Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Friend or Foe?; "Tween Makeup"

Young girls wearing makeup conjures up images of pageant queens and spoiled debutants whose "fame" is debatable. But on some occasions like school dances, Halloween or bat mitzvahs I've been known to (trepidantly)oblige. Once or twice, I've accomodated but always with ground rules; the acknowledgment that this is a special occasion and the recommendation that the look be as clean, simple and suitable to age as possible. But most importantly, no one under the age of 13. Ever. I am not interested in perpetuating the idea that makeup is appropriate for everyday use for anyone who isn't even old enough to pay rent.

While most cosmetics lines are marketed specifically to women old enough to want skin to look younger, a new brand is set to launch specifically geared towards the already very young. geoGiRL will be sold exclusively at Wal-Mart stores and includes a line of color and skin care products in cutesy pastel packaging and product names inspired by text messaging jargon.

The retailing giant has inspired contraversy in the past when it locked it's employees in overnight, punished them for missing work after making them sick and destroyed local wildlife to build it's supercenter. But now it seems, the big-box has some childwatch groups on it's back focusing not only on the questionability of it's "natural" makeup, but that it exists to begin with. And while some press releases praise the incoming flux of product including it's kitschy marketing, many beauty insiders question, how young is TOO young to wear makeup?

When I began learning makeup, a section in Kevyn Aucoin's book "Making Faces" on teen beauty always struck me as appropriate when he remarks that;

"...once an adolescent hits puberty, rebellion and self expression are as inevitable as pimples and hormonal mood swings."

There's not much you can do to prevent the desire for a bit of makeup, but it's up to parents to guide or disway them. And while a little clear lipgloss and a touch of blush won't do much harm, how often are teenagers known to limit themselves? No longer are they reaching for mom's night cream and lipstick, now they have an entire line of products and color pallettes to choose from with packaging and intrigue geared specifically to their demographic. A demographic that reaches even younger than puberty.

Although Wal-Mart isn't the first (or only) brand to market cosmetics to young consumers, does there really need to be another opportunity to sexualize children? In the book "The Lolita Effect" by Dr. M. Gigi Durham, the exploration of media influences on young girls (and boys) shows how kids as old as 7 are preoccupying themselves with whether or not they are percieved as "hot". Not only that concern weighs in, but also how they can assume "hottness". Generally it seems the only answer to that predicament is to modify speech, behaviour, public interests and wardrobe, including the use of makeup.

I have nieces.

Time and again, when asked about makeup, I always respond the same way, "you're too young". My personal regards are to stave away any type of cosmetic use until they're old enough to make those decisions for themselves. Their mothers (my sisters) have reiterated that point but understand that it may not be long before they'll opt into makeup and by then, the desire may have grown exponentially. With price points of cosmetics as low as $4 to $6 in the geoGiRL line,that even my 10 year old niece can afford, how long will "you're too young" be an effective deterrent?

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