Beauty Turning into a new Beast?

May 17, 2011
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Last year people spent 160 billion dollars on beauty according to Lisa Wade. It is also a well known fact that women spend more time and money on beauty than men. Most people don't question why this is the case. This is surprising considering the fact that women on average make less than men and spend more on non-necessities. Most people don't think about their daily beauty routine. On my bathroom counter there is two types of acne medication, moisturizer, face wash, face wipes, an exfoliator, toothpaste, hair gel, hair paste, leave in conditioner, shine serum, jojoba oil, witch hazel, rose water and a face mask. All of these products were bought with great purpose but are now in a corner, barely touched. This seemed normal to me until one dinner with my family. I mentioned that one of my acne medications had run out and needed to be replaced. Then my dad casually mentioned how none of his friends as a teenager really cared about having pimples and it was a given that if you were a teenager, a few zits were normal. I was shocked. Nowadays if you have acne, it is expected of you to either try to cover it or get rid of it. I thought maybe it was a gender thing so I asked my mom. Same with her. None of her female friends were really bothered, either. This conversation made me think that the generation of teens that I'm growing up with has stricter beauty guidelines to go by.

In order to get a better grasp on what the new generation's beauty routine is like, I surveyed my whole class on what products they use and steps they take every morning and night. Boys had fewer steps which resembled my parents' generation. On the other hand, girls' beauty routines were much more complicated because most included makeup and hair. When asked at the end of the survey how they felt when they skipped a key part of their routine, most boys said it didn't affect their mood while girls said they felt self conscious. In order to see if this held true with me, I tried to skip one thing from my routine every day for one week. The first day I didn't apply any make-up. I felt sloppy in the morning but forgot about it in the afternoon and when I went to track practice, I also got to save one make up removing wipe. The next day I didn't apply any deodorant. I regretted it the moment I stepped through my school's front door. I even asked my friend if I smelled funny, she said no so I relaxed. The rest of the week I continued by not applying any product to my hair, skipping the acne medication or not applying the moisturizer. The last day I didn't wash my face. I purposefully saved this for last because I knew it would be the hardest. Not washing my face also meant I didn't apply anything else and only went out of my house to get the newspaper. This showed how my female classmates and I were tethered to our products for keeping us in a good mood and how complicated our relationship with cosmetics really was.

To get an expert opinion, I interviewed a close family friend named Sonya Cetinkaya, who works in the beauty industry, on the young girls and their dependence on the beauty products. She said that it was unnecessary for girls to use too many products because they are young and their skin don't need it. She also confirmed that the focus on beauty has become more severe now compared to her childhood.

The survey I took and adults I had interviewed came up with the same result that the need for beauty products consumption for teen girls has grown. It is also becoming more common to try and achieve perfection through more extreme measures like plastic surgery. About 125,000 people younger then 18 get plastic surgery annually according to Cathy Enns. Meg Wilson says general plastic surgery is up 38% from 5 years ago showing that more extreme forms of personal care are becoming more common and may eventually trickle down to teens. What is the reason for this generation's, particularly teen girls', to be more beauty obsessed? One possible explanation can be the availability of the products on the market. Not only have the amount of products have increased but so has the shopping experience. Online cosmetic shopping still has a small market share in America but is growing quickly. Nine years ago the approximate amount of spending for online cosmetic shopping was $100 million. Simon Pitman in 2006 said that number more than doubled. There is no longer the hassle of having to go to a store when one can simply shop at home.

The second explanation can be the exposure the girls' had in their earlier childhood. Many young girls at one point in their lives have owned a Barbie doll. Barbie is often blamed for giving young girls a false idea about how they should look. According to, about one in 100,000 women will end up with a Barbie body type, not even including Barbie's perfect hair and face.

The third cause can be the marketing. Increased exposure to anything makes it more normal to someone. Beauty product manufacturers use this principle in advertising. says women see an average of 400 to 600 advertisements a day and most of the models in the ads are airbrushed and give an underlying message emphasizing the importance of beauty. Advertisers don't do this to wreak havoc on a girl's self esteem. It is a way to make a profit by offering an unreachable goal. The more girls' try to reach for it, the more profit companies make. These ads are also seen by the younger girls, who get the message that to be pretty, certain products have to be bought. Now that beauty is so accessible because of the internet and a variety of products, anyone can "achieve" perfection. The age for the pursuit of beauty has gotten younger, too. Jessica Bennett from Newsweek says, now girls as young as thirteen use beauty products when the average four years ago was seventeen.

In order to slow down or stop this process of increasing pressure on each successive generation to improve their beauty, spreading awareness and being aware is key. Next time you see a commercial and it tells you to buy something and it sounds appealing, think of why you want to buy the product and if it will really help with your self esteem or hurt you in the long term. To counteract emphasis on beauty, it is important to remember that there are more important things in life including feeling good about yourself without the aid of a product. You never know what example you are setting for kids and friends who may look up to you. As beauty becomes more accessible and its importance is emphasized, there is no telling how it will affect the next generation's beauty routines and self esteem. say that 42% of girls feel that they are overweight and want to loose weight, before they even begin attending the 4th grade.

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