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  • Writer's pictureLive Oak Management

Products or Play? The Ethics of Marketing Cosmetics to Little Girls

Written by Elizabeth Desmond

Branding Executive

In an era defined by digital media and product design, the marketing strategies used by cosmetic brands have evolved significantly. Traditional advertising has shifted and today it's all about engaging with young demographics through bright designs and catchy TikTok videos. However, the ethical implications of targeting the youth with cosmetics have raised concerns for young girls. Is this trend fostering harmful beauty standards and impacting girls' self-esteem?

This public platform has normalized behaviors such as excessive makeup use and skincare routines among young girls. Popular brands such as Drunk Elephant, Bubble, and Glossier market through influencers on TikTok and Instagram reels, drawing attention to a wide range of audiences. These companies use aesthetic designs, vibrant packaging and catchy marketing strategies to hone in on young girls who pay strong attention to appealing looks. Research shows that 1 in 4 tik tok users are under 20 years old, and 25% of users are between 10-19 years of age. (Howarth, 2023) TikTok is one of the leading platforms for marketing and is aimed towards younger audiences.

The pull from popular influencers that vary in age has contributed to this trend. North Kardashian, who is a 10 year old girl that has grown up in fame, has a substantial following, consisting largely of young girls. She frequently shares makeup tutorials and skincare routines with the use of high end products. Young girls look up to these influencers, promoting a culture that prioritizes material possessions and the idea of beauty as a measure of worth.

While it may seem harmless on the surface, however, this marketing approach can have detrimental effects on young girls. By setting unrealistic beauty standards, society is cultivating a skewed perception of self-image, and fostering insecurities at such an early age. Companies target younger audiences to cultivate long-term consumer loyalty. The beauty industry appeals to young girls in order to form brand allegiance and sustain profitability. Girls increasingly prioritize trendy products over traditional toys, spending more and more money on cosmetics.

Social media disrupts the balance between the digital world and offline experiences. Tangible toys and games are being replaced by iPads and technology, leaving behind a holistic approach to development that fosters creativity, imagination, and healthy relationships. Beauty brands are thriving off of influence marketing and girls who fantasize the industry of consumerism. Where will this lead the next generation of women who have been exposed to cosmetics and media throughout their entire lives?

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