It Isn’t Easy Being a Green Tween or Teen


Back in the late 60′s , when being green usually meant that you had sneaked a cigarette, I argued unsuccessfully with my mother over wearing makeup. I was for it; she was against it until I reached the magic age of fifteen. For some reason I never did fathom, in those days, that was apparently the age all parents had agreed upon as being appropriate for female cosmetic use. True, some of my more daring schoolmates snuck cocoa colored lipstick into their pockets and applied it on the bus, but most didn’t. However, like me, they couldn’t wait to apply the potions and polishes that their older sisters and cousins wore.

Now, I have a tween, an 11 year old daughter who is already begging me for nail polish, lipstick and anything else that will make her look like Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana. She and I are having some of the same discussions I had with my mother, but because I’m NOT my mother, we hold them a little differently.

Rather than forbidding her to “make herself up like a hussy”, which is what my mother did with me, we talk about why it’s not such a hot idea to paint, polish and perfect herself with the stuff that comes out of those little tubes, bottles and pots. For instance, we talk about what’s in all the glamourous potions that make you look better. We also talk about why it’s good to realize that it’s not necessary to enhance your looks on a daily basis and how looking like yourself is the best thing most of the time.

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Recently, she found some water-based, “non-toxic” nail polish at a health food store and you might have thought she’d found the holy grail. Excitedly, she showed me the beautiful colors it came in and assured me that there was nothing harmful in it. Then I got her to look at the label and we saw that there was polyurethane in it. She pouted. I went to look at organic honey. She came over to me and asked if she could get it and only wear it once in a long while for special occasions.

I thought about it and said she could. Her face lit up like the sun and she floated out to the car and then to our hotel where she applied two coats of the magic elixir to her fingernails and toenails. That was two days ago and most of it has worn off, but she hasn’t asked me if she can reapply it and the bottle is still in her backpack. If she does ask, I’ll remind her that it’s only for special occasions and has an ingredient that isn’t good to put on her skin more than once in a long while.

I’m sure I’m not the only one facing the cosmetic clash with a daughter. Now, however, girls start wearing makeup and nail polish when they’re toddlers and no one seems to think anything of it. I even know Green mamas who let their tots smear their lips with bright lip gloss that has artificial flavors, colors and petroleum products in it. These are the same mothers who won’t let their kids have anything with corn syrup in it. I don’t get it.

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It seems to me that, along with issues about self-esteem, body image and feminism, girls need to know what kind of chemicals they’re putting on their skin. Educating them about carcinogens and endocrine disruptors like parabens, phthalates and BPA is just the start of it. What about the animal products in some cosmetics and the animal testing? What about petroleum products, hormones, nano particles and all the other things that are on the label?

And it isn’t just girls. Boys use cosmetics too, even if the products have “manly” names and black, chunky bottles to make them more acceptable to boys. Even harmless-seeming things like hair gel, shave cream and deodorants have things in them that they need to know about and think about before using.

A bright spot in all of this is that most teens and tweens are eco-conscious and can be reached on that level. So, that’s where I’m trying to make a connection with my daughter. She cares about the planet and the animals and plants on it. She knows that what we’re putting into the air, water and soil is hurting the earth. She’s all for going green when it comes to products that we buy. I’m just hoping that it will carry over into her choices for personal care products and cosmetics in future, both for the planet’s sake – and hers.

Authors: Kristin J. Lavigne from

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