New York Times: Graduating From Lip Smackers
IT began for Alyssa Pometta, as these habits so often do, with the soft stuff. We are talking, of course, about lip gloss.
She began wearing it in fourth grade — Bonne Bell’s Lip Smackers, a girl’s rite of passage — after years of wearing ChapStick and pretending it was Revlon. But the thrill of flavored lip gloss was fleeting, and in January, 11-year-old Alyssa asked her mother, Phyllis Pometta, if she could graduate to the hard stuff: lipstick, eyeliner and mascara.
Mrs. Pometta’s first instinct was to send her daughter to her room, but she reconsidered. Instead, she took her for a makeover.
“I’m using the choose-your-battles kind of parenting,” Mrs. Pometta, an independent publicist from Plainfield, Ill., reasoned in a telephone interview. “I figured, better that she’s informed and has the right tools than she goes into it blindly with her friends in the bathroom and comes out looking like a clown.”
The choice between prohibition and harm-reduction has long divided parents on prickly issues: forbid alcohol or supervise the inevitable kegger? Preach abstinence or buy condoms? Now, the struggle shows signs of coming to a new front: the cosmetics counter.
Regular use of certain cosmetics is rising sharply among tween girls, according to a new report from the NPD Group, a consumer research company. From 2007 to 2009, the percentage of girls ages 8 to 12 who regularly use mascara and eyeliner nearly doubled — to 18 percent from 10 percent for mascara, and to 15 percent from 9 percent for eyeliner. The percentage of them using lipstick also rose, to 15 percent from 10 percent.
Meanwhile, women of all other age groups, including teenagers, report using less makeup, according to NPD. The economy seems to be playing a role, said Karen Grant, the senior beauty industry analyst with NPD, with women cutting back on beauty products to save money and unemployed women feeling less compelled to do their face every morning.
So how is the elementary-school set getting away with it? Easy: Mom is the one buying it. When asked to name their primary influence for acquiring and applying makeup, 66 percent of the 365 tween girls polled by NPD pointed to a family member or adult family friend.
“They’re not sneaking any of this stuff,” Ms. Grant said. “They’re doing the shopping with their moms, they’re getting the money from their moms and families. It’s becoming almost part of the family exercise.”
Poor adult judgment or progressive parenting? As with most such issues, it depends on whom you ask. Stacy Malkan, author of “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry,” said that parents have been fighting a losing battle with the beauty industry, which now markets to children so aggressively that it invites a comparison to Big Tobacco’s efforts, like Joe Camel. ...