All Made Up

WIKIMEDIAMAKEUPRevlon. Maybelline. Cover Girl. Rimmel. These are just a few of the brands that fill rows and rows of overly lit shelves in stores across the world.

When I was growing up and my mom worked as a cashier at Target, I’d spend many afternoons wandering the various aisles of the store, familiarizing myself with products and brands and obsessing over these cosmetics. It wasn’t that I was obsessed with beauty; I wanted to be an artist and this was the most innovative way my young mind could wrap itself around being one.

As an Asian American, I was victim to the “no eyelids” curse and was always jealous of the magazine tutorials and TV commercials that showed off various eye shadow colors. I would convince my friends in second grade, as we would rifle through their mothers’ makeup collections, to let me do their makeup and I went crazy with the eye shadow colors.

Although we would spend our weekends playing with eye shadows, blush and lipsticks, we never saw it as a necessity in our young lives. Our Bonne Bell Lip Smacker-flavored lip balms and glosses were enough for us.

Sadly, that easy-to-please mentality is lost amongst today’s youths, it would seem.

“Insight into the Youth Beauty Market,” the latest report from the NPD Group, shows that consumption of beauty products has surged for girls between the ages of 8 and 12. Meanwhile, consumption for teens (ages 13-17) and young women (18-24) have decreased.

Commercials and magazines nowadays confirm the NPD Group’s study: images of young celebrities advertising various beauty products are everywhere, from Neutrogena’s teen-oriented marketing tactic to the new Bonne Bell products hoping to disassociate themselves with their former candy-flavored lip balms.

A recent article in the New York Times profiled 11-year-old  Alyssa Pometta, whose mother took her for a makeover after Pometta announced she wanted to start using lipstick, mascara and eyeliner.

Too young? Perhaps. But before we judge this mother’s makeover mishap, let’s not forget the horror that was Club Libby Lu.

Found in malls across America, Club Libby Lu was an experience-based retail store aimed at preteen girls (ages 5 through 12) where they could receive makeovers to look like rock stars or princesses.

The store fell victim to the declining economy and closed in 2009, but not before being criticized for upholding the pressures of society to conform to certain standards of beauty.

In the NY Times article, however, Pometta explained that her desire for makeup was not fueled by celebrities or television shows: “I don’t take a picture of a celebrity and try to make myself look like them. I try to make myself look like me.”

Except that what Pometta doesn’t seem to realize is that her natural self would require no makeup, but that’s a detail sorely overlooked by companies that encourage young girls to be themselves, while convincing them the only way to “be themselves” is to buy certain products.

Armed with makeup, young girls can also feel more mature — and we all remember wanting to be more “grown up” when we were younger.

The innocent middle ground between childhood and the teen years are now bridged by the “tween” phase, with celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez starring as the idols. Gomez even has a feature on Seventeen Magazine’s website in which she shares her favorite beauty and makeup regimen.

The advent of beauty-centric television shows have also contributed to the young obsession with appearances. On “America’s Next Top Model,” host and model Tyra Banks is constantly divulging various makeup tips to help contestants appear fit for competition. Episodes each season are devoted entirely to makeup and how to apply it properly.

On her talk show, Banks routinely runs through makeup reviews and application tips, from “how to apply your makeup in five minutes” to “beauty dos and don’ts.”

“I love the confidence that makeup gives me,” Banks was quoted as saying.

It’s no surprise, then, that young girls are under the impression that beauty products will undoubtedly affect their reputation in the world.

Thinking back to my own makeup parties with my friends, I don’t believe we were attempting to imitate Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera, nor were we trying to copy the looks in our J-14 and Tiger Beat magazines. Makeup was just fun — it was art for your face, something that would allow us to literally show off the budding creativity that gluing macaroni to paper plates would not satisfy.