'VSCO girl' viral trend gives brands a boost from tween spending

Mario Badescu, Scunci, Glossier and Burt's Bees are unofficial ambassadors of the social media trend

New York City mom of two Amanda Sanders has to secretly stock up on straws at her local Starbucks because her teens will police her for using plastic at home.

“I have two teen girls who are very afraid that the planet is ending. I was afraid I’d never get a straw again,” Sanders, a personal stylist, and mom to two environmentally conscious daughters, 12 and 15 years old,  told FOX Business. “They really care about upcycling and recycling.”

Sanders said she’s bought Swell water bottles for her kids for upward of $40, and her girls have forked over $15 of their own babysitting money on metal straws.

Tween and teen moms like Sanders are spending hundreds of dollars so their kids can subscribe to the “VSCO girl” asthetic, a social media photo-editing filter turned eco-friendly fashion trend that stems from a sustainability approach to consumerism. That means buying reusable water bottles, metal straws and wearing face mists instead of makeup for a natural glow.

"This is the next generation of Valley Girls where 90's retro meets beachy vibes," Maria Rugolo, a fashion business analyst at NPD Group, said in a statement. "Her style is casual and her mission is to save the planet, so comfort and sustainability are key."

The unofficial "VSCO Girl" uniform has spawned Instagram memes with "Starter Packs" comprising a wrist hair Scrunchie, Birkenstocks, reusable water bottles from brands like Hydro Flask and Swell, an oversized T-shirt and backpack. FOX Business reported that buying into the trend can set wallets back more than $200.

Fifty-three percent of Millennials and Gen Z say they prefer purchasing products that are eco-friendly.

“This stuff is not inexpensive,” Sanders said.

But shoppers are willing to pay more for it. More than half of Millennials and Gen Z say they prefer purchasing products that are eco-friendly, according to Nielsen data. And 87 percent of Millennial consumers are willing to pay more money for sustainably made brands. And many are posting photos with their purchases on apps like Instagram, free advertising for emerging brands that are driving sales.

"It doesn’t exist unless it's on social media," Sanders quipped of the obsession among teens and tweens to post photos with the products they buy on Instagram.

Helen of Troy, the parent company of Bend, Oregon-based reusable water bottle company Hydro Flask -- which sells colorful beverage vessels seen around Instagram that range in price from $32 to $65 -- reported 22.1 percent growth last quarter in its housewares division. And the iconic scrunchie that hit the market in the 1980s has seen a resurgence with the rise of the VSCO trend, with sales up 92 percent over the last two years, the scrunchie brand Scünci confirmed.

“The scrunchie gives a sense of nostalgia to consumers who loved it decades ago and is experiencing a wonderful revival due to a whole new generation of social media-conscious consumers who have newly discovered it,” Ellen Slicklen, senior vice president and general manager at Conair Corporation, which owns Scünci, told FOX Business.

Other legacy brands, like Mario Badescu, the skin care product line that’s been around since 1967, have also seen a spike in sales from younger consumers. It’s expanded its retail footprint in stores like Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Bloomingdales and on Amazon in recent years. Its $12 bottle of rose water facial spray is a top seller on Amazon with thousands of reviews.

"We have definitely seen an increase in sales and awareness that can be attributed to being associated with the VSCO girl aesthetic," a brand spokesperson for Mario Badescu said.

The renewed interest in the brand has also bought a younger demographic to the company's New York City salon. Sanders said she's spent $65 each on facials for her girls, and it's nearly impossible to get a weekend appointment, she said.

"In Manhattan, every kid gets a facial there now," Sanders said.

Call it the VSCO glow-up effect. Beauty products like lip glosses and balms from brands like Glossier, Carmex and Burt’s Bees have also become unofficial ambassadors of the “VSCO Girl” movement as tweens and teens aspire to achieve a minimalist look. Female teens have spent 21 percent less on makeup products year over year, according to an investment bank and securities firm Piper Jaffray’s semiannual teen survey. What’s more, 46 percent of facial skin care users say they’re buying products free of sulfates and other additives – up by six percentage points over the past two years, according to data from market research firm NPD Group.

Glossier, the Millennial makeup company known for its serums and lip balms, reportedly surpassed $100 million in revenue in 2018, the Business of Fashion reported. It's aggressively carving out a major stake in the beauty market at an estimated $532 billion.


Not everyone is profiting from the “VSCO Girl” trend. Major cosmetic companies have experienced sales slumps recently. In its first-quarter fiscal 2020 earnings results, Estee Lauder reported a 6 percent sales decline in the Americas due to weak color cosmetics sales. Beauty retailer Ulta cut its 2019 growth forecast in August due to headwinds in the industry.