Newsweek has a huge take out this week on the cosmetic business and how the beauty hawkers are snagging their suckers at earlier ages than ever. Lots of multi-media sidebars too, slide shows of gonzo gadgets and funky old ads.
Much has been made of the oversexualization of today's tweens. But what hasn't been discussed is what we might call their "diva-ization"—before they even hit the tween years. Consider this: according to a NEWSWEEK examination of the most common beauty trends, by the time your 10-year-old is 50, she'll have spent nearly $300,000 on just her hair and face. It's not that women haven't always been slaves to their appearance; as Yeats wrote, "To be born woman is to know … that we must labour to be beautiful." But today's girls are getting caught up in the beauty maintenance game at ages when they should be learning how to read—and long before their beauty needs enhancing. Twenty years ago, a second grader might have played clumsily with her mother's lipstick, but she probably didn't insist on carrying her own lip gloss to school.
A combination of new technology and the Web, is responsible—at least in part—for this transformation in attitudes. Ads for the latest fashions, makeup tips and grooming products are circulated with a speed and fury unique to this millennium—on millions of ads, message boards and Facebook pages. Digital cameras come complete with retouching options, and anyone can learn how to use Photoshop to blend and tighten and thin. It's been estimated that girls 11 to 14 are subjected to some 500 advertisements a day—the majority of them nipped, tucked and airbrushed to perfection. And, according to a University of Minnesota study, staring at those airbrushed images from just one to three minutes can have a negative impact on girls' self-esteem. "None of this existed when I was growing up, and now it's just like, in your face," says Solomon, 30. "Kids aren't exempt just because they're young."
''Which can lead to very real consequences—and a hefty debt. A lifetime of manis and pedis could cover four years at a public university; hair and face treatments would pay for a private college. "
Consider: I have naturally wavy/frizzy hair. It was my bad luck to be a teenager in an era when long, straight London look hair was in style. I wasted so many hours every day, every week, fighting nature. It was exhausting, and it sapped energy that would have been better spent on my studies.
But it didn't cost much except a few jars of Dippity-do. And at least I could so some of my homework while under that hideous bonnet dryer.
What's happening now is insane.
Yes, of course parents should put their feet down. But if their daughters are earning their own cash while babysitting or slinging burgers, how much can a parent accomplish, especially against the powerful media forces which are so influential in children's lives?