Walmart’s Geo Girl: Eco-friendly Cosmetics for 8- to 12-year-olds

Walmart is rolling out Geo Girl, a new line of cosmetics in recyclable packaging for tweens (8- to 12-year-old girls) in March 2011. Walmart has hit all the cosmetic buttons: natural ingredients, sensitivity to young skin, low price point and recyclable packaging. It sounds good, except the target audience age range. Should 8- to 12-year-olds wear cosmetics?

If you are talking about the occasional silly dress-up day with friends where they paint each other’s faces at home and wash it off before going outside, then I can see using it sparingly for that purpose (didn’t we all love to do that?) However, Joel Carden, executive vice president, marketing and sales for Pacific World says, “These are real cosmetics with natural ingredients that will create return purchases and create a true beauty consumer.” Translated that means that Walmart wants to cash in on the reported $2 billion tween market, so most likely they will not be promoting the occasional dress-up day, but daily use – otherwise there wouldn’t be those frequent repeat sales.

Among the 69 Geo Girl product offerings are blush, mascara, face shimmer, and lipstick as well as anti-aging products (no details on what those are). Why would an 8-year-old (or 10- or 12-year-old) need blush or mascara, not to mention an anti-aging product? The most common reasons women wear makeup are: to look attractive; to feel more confident; to look younger (mature women); to look older (teens); to hide blemishes, wrinkles, bags under the eyes, etc.; and to be sexually appealing. Of course there is nothing wrong with adult women wearing makeup, but for which of these reasons should tweens wear cosmetics?

Encouraging repeat sales of an essentially unnecessary product for this age range, eco-friendly packaging or not, is still environmentally unfriendly. All those used up tubes and jars have to go somewhere. During this past holiday season much ado was made about not buying in excess and not buying unneeded products. Although Geo Girl will sell in the $3.99 to $5.99 range, cosmetics for tweens could be seen as an extraneous line item in the household budget.

Studies show that girls are susceptible to body image issues and developing low self-esteem, as well as being confronted with issues about dating and sex at younger and younger ages. The NYU Child Study Center (NYUCSC) reports that girls’ self esteem peaks when they are about 9 years old and then declines steeply. 20 to 40 percent of girls begin dieting at age 10. As early as age 10, girls are faced with “teen” issues such as dating and sex, and 73 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds dress like teens and talk like teens. 

Why does self-esteem drop? The NYUCSC says that starting in these pre-teen years girls become hyper-aware of their bodies and equate them to their perceived worth to others. Their self-esteem is tied to physical attributes and appearance, and girls feel like they can’t measure up to society’s standards.

While Geo Girl isn’t the first cosmetic line to be marketed to tweens, there is a disturbing trend in product marketing to treat this age group as older and more sexualized than they should be. If you walk down the girls’ aisle at any major department store, you’ll see narrowly-cut, tight-fitting clothing, belly-baring fashion trends, shirts that emphasize developing breasts and high-heeled shoes – all in sizes for girls as young as 5 or 6.

Promoting “beauty care” to tweens says that 8- to 12-year-old girls are not attractive without looking sexy. Tampa dermatologist Dr. Seth Forman has spoken out against the line claiming that it not only focuses on superficial looks at a crucial age, but the skin care products themselves could harm young skin. Psychiatrist Dr. Henry Paul cautions that the use of makeup can sometimes be addictive, resulting in girls who are addicted to being “beautiful” and don’t see themselves as anything else which can lead to an erosion of self-esteem in the long run.

Of course, parents play a huge role in building girls’ self-esteem and combating the relentless sexualization and unattainable body images girls are bombarded by in the media every day. It is also, ultimately, a parent’s decision whether their tween daughter buys and wears Geo Girl. Cosmetics, themselves, aren’t evil. It’s all in the message they can send to young girls who are already struggling to maintain their self-esteem, compounded by a society that seems determined to cut their childhood short.

top image credit: My Brown Baby

Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at and @anewell3p on Twitter.

