Beauty for Tween Scene

Preteen years are tough. Luckily, going natural is easy.
By Jolene Hart

Many young girls today are swaddled in organic cotton, fed organic fruits and veggies, and bathed with pure products practically since birth. Even so, daughters of natural-minded parents soon skip home from playdates wearing drugstore nail polish and pleading for beauty products of their own.

Unfortunately, while organic and nontoxic baby items abound, natural beauty options for tweens are much harder to find. This void inevitably leads many upper-elementary and middle-school girls straight to conventional cosmetics, lotions, and haircare products packed with scary ingredients. Bonne Bell Lip Smacker, for example, contains propylene glycol, a potential endocrine-disrupting solvent, while Suave Kids’ Smoothers 2 in 1 Shampoo has hormone-altering sodium laureth sulfate, along with DMDM hydantoin, a skin, eye, and lung irritant.

Everyone should avoid these ingredients, but tweens especially should steer clear, since the developmental years leading up to and during puberty are critically important to healthy hormonal function. Puberty now commonly starts at age 9 or 10, rather than at 12 or 13, and experts link this early onset—which increases breast cancer and polycystic ovary syndrome risks—to hormone-altering fragrances, preservatives, and pesticides found in food, plastics, detergents, and, of course, personal care products. Plus, constant exposure to these chemicals all but overwhelms young bodies, which are unable to detoxify at the same rate as fully developed adults, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

These scary facts aside, considering the allure of flashy, celebrity-branded tween beauty products and the lack of toxin-free alternatives, how can natural parents steer their daughters toward safer options?

What a girl wants
Fortunately, change is in motion for the under-13 set. The first organic and natural beauty brands for tween girls, such as Sparklehearts and Good For You Girls, have hit store shelves. Many were launched by mothers who recognized the lack of safe beauty options for their maturing daughters. “We used natural baby products on [our daughters as babies], but then there was nothing,” says Kimberly Grustas, mother of two girls and cofounder, with Grace Hvasta-Petrarca, a mom to four girls, of Good For You Girls. “The lure of Hello Kitty and Hannah Montana and mass-market products is so strong. How could we fight back against that when there was nothing available?”

Grustas’ and Hvasta-Petrarca’s daughters, ages 5 to 13, were instrumental in creating the line. Grustas noticed that, while her girls were drawn to conventional beauty products’ colorful packaging, they made no connection between minimalist, “natural-looking” packaging and safe ingredients in the way adults do. “Everything else in their world is bright and colorful, from their clothes and sneakers to the wallpaper in their rooms,” says Grustas. “Then you stick something plain in front of them, and they don’t relate to it.”

The solution? Unabashedly pink, floral, and sparkly packaging and only the safest ingredients within. For instance, coconut- and sugar-based surfactants replace the skin-drying sulfates conventional cleansers and shampoos use to create suds, while pleasant-smelling botanical extracts leave no need for synthetic fragrances.

Tweens turning teens
Girls who continue to choose natural products as they mature from tween-dom into the more image-conscious teen years will have definite long-term health advantages over those who don’t. After all, during an average day, a teenager uses more personal care products than an adult woman—by a margin of 17 to 12—and is exposed to about 174 different cosmetic ingredients, the Environmental Working Group reports.

Driven by these statistics, a group of young female activists is working hard not only to educate girls on the importance of safe products, but also to lead by example, showing tweens it’s hip to be natural. Teens Turning Green (TTG), a national organization launched in 2002 under the name Teens for Safe Cosmetics, uses peer-to-peer learning to spread eco-consciousness to teens. TTG prides itself on ingredient education, maintaining a “Dirty Thirty” list of unsafe chemicals in personal care products and encouraging teens to search for greener alternatives to toxic products and practices in all aspects of life.

The group also collaborates with natural beauty companies, such as Astara, Alaffia, EO, and Terra Naturals, on a collection of TTG–branded products. “Companies work with us because they believe in what we’re doing, and they want the best for the next generation, like we do,” says Erin Schrode, 17, founding member of TTG. “I really care about the world, and I want this to be the safest place for our children to live.”

For every young girl who has access to healthy beauty products, Schrode’s goal becomes even more attainable.

Jolene Hart is a freelance writer in Philadelphia who focuses on natural beauty and holistic health.

Tween Must-Haves

Teens Turning Green
Alaffia Mango Body Butter
Rich, tropically scented, fair-trade shea butter, harvested by a West African women’s cooperative, works with soothing aloe and virgin coconut oil to smoothen skin. ($15, 4 oz;

Teens Turning Green
Astara Sunstar Purifying Mask
Tea tree oil kills surface bacteria, while sage, rosemary, and lavender naturally tone and purify. Designed specifically for breakout-prone teen skin. ($21, 1.75 oz;

Good For You Girls
The Complete Skin Care Kit
Includes skin-balancing gel cleanser, toner, and oil-free moisturizer scented with a citrusy blend of lemon, orange, grapefruit, and bergamot oils. ($25,
2 oz each;

Sweet Hearts Sparkly Body Lotion Organic murumuru seed butter and sweet almond oil hydrate with a natural sweet-tart scent and enough sparkle to delight the girliest of girls. ($13, 8 oz;

Glory For Girls
Everyday Deodorant
A fresh-smelling, aluminum-free formula with antibacterial willow herb, which is safe for super-sensitive skin. ($10, 2 oz;

Peace Out No Knots
Hair Detangler
A fruity after-bath spray with shine-restoring willow bark and reparative green tea and sage. ($13, 8 oz;