The Yomiuri Shimbun

Each morning before going to school, a 9-year-old fourth-grader in Yokohama curls her eyelashes with a metal curler. The girl does it to make her eyes appear larger–and she says her friends do the same thing.

Her 42-year-old mother is perplexed by this behavior.

“My daughter wants to use gloss to add luster to her lips,” she said. “But I wonder just how much makeup I should let her use.”

Cases like this are becoming more common among primary and middle school students, a trend that is worrying experts and can cause skin problems.

A 2007 survey by the Pola Research Institute of Beauty and Culture found girls are starting to wear makeup at increasingly younger ages. About 6 percent of respondents aged between 35 and 39 began wearing makeup when they were in primary or middle school. This grew to 14 percent for those aged between 25 and 29, and jumped again to 29 percent for those aged between 15 and 19.

The growing trend could be attributed to the ease with which children can access information about makeup from magazines that target young readers, and the availability of cheap cosmetics from 100-yen stores and other discount retailers.

Despite the growing desire among girls to wear makeup, these products can cause problems for young skin.

Rieko Okamura, director of Okamura dermatology hospital in Tokyo, wrote the book “Oshare Shogai” (Makeup troubles), published by Shonen Shashin Shimbunsha.

Okamura said a growing number of primary and middle school female students who use makeup have sought treatment at hospital after developing rashes on their faces.

The most extreme cases usually involve skin irritation around the eyes. The skin surrounding the eyes of one fifth-grade primary school student became inflamed after she used an adhesive to give herself double eyelids. Another girl went to hospital with a rash caused by using a curler on her eyelashes.

Some lip balms can cause small blisters on the lips or darken the skin around the mouth. Using commercially available equipment to pierce one’s ears could lead to swelling due to bacteria.

“Children’s skin is delicate,” Okamura said. “In some cases, makeup causes inflammation, and children could have an allergic reaction to the metals used in cosmetic instruments and accessories.”


Parents must be vigilant

If children hide their makeup use, what should parents or guardians do?

According to Yumiko Kaneko, a public school nursing teacher, launching into a lecture is not always the answer.

“Don’t scold them without giving them a chance to explain [why they used cosmetics],” said Kaneko, who has written a book about dealing with children. This is to prevent children from becoming so defensive that they ignore what their parents or guardians say.

“It can’t be helped that girls become interested in makeup during their latter years at primary school,” Kaneko said. “I hope parents will not force their opinions onto their children, but instead listen to how they feel.”

In addition, parents should explain the risks of using makeup, that the skin of children is delicate and that irritations or rashes can develop if cosmetics are used incorrectly, Kaneko said.

Kaneko recommends establishing rules at home about cosmetic use.

This could include banning the use of makeup until finishing middle school, not wearing makeup at school, and requiring kids to tell their parents when they use cosmetics.

Komazawa Women’s University Prof. Kaori Ishida, an expert on cosmetics culture, said parents should also remind their children that appearances are not everything.

“Teenagers are beautiful, even if they don’t wear makeup. Parents should tell their children, especially those who worry about their appearance, that they are cute just the way they are,” Ishida said. “I want parents and guardians to teach children that people have different ideas about what is beautiful.”

(May. 20, 2012)