Trendy teens on cutting edge; Cosmetics! Nails! Skin! Bath! Hair!

March 4, 2002

Almost 24 million strong, teenagers are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, and their life experience so far has left them with an outlook on the world that, in most cases, differs greatly from that of their parents.

Today’s teens have grown up in an age of technology and see the latest gadgets and devices as routine parts of their lives.

While some pundits and social commentators criticize today’s teenagers for apathy, lack of morals and complete absorption in pop culture, researchers say that is far from an accurate picture.

“Today’s teens are far better behaved than the leading grown-up authority figures who created such a mess in the first all-baby-boomer presidential election,” Neil Howe and William Strauss, whose LifeCourse Associates market research firm is considered a leading authority on generational behavior, wrote right after the 2000 presidential race. “Today’s kids are the first in memory to be less vulgar, violent and sexually charged than the pop culture adults are creating for them,” they say in a more recent report.

In other words, the researchers note, the current crop of teens is shunning a lot of the messages advertisers are sending them, opting instead for their own perceptions of reality.

For instance, the fear some have that the proliferation of suggestive advertisements used to sell everything from soft drinks to hair care products, and increasingly explicit movies and television programs is leading more teenagers to have sex has not been borne out by birth rate statistics. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last month, the birth rate among 15 to 17-year-olds declined 5% in 2000, the most recent year charted.

The declining birth rate may partially be attributed to teens’ repudiation of the sexual messages pop culture is sending them. A number of polls have shown that as many as two-thirds of high school students say they are “offended” by the abundance of sex and profanity that movie and television producers assume young people crave.

Teens note that in a similar vein adults thinking of them as a collectively dim-witted and self-indulgent group is also wrong.

“The generation now emerging takes education seriously and places a high value on personal responsibility;’ observe Howe and Strauss. “They’re positive-thinking, cooperative team players who support the idea that social rules can help them meet the challenges of their future.”

Howe and Strauss refer to today’s teenagers as “the Millennial Generation;" reflecting the age group’s desire to be the start of something new.

For retailers that new generation represents a consumer group with tremendous buying power. Market researchers estimate that people between the ages of 12 and 19 spend close to $155 billion a year.

What’s more, they note, teenagers are increasingly demanding a say in what products their families purchase. That is especially true when purchasing personal care products and household items, where parents often go along with their children’s choice of toothpaste, shampoo or soft drink.

According to a recent survey of teenagers by Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU), members of the age group are mass market shoppers. Close to 80% of those polled in the survey said they had visited a discount store during the previous month, 74% had been in a grocery store or supermarket, and 44% had visited a drug store.

“In aggregate, their spending power is immense, but they like a good deal,” the authors of the study say. “Like older consumers, they place high value on service and selection. Store events, young salespersons, music videos—all these factors fall way down on the list of what teens want when they shop.”

TRU researchers note that teens’ quest for value and service in the places they shop is reflective of their overall savvy and awareness of the choices that they have going into the 21st century.

“Confidence and optimism are the bywords for today’s teens;’ they conclude. “They feel secure about their place in the world and look forward to the future, seeing themselves at its cutting edge.”

Always wanting to stay on the cutting edge of fashion and beauty, teenage girls are constantly seeking out the latest trends to ensure they look their best.

This summer, beauty experts say, simple face makeup, sheer lip color and lightly styled hair will give girls the look they want.

On its web site, TeenPeople.com, Teen People magazine suggests girls use a minimal amount of makeup, recommending just a shimmery dusting of bronze powder to give their skin a glow, a moisturizer that provides sun protection and a quick whisk of mascara.

Innovative colors are also in this summer, TeenPeople.com says. For their lips, the site suggests girls use a lip balm with sun protection and a sheer color. New colors this summer include pinks and corals. For nails such colors as greens, golds and blues will be popular; while the trendy eye colors this year are expected to be yellows, oranges and bright blues.

And for hair TeenPeople.com suggests minimal styling. The most important thing a girl can do is protect her hair from the elements, the site says. She should rinse her hair after swimming in a pool, lake or ocean.

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