It’s true that most parents love to show off pictures of their little ones. But according to a U.K. consumer insight company, the kiddos’ natural look is not quite good enough for parents in search of selfie-ready perfection — an attitude that is giving rise to the “baby beauty” market.
“While adults have long been expected to maintain certain grooming standards, particularly as … the selfie culture continues to reign, the emerging ‘baby beauty’ trend, targeting parents of those aged 4 years and under, is a recent phenomenon in the industry,” noted the firm Canadean in a press release about its new research.
Its findings, gleaned from global consumer surveys of more than 4,000 parents and 31 countries, indicate that the most looks-concerned parents reside in Russia, with 98 percent of parents surveyed noting that their child’s appearance was of importance; the least concerned can be found in New Zealand, with 53 percent concerned with their children’s looks. Regionally speaking, moms and dads in South America and Central America took the lead, with nine out of 10 noting its importance; North America was comparably low, with just seven out of 10 saying their young child’s appearance was a top concern.
But Canadean analyst Veronika Zhupanova, who was not immediately available for additional comment on Friday, noted through the press release, “The fact that even in the least child-image conscious country over half of parents with babies are concerned about their children’s looks shows how important this consciousness around baby aesthetics has become.” In light of that, she had some advice for how marketers of such baby beauty products, from edible nail polish to nontoxic lipstick, should proceed: with caution.
“An optimum strategy here would be for manufacturers to promote a holistic approach to a child’s image, placing the primary emphasis on babies’ health, well-being, and happiness,” Zhupanova suggested. “Doing so will help parents avoid feeling overly pressured about their children’s image, as well as to prevent children from being obsessed with their looks from an early age.”
Also, noted the release, “To further avoid being seen as encouraging image-consciousness among the youngest generation, brands need to focus on the emotive side of the product, such as how it facilitates bonding between parents and children, as opposed to actually enhancing a child’s looks.” For example, Zhupanova explained, “Launches such as child-safe nail polish … should be marketed as facilitating mother-daughter bonding, encouraging a healthier approach to a child’s perception of their own image.”
So could focusing on the “bonding” aspect of beauty products for the 4-and-under set truly help reshape the notion that appearance is worthy of major concern? No way, says Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a national nonprofit with a mission to “reclaim childhood from corporate marketers.”
As Golin tells Yahoo Beauty, “There’s no sensitive or responsible way to market ‘baby beauty’ products. These products are completely unnecessary for babies and young children and it’s wrong and potentially harmful to indoctrinate children that young into beauty product culture. Regardless of how the marketing is approached, it is still sending a message to parents that these products — which are inherently appearance focused — are appropriate for babies.”
Further, Golin notes that Canadean’s logic about refocusing the message of products is flawed. “I’m hard-pressed to understand how encouraging parents to bond with toddlers by putting on nail polish or using other beauty products shifts the focus away from appearance. If anything, it attaches a ritual of using products that are all about ‘enhancing’ appearing to the powerful parent-child bond,” he says. “There are literally a million ways to bond with a young child without using beauty products, or any product, for that matter. The press release is all about using child development buzzwords to give a veneer of respectability to a type of product that should have no place in a babies’ life.”