41 responses

  1. I don’t care how eco-friendly Walmart’s kiddie cosmetics are, and I don’t care that a lot of 20-somethings will wonder what I’m worrying about – I think make up for girls this young is wrong on so many fronts. Can’t Walmart think of anything else to sell to young girls? Why not books or toys, sports equipment or computer games? Why sell them on being sexy at age 8? Because some idiot conducts a study showing self-esteem drops, so the only cure for that is to learn how to apply lipstick? Parents need to boycott these products, in spite of all the enticing marketing that will tell young girls they can’t possibly be ‘popular’ without mascara on their 8 year old eyes. Yech.

    1. listen people like shana Walmart isnt making girls want to be cute or look good, they think that themselves like they see older girls wearing cute clothes and want to be like them or they watch tvs shows about fashion! sometimes they even see it from family members like their mom cause what girl dosent want to be like there mom, also they might have sisters or cousins so it isnt walmarts fault because they are just going with the trends, so before you right thingd like that just THINK!!! Also what little girl dosent go to daycare have any women in there life, or just walk or drive around and see teenagers or elementary students so dont you be blaming anyone for that

  2. Are you kidding me?!! I never trusted Wal-Mart with their supposed strides toward being the so-called sustainability leader. This just shows the evil side lurking beneath the eco-friendly exterior. Seriously, don’t blend a good cause with a bad one! Girls this young shouldn’t be wearing makeup. Why not market eco-friendly condoms next to teenagers?


  3. Seriously, I don’t see what the big deal is. When I was in grammar school Smackers and Bonne Bell were all the rage. They’re still popular brands. Geo Girl isn’t any different from those brands. Why are people getting so defensive now? If they’re going to be up in arms with Geo Girl, be mad at all the companies that cater to younger girls.

  4. “The most common reasons women wear makeup are: to look attractive; to feel more confident; [insert five different ways of saying] to be sexually appealing. Of course there is nothing wrong with adult women wearing makeup…”

    Nothing wrong with a multi-billion dollar industry built on undermining the self esteem of adolescent girls and adult women?

  5. So this is not surprising at all I have an 8 year and when I need to purchase clothing it is so disgusting the choices available. They are just shrunk down versions of the teen sections all layered tank top, skin jeans and glittery fluff it is so discouraging. I want my child to be a little girl not a little slut.
    It is no surprise they now have make up to go with the trashy clothing. I have not shopped at Walmart for 6 years and ever time I read a store like this it just reaffirms my choice is the right one.

    1. Mia,

      My daughter is 5 and I face the same problems shopping for her, now that she is out of the toddler sizes. I dislike the tight clothing and mini teen versions (I hate the glitter). If you want her to still look like a little girl, there are cute things at place like LL Bean and Lands End and Hanna Andersen, but they cost a little more. Good luck.

  6. Have any of you who are against GeoGirl, actually seen their products? Cause, if you had, you would see that GeoGirl is not as slutty as you may think, or believe. Smackers and Bonnie Belle are two big cosmetic co. that are geared to tween and nobody gets up in arm over them why then GeoGirl? Geo Girl is no different than handing your daughter a tube of Burt’s Bees lip balm. Every one of their products are so SUPER sheer, it would take 10 coats of their “lipstick” to show up on their lips. Though I think Geo Girl is a wonderful line of safe and good-for-your-skin products, I most hardly agree that 8-12 yr. olds should NOT be waring makeup, AT ALL! Though, it should be the parents who make the decisions what is right and what is wrong, I don’t think Wal-Mart made a wise decision to market this to a younger age group like this. 13 & up is much more appropriate, in my opinion. When your daughter, at 13 yrs. old gets her first zit (I got one when I as just 12),and she feels like the giant white elephant in the room (like we all do at least once in our lives)and she wants it to be gone, RIGHT NOW, you probably wouldn’t think putting a dab of of concealer on it, constitutes her turning into a mini-hooker, all made-up. And when given the choice, would you rather put some Covergirl or even Revlon brand, concealer on her tender face that has mica in it (which will tear and irritate the skin) or put a safe and all natural concealer that will benefit her skin with vitamins? And, if you look at GeoGirl’s packaging, it does not by any means, have that “Hannah Montana” slutty air about it the way Smackers does. Geo Girl boasts cardboard and small sketches of birds, that give the line a natural and simple look, that reflects on the product.
    Bottom Line: Geo Girl is definitely NOT for 8-12 yr. olds, but it’s not an evil company out to steal our little girls youth. Now, Wal-Mart should seriously re-think their approach and market Geo Girl to teens who want the Burt’s Bees equivalent to Covergirl, honest, simple and natural products that are good for you. And made for you, not hookers.

