What do you say to a 6 year-old whose cheeks could use a bit of gloss? If you were out-of-date, you might suggest that she go play kickball with the other kids to get that rosy, healthy shine. Or you could spare her all that sweaty effort and point her towards the new Barbie/Bonne Bell cosmetic products aimed at 6-9 year old girls. Why wait to tart yourself up, little girl? Beauty compulsion is just around the teeny corner anyway, so you might as well get a jump on your competitors.
Mattel excuses their new “girl-savvy” line by claiming, "The Barbie and Bonne Bell partnership will bring girls a fun, feminine and unique beauty experience…" And, why not. Clearly it’s about time we got those recalcitrant first-graders doing something about their femininity. Enough with thinking you are a kid. You’re not. You’re merely a girl and these “two globally loved brands” are here to help you get a grip and do something with yourself, already.
But wait! They’re after me, too. The cosmetics industry isn’t exclusively focused on inculcating children with extreme gender-fication and its accompanying insecurities – they’re very interested in the older crowd too. Their ads endlessly point out our many potential beauty failings – from wrinkles to age spots to yellowed teeth to drooping eyes to sagging necks. And of course, dull grey hair. And luckily they’ve got solutions for what ails us.
According to CosmeticsDesign.com, “All of the leading cosmetic companies are targeting older consumers with color cosmetics, oral care, skin care, anti-aging and hair care products specifically aimed at the older consumer.”
Up till now, the cosmetics industry has focused on alleged age-defying products that work on (or create) the fears of the 30 and 40somethings. Now that boomers are in our 50s or 60s, there’s no denying that aging cannot be defied. So instead of pretending their goop will erase the years, they have no choice but to “celebrate” our advancing years.
To sell us various potions and lotions, Unilever, for example, has hired Annie Leibovitz (58) for a campaign featuring “real” 50+ women in all our glory. Revlon too is focusing on older women in the hopes that selling us good looks will “fuel a turnaround” of their finances.
And why are they all sucking up to mature women? Apparently, at $37.9 billion, over 45s are spending $8.4 billion more on primping than younger customers. The new lines are on the shelves, with ad campaigns featuring women over 50. Procter & Gamble brought back their model of 30 years ago, Christie Brinkley (52); L’Oreal Paris has Jane Fonda (68) for Europe and Diane Keaton (60) for the States. In fact, Keaton has carved out a niche as the ubiquitous professional “older woman,” pushing everything from osteoporosis medication to “restorative” creams.
“What’s next?” my cousin Sandy the brilliant portrait collagist asked, “Make-up for the dead? Maybe a slogan: Look more alive today than you ever did when you were still breathing.” She’s right. They’ve got us coming and going, these "beauty" peddlers. Will wigs for newborns be far behind?