Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Pretty Little Girls?

One benefit (or side effect?) of having a week off of work with nowhere to go is that I have time in the morning to watch the morning news/talk shows. Just now, the Today show aired a piece on the marketing of makeup to young girls.

As a girly girl, I remember my first exposures to makeup. To this day, my mother wears very little makeup, but I fondly recall the feelings of fun and mystery the makeup in her vanity conjured up. All the tubes of mascaras and lipsticks, pots of powders, strange tools like the torturous eyelash curler...all sorts of forbidden, interesting products that signaled adulthood and being a women. Though I was naturally attracted to cosmetics, I was not allowed to wear them until I hit 7th grade. Buying my first products, learning how to use them...it was all a rite of passage.

According to the Today show's report, girls these days aren't just playing dress up or messing with their mother's makeup at home. Now girls as young as 4 go to the salon for pedicures, manicures, makeovers, hair extensions, even highlights. Girls go to birthday parties at Club Libby Lu where they're given faux cocktails for kiddos as they get glammed up in the Sparkle Spa. Disney offers salon packages to little girls, and Sephora (and other cosmetics giants) sell entire lines of products targeted at the tween and younger set.

As a kid I would have LOVED a Libby Lu party. And part of me thinks it all sounds like fun. I don't have kids and I don't have any nieces, but if I did, I know I'd be charged with teaching them how to use makeup and take care of their skin, and taking them to a Libby Lu party or out for a pedicure doesn't seem too crazy to me.

But getting highlights at the age of 6? That seems like overkill. And there's another part of me, the idealistic part, that doesn't like kids being exposed to brands and consumerism, even though that's a huge part of childhood. It also seems like girls are just mini-mes of their product-conscious mothers: they have to wear the perfect clothes, have the perfect look, own cute accessories, even tote designer bags. That's sad to me...it seems like girls should enjoy their carefree youth, a time when their supposed to play, roll around in the mud, and figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Experts say such early exposure to makeup promotes a negative self-image as that child ages. They say that girls who start makeup and hair care too young are overly sexualized at a young age. And yet, Club Libby Lu is making money hand over fist.

So what do you think: Is it bad for young girls to get made over? What age is too young for makeup? What's the right age? I'm firmly in the middle on this issue and am very thankful I don't have kids to worry about this. Leave me a comment if you have thoughts on this!


Laurie said...

I saw this segment this morning as well.

I first thought of my youngest niece (age 6) who loves makeup and dress up - she would go ga-ga over this.

I think the parties and pampering can be fun, but I draw the line at highlights. It just sets bad precedent and can lead to bad habits down the road.

Anonymous said...

Highlights for the under 10 set? Do they even need them? I had beautiful hair as a kid that didn't need highlights or other chemical treatments. Is it safe for kids to have life-long exposure to dyes and other nasty chemicals in hair color?

I agree with you Laurie--pampering could be fun, but anything more? No way!

Virtuous Blue said...

I have the same stance you do (somewhere in the middle). As a girly girl, I know how much fun it was for me to play in my mommy's things, however, I think a limit should be set. Because my hair is naturally so thick, I BEGGED my mom to get a relaxer when I was younger, and my hair has never gotten back to the length, nor the texture that is was before it was done. And just as chemicals can be damaging for hair, the same can be said to applying make up to young faces. They are at the age when their skin and hair will probably be in the best condition that it will experience, so I see no need in messing that up.

For any little girl, I think lip gloss and a little glitter is just fine (plus, they don't know they're not getting "the works"). That's where an imagination comes in handy and you can "make believe" that they are doing what mommy does lol.

Joli said...

I think part of the reservations I have about makeup shops for little girls is the way they make them up. They don't just add soem sparkle to the eyes and then do a little glittery face painting, they make them up like cheap whores. Red lips and bright blue eyeshadow? Yikes.

The reason I argue that this mentality isn't strictly make believe is because I work in preschool, and I have three year old girls bringing lipsticks to school. The parents think it's cute, but there is a time and a place, and school is not it. I mean, I remember bringing clear chapstick to school and calling it lipstick, but that's not what these kids are bringing.

Anonymous said...

I actually came across this page while looking for makeup birthday party ideas for my soon to be 3 year old daughter.

All little girls enjoy dressing up, putting on a little blush, and painting their fingernails like mommy. It is very normal.

I do think that some parents may go to the extreme with little girl beauty pageants, highlights, etc.

The bottom line is to make it a fun once in a while kind of thing and not on a day to day basis.