    1. I definitely agree…I just bought a tinted moisturizer from GeoGirl and i love it. it is super sheer and just gives me a light coverage. Just because the product is aimed at “tweens” doesn’t mean they are going to be the only ones buying it. I’m 15 and I personally like the eco friendly concept. It’s just makeup big deal, it’s not like they are selling kids drugs or something.

      1. me too. i started to get breakouts and pimples when i was about 12. all my mom did was let me barrow a bit of her mineral powder to cover up really embarrassing pimples. and when i was 13 she let me wear mascara and to this day i only wear mascara and its geogirls. i also use all the face moisturizers and cleansers which i really like of theirs. anyway, i think some people got the wrong idea about geogirl products, i mean just go look in walmart and see for yourself. there is absolutely nothing wrong (just by looking at them) with all the geogirl products at all. and its super eco-friendly and free of everything thats bad for your skin… which is great!

  7. Hey if you dont like the stuff then dont buy it for your kids,,i mean whose in charge anyways!!!!! Im 45 yrs old and i realy love the stuff and will BUY..

    1. I agree with you, I love the makeup and it the message it sends to girls is actually a good one. Why is this line of makeup such a big deal? So what if little girls like to mess with makeup? Everyone that I know has! The makeup is beautiful and I also will buy. If people don’t want their girls looking at any makeup don’t take them down the makeup isle!!

    2. I agree with you. I was actually intrigued by the fact that its free of everything that is bad for your skin. I wouldnt mind using it for myself, its really hard to find products that are free of chemicals and are reasonably priced! And relax people, little girls wearing makeup doesnt turn them into little skanks. Let them play with it, you’re only young once and your child shouldnt be worried that because they have lipgloss, that anyone who sees them is going to think they’re a whore in the making. Its that age old question cropping up again “Should I let my little boy play with dolls” well now its “Should I let my little girl play with makeup” Letting a boy play with dolls doesnt make him gay, and letting a little girl play with makeup doesnt make her a whore!! With so many other things out there to worry about, pick and choose your battles, Let This One Go!

      1. I agree totally….I am 48yrs old and purchased some of the GeoGirls lipsticks last night from for myself…There’s nothing wrong with letting little girls try makeup made especially for them, chemical free…God knows, there’s alot of other things worse out there they can get into….

    3. I’m 36 and i purchased the mascara today Oct 23. I loved it. i chose it cause it had majority of the bad stuff out. I know it was aimed for kids who really don’t need it now, BUT…i have to be honest, the packaging is what caught my attention. lol :)

  8. It is already in our walmart and I like it. I am 21 and I bought this brand because it really is more eco-friendly and it’s actually cheaper than the brand name cosmetics. It did not give me the impression that it was for girls that young. Most of the makeup looked really light and wearable and I plan to buy more of their products on my next trip to WalMart. No, maybe little girls shouldn’t be wearing makeup, but that sounds like a parenting issue to me. The makeup itself is great and adds something a lot of the other brands do not by being eco-friendly and affordable.

  9. There is absolutely no reason to be mad at Wal-Mart. Wal-mart isn’t the one who would be buying it for the child? And if you seriously let your daughter go places with full on makeup on at that age, that’s the parents fault.
    The lower self-esteem thing has nothing to do with makeup wearing, more kids are coming from more broken homes, WHICH LOWERS SELF ESTEEM, and parents should be making sure their daughter knows she doesn’t need to wear makeup to be considered beautiful.
    When my parents were growing up, sex was a secretive thing that wasn’t really discussed. Now sex is huge, its everywhere and WAY more accepted than before, so of course, more girls will be having sex. Again, most of this is the parents problem, not Wal-Marts.

