How young is too young for mascara?

Savvy marketers and Web tutorials are helping young girls tart up.

By Thomas Rogers
June 23, 2007 4:19PM (UTC)
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Because apparently you're never too young to need a little cosmetic enhancement, Mattel has announced that it will start a makeup line targeting young girls. In the wake of the company's recently launched Barbie-themed online social networking Web site, which raised concerns that it put young girls at risk of sexual predation, the toy maker says it is partnering with cosmetics line Bonne Bell to create a "girl-savvy retail delivery." (How else is Barbie supposed to keep up with the Bratz?)

Making the announcement even more timely -- and, perhaps, ominous -- is a New York Times article from earlier this week, which pointed out that the Internet is changing the way women learn about cosmetics. The Times found that a growing number of women are posting instructional videos of themselves applying eyeliner, mascara or other forms of makeup on the Web, making it easier for young girls to learn about the joys of excessive blue eyeshadow.

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All very helpful, but maybe we should be teaching young girls what not to put on their faces. According to London's Daily Telegraph, women who use cosmetics on a daily basis absorb five pounds of chemicals through their skin every year, including some substances that can cause skin irritation and cancer. The Royal College of Optometrists, furthermore, considers expired lipstick and mascara a "hothouse" for harmful bacteria. And there's nothing pretty about that.


Thomas Rogers

Thomas Rogers is Salon's former Arts Editor. He has written for the Globe & Mail, the Village Voice and other publications. He can be reached at @thomasmaxrogers.

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