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Unnaturally Beautiful Children: Image & Beauty

19 May 2009 13 Comments
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In 2004, a survey by NPD Group showed that on average, girls started to use beauty products at the age of 17. Today that average is 13.

Influence of Media on Children & Beauty

There’s a scene in “Toddlers & Tiaras,” the TLC reality series, where 2-year-old Marleigh is perched in front of a mirror, smothering her face with blush and lipstick. She giggles as her mother attempts to hold the squealing toddler still, lathering her legs with self-tanner. “Marleigh loves to get tan,” her mom says, as the girl presses her face against the mirror.

Children's Perception of Beauty
Children’s Perception of Beauty (Newsweek)

The quote above is about Marleigh, one of the pageant girls on the show. Does anyone find something disturbing about this picture? She is two years old. Unfortunately the ridiculousness of this scene doesn’t end on screen, it is a depiction of our current generation.

What do these shows have in common? “Extreme makeover”, “I Want a Famous Face” “Little Miss Perfect” “Toddlers & Tiaras”. These are shows centered around raising the bar of what is considered the norm when it comes to beautifying our children.

With reality TV shows, thousands of beauty product commercials, air-brushed magazine ads, and beautiful celebrities adorning every movies we watch, the norm of the importance of beauty has changed dramatically. In 2004, a survey by NPD Group showed that on average, girls started to use beauty products at the age of 17. Today that average is 13.
 See some more Children Beauty Statistics
But even that figure could be an overstatement. According to a market research firm Experian,

  • 43 percent of 6 to 9 year olds are already using lipstick or lip gloss
  • 38 percent are using hairstyling products
  • 12 percent use other other cosmetic products

By the time they are 50 years old, an average women would have spent nearly $300,000 on just their hair and face according to Newsweek’s research on beauty trends (noted below). But is this surprising considering girls ages 11 to 14 are exposed to 500+ advertisements per day? 8 to 12 years old already spend $40+ million a month on beauty products according to NPD Group. Teenagers? $100 Million.

More Statistics on Beauty

  • Cosmetic Surgery Procedures for Under 18 – Doubled last 10 years
  • 14% of Botox injections given to 19-34 age group, seeking “preventative treatments”
  • [American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery]
  • 42% of 1st to 3rd Graders want to be thinner
  • 81% of 10 years olds fear getting fat

“When you have tweens putting on firming cream… it’s clear they’re looking for imaginary flaws,” – Harvard psychologist Nancy Etcoff

Full Article on Beauty

True Cost of Lifetime Beauty

Economy got you down? Trying to pinch a few pennies here and there? How about cutting out on some beauty products and enhancements! See the chart below.

Tweens Teen/20s 30-40s 50s Lifetime
Hair $1,260 $15,761 $23,640 $169,274 $209,935
Face $3,900 $32,684 $108,660 $21,840 $167,084
Body $0 $10,586 $17,820 $16,366 $44,772
Hands/Feet $2,010 $6,834 $8,040 $10,452 $27,336
Totals $7,170 $65,865 $158,160 $217,932 $449,127

See Beauty Spend Breakdown Here

  • What are your thoughts about young children and teens spending so much time and money on beautifying themselves?
  • How about Adults?
  • What can be done to help push up against our image driven culture?
  • Can anything be done?
Comments
  • Vanessa May 20, 2009 at

    I remember when childhood was about making friends, having sleep overs and simply enjoying life being a kid. It’s is really sad to see how children are now more concerned about the way they look rather than investing time in meaningful relationships. It is even more sad to hear little girls talk about their physical appearance as if they are only valuable based on the way they look. This is the reason why as adults, we need to continue teaching our kids the importance of character, kindness, gentleness etc, all which seems to be neglected more and more.

  • Euripides May 20, 2009 at

    The real tragedy is the sexualization of children who are far too young to be sexual participants. This is a sad commentary on the advertising industry and media expectations.

  • Vanessa May 21, 2009 at

    I couldn’t agree more with your comment. It is really sad that this is the world in which our children are growing in.

  • Kelly May 22, 2009 at

    There is no doubt that society’s obsession with materialism and outward beauty has contributed to the altering of a child’s perception of what is important or normal. This obsession has been broadcasted through the media, but what makes me wonder more is how parents are contributing to children’s focus on beauty. Clearly parents have the power to influence their children to a certain degree of what to value in their lives. If, as the Toddlers & Tiaras reality show demonstrates, parents are exposing their children to bask in beauty treatments, then the children will grow up thinking this is the norm of society. Like Vanessa stated, we should have our children focus on love, kindness, and relationships with family and friends rather than materialism and beauty. This is what the parents should have their kids focusing on instead of spas and tanners.

