Girls as young as seven wear make-up 'to emulate heroes'

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Girls as young as seven are using make-up regularly in an attempt to match up to the female perfection shown on television and in teen magazines, according to a survey yesterday.

Girls as young as seven are using make-up regularly in an attempt to match up to the female perfection shown on television and in teen magazines, according to a survey yesterday.

Three quarters of 11-14-year-old girls told researchers for Mintel that they wore eyeshadow, while almost as many (71 percent) applied mascara.

Almost half of 11-14-year-olds wore lipstick or lip gloss every day - more than twice the 19 percent two years before.

Younger girls were also using cosmetics - 63 percent of seven- to 10-year-olds used lipstick, 80 percent wore nail varnish, and 44 percent had experimented with eyeshadow or eyeliner.

Claire Hatcher, senior analyst for Mintel, said the fascination among pre-teens with beauty products was being encouraged by teen magazines and the children's make-up industry.

"Little girls have always wanted to try on their mother's make-up but the influx of glittery, sparkly brands makes it more accessible and parents perceive these brands as fun rather than overtly sexy," she said.

David Spellman, a clinical psychologist with Lancashire Care Trust, said youngsters might have developed distorted ideas around appearance through the bombardment of digitalised images in the media.

"I think the culture we live in and the magazine and TV images we see ... affect children's psyches - there does not seem to be one honest picture in the images we see in our doctored beauty culture. We are being increasingly particular of how we look and at a younger age.

"Young people are seen as consumers and people are making a huge amount of money targeting young girls," he said.

Researchers for Mintel interviewed 5,856 youngsters aged seven to 19, and found that by the time girls reach 14, around nine in 10 regularly use make-up.

The research classified 35 percent of 11- to 14-year-old girls as "self-conscious".

Girls who were interviewed believed it was "important to be trendy", but in spite of their increased reliance on cosmetics, they were not particularly happy with the way they looked.

Ms Hatcher said: "Teenagers are susceptible to feelings of low self-esteem because they cannot measure up to the perceived ideal of air-brushed perfection. Manufacturers of make-up and fragrance should therefore be wary in over-promoting celebrities in the belief that all young teenagers aspire to a notion of perfection which many do not realise is unobtainable."

But Leanne Warrick, beauty editor at Sugar magazine, aimed at 13- to 17-year-olds, defended make-up for young girls, saying it was applied for fun and experimentation. She added that certain products, such as concealers, could help self-conscious teenagers suffering from spots to feel more confident.

"Make-up is more accessible for girls now and I don't think it is anything to worry about. It forms the basis for many girls' nights in and it's a fun activity for some who are a bit too young to go out on a Saturday night."

Chantelle Hellier, a 12-year-old from Cornwall, said she wore mascara and blusher regularly and that her peer group wears cosmetics to school.

"Most of my friends wear make-up. I have got lots of nail varnish and perfume. When my friends come over, we will try on each other's stuff," she said.

Meanwhile, a BBC poll of more than 1,000 Britons yesterday found that 86 per cent believe the Government should impose tougher restrictions on sexual images in children's television programmes and magazines to discourage under-age sex.