Not So Pretty in Pink: Marketing Toxic Makeup to Young Girls

Companies market makeup to girls as young as 3, exposing them to toxic chemicals and early puberty

| January-February 2009

  • Toxic Makeup Marketing

    Image by Jennifer Daniel /

  • Toxic Makeup Marketing

This article was published with  Regulation? What Regulation? —on the shocking lack of chemical regulations in the United States. For more, visit Utne Reader’s online exclusive resource  guide for alternatives to toxic body care products .

Lipstick, eyeliner, mascara, perfume: Jessica Assaf applied them all, and more, before she hit 12. By her midteens, she estimates, she was using 15 to 20 beauty products a day. Like many girls, Assaf was indoctrinated into beauty culture at a young age, with makeover-themed birthday parties as early as kindergarten and trips to the nail salon starting in grade school.

“The coolest thing was Hard Candy nail polish with the ring on the bottle. I really wanted that ring,” says Assaf, now 18. “Companies do a really good job of trying to attract younger girls.”

Indeed. Consider the Hannah Montana Backstage Makeover Set for children 5 to 7 years, Barbie Makeup games, and spa services with names like “Twinkle Toes and Fancy Fingers” that offer manicures and facials to kids age 6 and up. Popular hair-straightening products called “Just For Me!” feature 7-year-old girls on the box. Getting your hair colored is now practically a rite of passage in middle school.

“Five years ago, the rule of thumb was 15- to 16-year-olds would come in for their first color. Now, that girl is 10,” Mark Goodman, a board member of the National Cosmetology Association (NCA), recently told the New York Times. The trend, according to NCA spokesman Gordon Miller, represents a “lucrative niche market” for the beauty industry.

This rush to cosmetic beauty also represents increased exposure to toxic chemicals. Scientists now suspect that chemicals found in many of the cosmetics for which young girls clamor contribute to a disturbing trend. Girls in the United States, especially African American girls, are entering puberty earlier than their grandmothers did. Half of all American girls now show signs of breast development by age 10—one to two years earlier than 40 years ago—and a significant number show signs as early as 8 or 9.

Jenn Staz
10/10/2011 9:25:36 AM

Very interesting and very scary. However, I really don't think cosmetics are 100% to blame. I think poor diet and lack of exercise contributes way more. There are just so many harmful things in the world. Easily accessible junk food combined with nasty marketing schemes for harmful products for younger girls is a very dangerous duo.

Facebook Instagram Twitter

click me