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Can I Bring My Sephora Skin Care Products to Camp?

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This year will be Zoe Oosting’s seventh summer at the Rockbrook Summer Camp for Girls in western North Carolina, where campers, ages 6 to 16, ride horses through the mountains, spin slabs of clay and weave friendship bracelets.

This summer, Ms. Oosting’s second as a counselor, she’s observed a new bonding activity: multistep skin care routines.

The girls in her cabin, ages 11 to 13, packed their suitcases with Glow Recipe serums, Drunk Elephant jelly cleansers and bottles of Sol de Janeiro body spray.

Teenagers have forged friendships over face masks for generations, but with the explosion of a skin-care-obsessed beauty industry, even young campers have taken to the fad of pampering their faces with a variety of products, often expensive and touted by Sephora-loyal influencers.

In reels on TikTok, summer camp editions of “get ready with me” videos feature female campers showing off sleek pink bottles of Monday shampoo and conditioner, rose quartz face rollers and Supergoop sunscreen, alongside staples like jean shorts and Converse sneakers.

“It’s become such a huge thing,” Ms. Oosting said. “Girls are bringing it and keeping it in the cabin and then the restrooms.”

Nighttime routines have also begun earlier in the evening.

“I remember being a camper and counselors would have to beg us to shower,” Ms. Oosting said. “And now all the girls just beg every single day: ‘I want to shower. I need to do my hair routine, my skin care.’ Like, they beg and beg and beg.”

In northeastern Pennsylvania, Jane Kagan, the director of Lake Bryn Mawr Camp, saw the trend this spring when she met with families before camp started and felt she had to put a stop to it before the summer began. She said there was one recurring question among the fourth, fifth and sixth graders: Can I bring my Sephora skin care products to camp?

“I couldn’t believe it was a thing, but it is a thing,” Ms. Kagan said. “It’s never before come up in that age group.”

Ms. Kagan sent a letter to parents in April stating that “exclusive products” create unnecessary competition, can cause harm to those with allergies and attract bugs, as originally reported by Business Insider. She hoped to encourage a more wholesome environment, one free of technology and body image fixation.

One of the camp’s values is that “beauty is in more than skin, beauty comes from deep within,” the letter read. (Ms. Kagan said parents were overwhelmingly appreciative.)

Somerset Camp for Girls in Smithfield, Maine, also took a stance ahead of summer. In April, in a post on its website titled “Bucking the Trend,” the camp asked that parents “please refrain from sending any Sephora (and similar) accessories to camp.”

“We would prefer that nightly routines not affect precious cabin time, and we want to avoid unnecessary competition over who has what,” the statement said.

And at Camp IHC, in Equinunk, Pa., the craze was addressed in an official camp skin care policy sent to parents by email, asking that “only necessary skin care items be sent to IHC.”

Gigi Levin, 23, a counselor at a camp in central Maryland, said she had first noticed the shift at the start of the summer, when she saw girls “bringing little skin care bottles to activities.”

“I asked them about it, and they acted like I was living under a rock,” she said. “I asked one girl, ‘You’re 10 — why would you need anti-aging cream?’”

Ms. Levin said the camper had told her she had 10-year-old skin but wanted baby skin. “It was disturbing,” she added.

But at other camps, the trend is less noticeable.

Jessica Petkov, director of Camp Saginaw in Oxford, Pa., said that Sephora was a common topic of conversation but that she hadn’t seen it become an issue.

“It’s a thing, but we have not seen a crazy amount of it,” she said. “It’s pretty mild at this point, luckily.”

And not everyone sees the uptick in skin care rituals among young girls as cause for concern. Many routines encourage sun safety and include daytime products with SPF, which can come as a relief to sunburn-cautious parents and camp staff members.

Barry Perlman, a father and a reproductive endocrinologist, said that as long as the products are safe, he doesn’t take issue with his 9-year-old’s interest in skin care, which began when she was 8. He sees the ritual as a positive one.

“It’s like a bonding thing,” said Dr. Perlman, whose daughter attends Camp Chen-A-Wanda in Thompson, Pa. “It’s almost like they use it to break the ice. It’s an opportunity for two kids who might be different to be able to relate to each other.”

In June, ahead of Lake Bryn Mawr Camp’s opening day, Ms. Kagan sent a second letter to parents discouraging elaborate skin care products. Just as a reminder, just in time for packing. One parent called her, she said, and said her daughter was giving her a hard time.

“Blame it on me,” Ms. Kagan said.

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