I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or colour my hair until I was about 16 or 17. That doesn’t mean I didn’t: I wore tinted lip gloss that could easily be wiped off in high school and definitely got in trouble for box-dyeing my black hair a reddish tint (that some would call “mulled wine”). That I’m a beauty editor now is either an unexpected twist or an inevitable reaction to that upbringing, sucked into the irresistible pull of forbidden cosmetics.
It would make sense, then, that I would be stoked about a brand like Petite ‘N Pretty, a new Instagram-launched makeup brand for the Gen Z crowd, ages 4 to 18. It’s makeup for kids, who the brand refers to as “young creatives” – the type of kids who have their own YouTube channels, lifestyle blogs, and tons of Instagram followers. Would.
Petite ‘N Pretty’s website is painted in pastel pinks, purples, and blue, with script-y fonts and sparkly graphics abounding – it mimics any other beauty e-comm site because that’s exactly what it is; all the models just happen to look like they’re in elementary and middle school. Make no mistake though, Petite ‘N Pretty does not make cheap-o, toy makeup – the products are cruelty-free, nut-free, and paraben- and phthalate-free, according to its website (the price point lies mostly in the teens for a single product, the most expensive item being an influencer gift box set for $250.) The tagline reads “sparkle outside the lines” and the mission statement seeks to empower kids with “top-shelf, age-appropriate, and pediatrician-approved products made for small features, big imaginations.”
Founded by Stila Cosmetics’ former chief product development officer Samantha Cutler, Petite ‘N Pretty has largely had a launch leg up thanks to Cutler’s wide network of Los Angeles influencer mums with influencer kids, including a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills mom and, by proxy of the L.O.L. Fashion Show, Kim Kardashian West – the brand sponsored makeup for the show, which North West walked in, reports a WWD article.
Mommy blogging has a huge community with a fierce follower network so it’s no surprise that their kids could also dominate YouTube and social media in the same way. This unboxing video from Jessalyn Grace, an 11-year-old YouTuber whose mom helps her with recording and posting her videos, follows the same cadence and language as any beauty unboxing video would from a vlogger a dozen years older. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with preteens and kids experimenting with makeup and their own appearance, but I balk at the idea of marketing to kids the same kinds of language and imagery that funnels certain specific aesthetics and beauty standards into seemingly innocuous, sparkly packaging. It’s the same apprehension I feel about child beauty pageants.
The intent may be nice enough, but with a brand called Petite ‘N’ Pretty, the message is upfront in the name. “Pretty” and “petite” are both words that are just modifiers, but in the context of beauty and body image, they take on a meaning we know all too well. The brand’s Instagram page is populated by images of its demographic wearing expertly applied highlights and contours, bright, smoky eyes, and a whole lot of glitter. (It mostly features girls, but here and there a boy wearing a strobed highlight or halo eye will pop up.) WWD’s story mentions that Petite ‘N Pretty tends to market with 13-year-olds, the “aspirational age,” which is to say an age where you can be taken seriously enough as a makeup authority. While it makes obvious sense to have their peers speak to a younger beauty audience, kids face plenty of beauty conventions and standards as it is, from social media, television and movies, and celebrity-driven lifestyles.