing rigid beauty standards that keep women obsessively preening and critiquing their appearances, and crucially spending money to fix perceived flaws, now even before they start.


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