    • Media Influence May 22, 2009 at

      Thanks everyone for your comments!

      I think Vanessa and Kelly hits a very important point, that the parents have a tremendous influence and responsibility over the way their child views the definition of beauty. Especially at such a young age, the parents can help or hurt their own child in regards to this matter. Children learn the world through the behavior of those they observe, especially their own parents so if the parent is obsessed with beauty. But let’s be clear, this isn’t just a matter of parents wearing a lot of makeup or spending a lot of money on clothes and beauty products. I think what often goes unchecked are the remarks made out of real parental concern.

      For example as a child it isn’t uncommon to have a parent comment about he or she getting fat or ‘you have to eat xxxx or you’ll get fat’, or make some off hand comment about how some girl is very pretty or some boy is very handsome. Or even continually telling their child they are pretty all the more raising the child’s desire and need to be someone “pretty”. Even comments like these if they go unchecked can really mold the type of worldview a child has in regards to how important beauty is for their own self image. A child might start really longing for remarks about their beauty or learn from their parents comments about others that beauty is a very important thing when it comes to valuing other people. As parents themselves are immersed in this culture of image, it is very easy for them to indirectly pass of their views and values to their impressionable children.

      Agree? Disagree?

  • Danny May 25, 2009 at

    Totally agree.

    But I think friends and the culture in school also have a large role. I see it even in elementary and middle school kids as “clicks” begin to form and some groups of girls are far more concerned with image, and terms like ugly or fat are tossed around on a regular basis. It’s tragic that children at such a young age have come to the conclusion that their individual worth depends on their outer appearance.

    It’s tragic to me because it is not true. But they grow up for years believing in this system that if you look good, and you feel good you must be special. They choose friends based on this system, they make important decision based on this system, they may eventually choose a wife or a husband based on this value system and they will ultimately be disappointed when they discover the truth that in the end looks matters very little.

    No one will remember how they looked, no one will care. But people will remember if they were kind or cruel, if they were compassionate or unloving. People will know and remember if you were selfish or if you genuinely cared about others. And sadly I think the value system of “appearance is what really matters” only promotes being selfish, unloving, and shallowness.

    It might be “cute” for the parents now, but it’s going to be really ugly when they get older.

  • Ashley October 23, 2009 at

    Very interesting. Where were these statistics and information taken from? What are the source websites or books?

    • Media Influence October 23, 2009 at

      Hey Ashley,

      If you look at the links I put in throughout the article I linked to the specific sites I drew the information from. There are two links both to one main article I drew the information from.

      Also for most of the data and statistics above references the research group (mainly NPD Group) so I am sure if you googled that group plus the keywords of the study you should be able to find it online somewhere.

      Hope that helps. Thanks for your comments!

      Media Influence

  • Yovehira December 14, 2009 at

    i agree with everyone. Our kids should not live in a world where all that is important is how you look. looks should not be important to our kids! our kids should be focused on education on living in the real world! its really sad to see girls at school be in popular crowds even guys and whoever is not in it is considered fat or ugly. And not once do they ever feel the need to think how that makes them feel! i have gone through this and totally felt unwnated their. It made no sense as to why you have to hurt somenoe to be popular!!!!! you shouldnt have to change or do anything to make those people happy!!! you should be who you are and never change for anyone!! i believe we should all be friends no matter how you look!!! Agree or Disagree?

  • Charlene January 21, 2011 at

    I am in the process of opening a kids spa. I think it’s it’s important and fun for little girls to take care of themselves. I totally agree that the media has put a false image of what people should like, it is not reality. At my spa I hope to encourage little girls that less is more, and to be confident no matter what. Beauty lies within, we are all different but beautiful in our own way.

  • Kristin September 28, 2011 at

    Thank you so much for this article, I really enjoyed reading this. These statistics are so crazy… I mean 6 and 7 year olds worried about their weight?! This is so sad.

  • Anonymous April 28, 2012 at

    I loved your article! I myself would be considered a tween but I’ve already figured out that beauty is within. I feel bad for these children, I hate witnessing fourth graders talk about dieting and lip gloss. It’s sickening. I wish I knew what people describe beauty as. Being pretty doesn’t mean layers of makeup, the most fashionable clothes, the longest hair, or the most friends and boyfriends. Beauty is watching the sunrise, seeing a flower bloom, looking at how the sunlight shines through the clouds, making a toddler smile, or watching a stranger HELP, not hurt, another stranger. Why can’t the majority of society realize that?

  • anonymous June 3, 2012 at

    can anyone share their comments on parents adverting their children to sexual preditors/child pornography.

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