Puberty is getting more precocious, toy cosmetics easier to come by, the need to feel accepted ever greater. It is a delicate phase and kids must be helped through it, but without assuming to replace their influencers.
“Too small to be big and too big to be considered children”. People’s wisdom has always distinguished the age of puberty and adolescence as a period of particular life, defined more by what is not rather than what it is. Almost as if this age was merely a transitional period between childhood and adulthood, a period suspended between waiting, often spasmodic, to grow up and find its place in the world.
All normal, or maybe not, because in the meantime puberty is a phenomenon that happens ever more precociously. In recent decades, in fact, mainly girls have a puberty onset more and more anticipated than in the past. In children, on the contrary, there is a general tendency to feminization phenomena, such as the reduction of the ano-genital distance and the spermiogram. The causes of this phenomenon are above all the so-called “endocrine disrupters”, chemicals with which we come into contact every day and which mimic the action of sex hormones. Endocrine disrupters end up everywhere: in the environment, in our diet, in everyday products like clothes and cosmetics.
What happens when a child goes to precocious puberty? The first consequence is behavioral: the characteristic themes of the adolescent age, concerning the acceptance of oneself and of one’s own changing body, interpersonal relationships and communication, emotional balance, invest those who do not yet have the psychic structure necessary to face these great changes. And here the paradox happens: the same cosmetics that contain the endocrine disrupters become indispensable. The beauty products, in fact, allow a reconciliation with the outer self, allow us to become more acceptable and presentable but also more homologated to the aesthetic standards typical of the peer group.
In the case of the youngest, the beauty products market exploits types, sales channels and completely new commercial strategies. The products, colorful and very similar to toys, real cosmetic toys, can have delicious fragrances, perhaps able to change color and consistency while they are spread. Also increasing are beauty masks to be prepared following easy and fun do-it-yourself recipes. The interest of girls and boys for beauty is also increasing thanks to sales channels that, using the social network instagram, twitter and facebook, offer products with the most affordable prices, within reach of their pockets, especially the single-dose, which they are absolutely less expensive.
The phenomenon, now endemic, is amplified by influencers. Of course, the choice of products is no longer entrusted to parents. Yet, as we have already said, at this age the risk of exposure to compounds harmful for health and, above all for the endocrine system, is very high. Numerous chemicals commonly used in cosmetics, personal care products, and other fragrant household items have shown the ability to disrupt the endocrine system. These chemicals include some phthalates, ingredients used in the processing of plastics, of which those with low molecular weight are also found in cosmetics such as perfumes, deodorants, soaps, shampoos, and in nail polishes. In laboratory studies it has been confirmed that the effects of these substances are anti-androgenic, ie able to cause precocious puberty in the female sex and feminization in the male sex.
Parabens, commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics, also demonstrate estrogenic properties. Other offending substances include phenols, used in room cleaners, often used in personal care products, such as triclosan, an antibacterial agent contained in many antiseptic cleaners, hand sanitizing gels and some toothpastes. Even benzophenone-3, a sunscreen that is used not only in sunscreen products but also in cosmetics such as lipsticks, hairsprays, shampoos and skin lotions to increase shelf life, is a major endocrine disruptor.
The situation is worrying but the ways out are still
“Too young to be adults, too adult to be kids”. Popular lore has always distinguished puberty and adolescence as a particular age of one’s life, defined by what one isn’t rather than what one is. Almost as if this age were merely a transitional period between infancy and adult life, of suspended grace between the often-spasmodic wait for adulthood and finding one’s place in the world.
Which is quite normal – or maybe not? Puberty is becoming an ever more precocious phenomenon. In recent decades, puberty is hitting earlier than in the past, especially in girls. In boys, on the contrary, there is a general tendency to feminizing phenomena, such as a reduction in anogenital distance and sperm count anomalies. The causes of this phenomenon are known as endocrine disruptors, i.e. chemical substances we are exposed to daily and that mime the physiological effects of sexual hormones. Endocrine disruptors are everywhere: in the environment, in our food, in daily use products such as clothes and make up.
What happens when a girl goes through precocious puberty? The first consequence in behavioral: the underlying drama of adolescence regarding self-acceptance, physical development, relationships and interpersonal communication, emotional balance, all occurs in individuals who don’t have the necessary psychological structure to face such momentous changes. And here’s the paradox: the same cosmetic products which contain endocrine disruptors become indispensable. Beauty products allows girls to come to terms with their exterior self, to make themselves more acceptable and presentable, but also more in line with the beauty canons which dominate their age group.
For the youngest of girls, the beauty market exploits totally new types of products, marketing channels and commercial strategies. The products are super-colourful and resemble actual toys (cosmetic toys), have delicious perfumes and might even change colour or texture when applied. Face masks are on the rise, which can be prepared with easy and fun DIY recipes. Girls’ and boys’ interest for glamming up is also increasing thanks to modern sales channels which, by exploiting social networks such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, flaunt lower prices which kids can afford, especially for single-use products that are the absolute cheapest.
This now endemic phenomenon is amplified by influencers. Product choice is now firmly out of parental hands. But, as we said earlier, this is the age one is more at risk of being exposed to noxious chemicals. These chemical substances include low molecular weight phthalates, ingredients which are used in plastic processing and which can be found in perfumes, deodorants, shampoos, soap and nail varnish. Lab studies confirmed that these substances have anti-androgenic properties, i.e. they can cause early puberty in girls and feminization in boys.
Parabens, too, which are commonly used cosmetic preservatives, have estrogenic properties. Other incriminated substances are phenols, used in detergents and cosmetic products: the antibacterial molecule triclosan can be found in antiseptic detergents, sanitizing hand gel and toothpaste. Benzophenone-3, a solar filter which is used not only in sunscreen but also as a preservative in cosmetic products such as lipstick, hairspray, shampoo and skin lotions, is an important endocrine disruptor.
The situation is quite concerning, but there are ways to work through the maze of noxious chemicals. We should all become more conscientious, careful customers, learn to use less plastic and, if in doubt, ask for specialist advice. there, if we all become more attentive and responsible consumers, if we learn to do more and more without plastic, if in case of doubts we turn to the specialist.
Article of Dr Adele Sparavigna for https://4me.styl