With teen idol Kylie Jenner breaking the internet every time she releases a new batch of her now infamous Lip Kits – and by all accounts (well, all her social media accounts) set to open her own store – it’s no wonder that the beauty category’s wallet share among upper-income teens has reached its highest value in 10 years, according to Piper Jaffrey’s Spring 2016 Taking Stock with Teens report.
Indeed, the teen market has never looked like a more attractive proposition for the cosmetics industry. These social media savvy shoppers are snapping up beauty products like never before, with Piper Jaffrey listing MAC (Estée Lauder), Maybelline (L’Oréal), Urban Decay (L’Oréal), Sephora (LVMH) and CoverGirl (P&G soon-to-be Coty) as the most popular brands for the age-group.
These are not the entry-level brands you’d expect and, with the average age of those surveyed standing at 16.5, you have to wonder: where is the money coming from? While Kylie Jenner obviously has the cash to splash – according to a Teen Vogue report, she recently racked up a bill of US$1,200 in a single visit to Sephora – the rest of them are presumably tapping up their parents for the readies.
And there’s plenty for them to buy. Take MAC’s Good Luck Trolls range, for example. This collection, created in anticipation of the Trolls movie slated for release this fall, must be aimed squarely at very young teens. After all, we’re talking about an animated comedy from the creators of Shrek, based on an iconic toy, which is recommended for ages three and up. Sure, there’s an air of 90s nostalgia involved, but how many 30-year-olds can you see wearing yellow lipstick? Exactly.
Or Maybelline’s Baby Lips Glow Balm – where the clue is presumably in the name, not to mention the hot pink packaging and the gimmicky formula, which changes color according to your lips’ pH (another 90s throwback). Then there’s Sephora’s Disney Minnie Beauty collection, all washed down with a slew of Disney references from popular millennial websites Popsugar and Teen Vogue. Products are likened to ‘the rose from Beauty and the Beast’, new mermaid-inspired make-up looks sold on the basis that ‘Ariel will envy’ them.
And on that note, what of the media aimed at this generation? Of Seventeen’s nearly 4 million readers, 1.5 million are aged 12-15. Teen Vogue is more circumspect, citing a median age of 21 for its readers – but with special features dedicated to Prom fashion and underage cover stars such as Willow Smith (currently 15), we’re thinking that doesn’t reveal the whole story.
But if the parents are prepared to pay, then presumably they condone the purchase. A 16-year-old buying lipstick – so far, so harmless. But do we want our 12-year-olds, nay even our eight-year-olds, to get in on the act? For where does the line lie between experimentation and exploitation – and should we be questioning the recent slew of launches that are clearly aimed at the very young? Or is it all harmless fun, part and parcel of growing up? Join the debate below.