If you’re a mother to a little girl, hang on to your hat: the beauty industry has set its sights on your 6 to 9-year-old, according to this New York Times article. The goal: to create ever-younger consumers:
Traditionally, young girls have played with unattended M.A.C. eye shadow or Chanel foundation, hoping to capture a whiff of sophistication. In the recent past, young girls have also tagged along on beauty expeditions by their mothers and teenage sisters.
But today, cosmetic companies and retailers increasingly aim their sophisticated products and service packages squarely at 6- to 9-year-olds, who are being transformed into savvy beauty consumers before they’re out of elementary school.
“The starter market has definitely grown, I think, due to a number of cultural influences,“ said Samantha Skey, the senior vice president for strategic marketing of Alloy Media and Marketing.
The “starter market”? Shudder. How exploitive. How utterly shameless.
I first blogged about this issue back in 2006, when the notion of little girls tagging along to the spa to indulge in pampering rituals seemed, to me at least, misguided but relatively harmless. But it seems that the beauty industry has ramped up its efforts since then, responding to a growing demand for the luxe life:
In a study last year, 55 percent of 6- to 9-year-old girls said they used lip gloss or lipstick, and nearly two-thirds said they used nail polish, according to Experian, a market research company based in New York. In 2003, 49 percent of 6- to 9-year-old girls said they used lip gloss or lipstick.
Youth market analysts say this is part of a trend called KGOY, “kids getting older younger,“ and cultural observers describe a tandem phenomenon, more-indulgent parents.
KGOY. Am I the only one who finds this “trend” desperately sad? I know my little girl won’t stay little forever, but the thought of her feeling like she needs a “makeover” at the tender age of 5 makes me want to scream. Even event planner Tracy Bloom Schwartz, who makes a living planning parties like these, sees the absurdity. “Sometimes I want to ask, ‘makeover what?'” she said.
Rosalind Wiseman, author of the Mean Girl survival manual “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” perfectly captured my discomfort with this phenomenon:
“Mothers and fathers do really crazy things with the best of intentions,“ she said. “I don’t care how it’s couched, if you’re permitting this with your daughter, you are hyper-sexualizing her. It’s one thing to have them play around with makeup at home within the bubble of the family. But once it shifts to another context, you are taking away the play and creating a consumer, and frankly, you run the risk of having one more person who feels she’s not good enough if she’s not buying the stuff.“
What say you, ladies? Is Wiseman right or is she making much ado about nothing? When did your daughters first show an interest in makeup or pampering? Is it too much too soon nowadays?
As for me, I was always fascinated with makeup, and loved to watch my mother fix herself up. But while she let me play with her makeup, she set strict limits. I wore lipstick at 11 and snuck a little eyeliner when I was 12, but made sure to scrub it off before coming home from school. Today, I wear lipstick and a little powder 90 percent of the time, and that’s it. I love MAC cosmetics, but hardly ever take the time to actually wear them.
As for my own 3-year-old daughter? She is obsessed with trains and I have to wrestle her just to cut her toenails. I am hoping it stays that way for a while.