Survey says put cosmetic vending machines into schools
||Makeup and marketing - welcome to the world of 10-year-old girls
September 8, 2004/The Guardian
The plastic bag that wraps around Bliss, a magazine for teenage girls, this month says it all. "FREE INSIDE! makeup palette," it screams. Across the bottom of the bag it teases with a "Lush mascara offer" "Gorgeous lip gloss offer", as well as a £5 voucher for "spray tan".
On the Bliss website, even before you get to the front page, a pop-up advert appears from Ralph Lauren asking readers: "How old are you?" If you answer 10-15, it goes on to ask "What was the last fragrance you purchased?" followed by "Which shop do you buy fragrances from?"
Bliss, Sugar, Cosmo girl, Elle girl, the list goes on ... The power of such marketing is highlighted today by a survey which shows that most seven- to 10-year-olds are using makeup.
The survey showed that by the age of 14, around nine out of 10 girls apply some type of eyeliner, mascara or lipstick. The number of those in the 11-14 age group who report using lipstick or lip gloss on a daily basis has more than doubled intwo years.
Mintel, one of the UK's leading consumer research organisations, which carried out the survey, draws the controversial conclusion from its results that cosmetic companies could go much further in their drive to entice young girls to buy their products. Firms should place vending machines for their products in schools and cinemas to target teenage consumers, Mintel says.
The study, based on marketing questionnaires, fails to distinguish whether makeup is being used merely for play, involving dressing up at home, or as part of a beauty regime when going out. But claims that youngsters are being forced to express their sexual identity long before childhood is over have provoked rows and moral panics in recent years.
Earlier this year the Association of Teachers and Lecturers called for age restrictions on magazines such as Bliss, Sugar and Cosmo girl on the basis that they were "full of explicit sexual content" and "glamorise promiscuity".
When Mad About Boys, a glossy magazine aimed at nine- to 12-year-old girls, was launched in 2001, MPs warned that it portrayed them as sex objects, gave tips on makeup and encouraged them to diet.
Two years ago the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, criticised consumerism for its "corruption and premature sexualisation of children". Paris Fashion Week has provoked outcries for parading nine- and 10-year-old girls on a catwalk wearing plunging necklines and high hemlines.
The Mintel survey acknowledges such concerns but points out there are commercial opportunities. "Cosmetic manufacturers must be ever mindful of the fine line they tread between encouraging children to look and behave like adults and promoting their products as being good, clean fun," said Claire Hatcher, one of the firm's senior consumer analysts.
"Despite their self-assurance, when it comes to grooming products, these girls are still learning about what suits them and are therefore open to experimentation and new products offered in ways which appeal to their age group."
Retailing toiletries to teenagers has suffered neglect, the report adds. "Makeup, in particular, is often an impulse purchase, so placing teen brands in unusual locations such as in vending machines in schools, cinemas and bowling alleys may persuade consumers into buying something they had not previously considered."
According to the survey, 63% of seven to 10-year-olds wear lipstick, more than two in five eye shadow or eyeliner, and almost one in four mascara. Three quarters of 11- 14-year-old girls use eye shadow and a similar proportion mascara.
Lip gloss and lipstick is even more popular, with eight in 10 girls aged 11-14 applying it. Half of girls in that age group wear blusher, with 14% saying they use it every day or more. By the age of 14, almost three in five (58%) girls use perfume.
"Long before girls become teenagers, they use a wide selection of cosmetics as well as other skin care products and toiletries," said Ms Hatcher. "Their interest in these products is fuelled by teen magazines and by swapping ideas and recommendations with their peer group and, of course, watching what their mothers use.
"Manufacturers of consumer products such as makeup and fragrance should therefore be wary in over-promoting celebrities in the belief that all young teenagers aspire to a notion of perfection which many do not realise is unobtainable."
The survey, which questioned 5,856 youngsters aged seven to 19, also showed that fake tan is popular, with 13% of 11-12 year old girls using self tanning cream, lotion or oil. This rises to one-in-five among the 13-14 group. Hair colourants are also used by many young girls: 27% of those aged 11-14 use them, rising to 35% of 13- 14-year-olds.
Childcare organisations reacted with caution to the figures. "Children should be free to enjoy childhood without undue pressure," the NSPCC said.
"However, young girls have always experimented with makeup and the dressing-up box ... This should only really cause alarm if a child feels that it's something they are uncomfortable with but feel forced to do."
Many schools already discourage pupils from wearing makeup and some ban cosmetics.
The two main teaching unions reacted with disbelief to the suggestion of installing vending machines in schools.
Chris Keates, the acting general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "It's an extraordinary idea for anyone to come up with.
"Do people want to lose the focus of what school is about? Pupils should not be thinking about whether they have an opportunity to use cosmetics."
A spokesman for the NUT said: "Pupils have always tried to get around bans. But the purpose of school is education of the child not an opportunity to increase their sex appeal."