Kyodo News While the nation’s “kogyaru” teens, teetering through Tokyo’s Shibuya district in their towering platform boots and outrageous makeup, have received their share of attention over the years, it may well be time to pass the torch — there are some new kids in town.
Elementary and junior high school pupils, taking a cue from their teen idols, are caught up in a cosmetics boom that is sweeping Japan.
And many cosmetics makers are cashing in, turning out mascara and glittering lipstick made exclusively to suit small children’s skin.
Many early teens are applying makeup in an attempt to be more like singer idols such as Morning Musume, a group of nine teenagers with members as young as 13.
“Everybody wears makeup,” says 13-year-old Mayumi Amachi while trying sample lipsticks in a department store. “I like cosmetics that give a gloss and brightness to my lips.”
A second-year junior high school student who considers cosmetics all the rage, Amachi has been wearing makeup — outside of school hours — since the sixth grade.
Young girls, many accompanied by their mothers, approach the sales counter and tell the assistants they want to look like Morning Musume members.
A grandmother drops by to purchase a cosmetics set, including a mirror and nail dryer, for her granddaughter.
The girls following this latest fad do not think they look gaudy, however, like the oft-ridiculed kogyaru teenagers. A sixth-grade girl, who prefers a more casual style, said she likes glitter lipstick and transparent mascara because it makes her look pretty.
“Those who are in their late teens have opted for weird appearances such as having their hair dyed blond and faces heavily suntanned,” said a cosmetics industry official. “They are a generation who are not good at putting on their makeup. (But) those who are younger are more refined because they have manuals (to study makeup techniques).”
Sixth Grader, a monthly magazine published by Shogakukan Inc., triggered the current cosmetics boom among early teens with its series “Genius, even though a beginner, in hairdressing and makeup.” Debuting in April last year, the series offers tips to readers on how to apply makeup.
Young readers send postcards to the magazine’s editorial staff saying, among other things, they want to change the downward slant to their eyes or make their faces look smaller.
Chisato Seki, who is in charge of the series, said: “The age of those who suffer an inferiority complex has dropped. Today’s children are aware of their weaknesses at a younger age than their predecessors.”
Mothers seem unworried by the trend. Since the series’ inception, the magazine’s editorial department has received only two letters of complaint from mothers.
“They are among the people who followed trends in cosmetics and fashion, including designer and character brands, and danced at discotheques (when they were younger),” Seki said. “There are many mothers who want their daughters to put on makeup to look different from other children.”
In 1993, toy maker Takara Co. became the first Japanese company to put out cosmetics for children. Knowing that many children played with their mothers’ lipstick, Takara began developing lipstick specifically for children. Paying particular attention to safety, the firm came up with a water-based — rather than solvent-based — lipstick in a shape that would be more difficult to accidentally swallow.
In the past, girls wore lipstick as a play activity, said Fumiko Maruya, of the company’s girls’ life section.
“Times have changed and the number of children who want to wear makeup in earnest has increased,” she said.
Aware of this trend, more cosmetics makers are producing cosmetics for kids.
An affiliate of major cosmetics maker Kanebo Ltd. began marketing children’s makeup two years ago. Its products, which come in a transparent case with a star-shaped logo, range from 500 yen to 800 yen so children can buy them with their allowances.
A public relations officer at Kanebo said, “We chose the materials to help exploit young (children’s) bare skin instead of manufacturing cosmetics that are crafted for adults.”
Kayoko Kato, a woman’s skin specialist and chief of Shinjuku Shintoshin Clinic, agrees: “It’s better for children to use cosmetics made for children rather than using their mothers’ cosmetics (which might) damage their skin. But it would be safest to remove their makeup in two or three hours.
“In adolescent girls, there is an increase in fatty substances and skin secretion is quite active. If they keep their makeup on for hours, their skin becomes dirty and greasy, particularly the skin of children because it is very delicate.”
But an official of Shiseido Co., another major Japanese cosmetic maker, said his company is steering clear of the market.
“Japanese culture is not familiar with cosmetics for elementary school children and junior high school students,” he said. “We will not make cosmetics (for them) from the standpoint of social morality.”
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