  10. girls my age should not were make up! i am 13 turning 14 in three days and i don’t even wear make up!!! anyways my boy friend hates makeup on me so i choose not to wear it and i am confident in myself

  11. just a lil 411 on geo girl’s B4N makeup remover…”melts makeup quick as a wink w/o rubbing or redness”…I call BS…#1 you definitely have to rub and then rub some more…yes it does cause redness and to add insult to injury is smells awful…total waste of money…do not buy this product…mind you I am 40 years old and was just looking for a new make up remover…was not purchased for my children lol…of course my children are boys ha ha ha…anyway that is my .02 cents for today SLAINTE

  12. I love the environmentally friendly products by Geogirl. I can’t wait for their website. I am a 40 year old woman who was looking for something light and creamy this summer. I love the powder to cream eye shadow and the gentle earth-friendly make-up remover. I bought a pink lip gloss hoping for a bit of color, but it was just shine. People need to just relax. These products are great! I thought that the natural mascara would be a good way to start out my daughters on natural products.

  13. Pfft. I don’t care if this brand is targeted toward children. I’m 15 and I wear some of their stuff. It’s cheap and it works for me.
    Anyway, no child under the age of 13(at least) should be wearing makeup. What has our world come to?!

  14. I actually JUST bought the blush today. I had no idea it was marketed toward tween girls.. I’m 21 and stumbled upon this brand at Walmart. The blush is really light and it adds more shimmer than color. But the packaging doesn’t even look like its marketed toward 8-12 y/o

    I don’t think any mom is gonna be buying their 8 year old this… They might have marketed toward that age group but obviously some people ain’t to happy about it :| JUST DON’T BUY IT!

    I’m just saying :) toodles.

  15. Girls this age should not be wearing makeup this young they are little girls that should be thinking of having friends and a good time and not worrying about there makeup,how they look and also having a boyfriend i mean that is really stupid to think of that they are girls still like baby’s not even my mom lets me wear makeup and i am 13 going to 14 she says that i should to wait til i am 15 and you know is not only the girls that want to wear makeup also the moms they dont say anything to those girls i hope someone does something about this

  16. I think that the geoGiRL line of cosmetics is great. I have tried it and everything is sheer and natural and doesn’t aggravate my sensitive acne prone skin. If Mom’s don’t want their daughters wearing makeup, simply don’t buy it. And as long as you’re doing that, don’t let them watch TV, read magazines or books or listen to radio…because obsession with beauty is everywhere.

  17. Okay, I’m 16 and I use geoGirl makeup. The average 16 year old girl wears makeup. I get this kind because it works amazing for my face and the price is great. Now they don’t sell it at walmart and i’m really bummed because I dont know where to find it :( Bring geoGirl back to walmart please!!

  18. It not Wal Mart job to parent your child. There are parents that are willing to buy make up for the children and Wal Mart is meeting that demand. As a parent there are plenty of things that I would not allow my child to wear and I simply don’t buy it. It just that easy be a PARENT. I don’t have to complain, because I realize everything that is geared toward our children is not appropriate.

  19. Okay, so I’m 28 and I LOVE Geogirl. I know it’s marketed for tweens, but where else are you going to find a makeup that is ecofriendly, budget friendly, and doesn’t do the terrible things to my skin that i’ve found “grown up” makeup does. I would have been happy to have this when I was growin up. Moms- if you so worried about your daughters obsessing about their looks, then set an example. After all, you wear makeup yourself, why is it so terrible if she does?

  20. Who cares?!? I’m 13, and it’s no biggie. At all. I mean, I get my eyebrows and lip waxed, and wear bikinis. It really doesn’t matter. Actually, I would never wear walmart makeup. Only Bare Minerals, that are cheap. My little sister who is 8 wears makeup too. We aren’t forced into it.

  21. I bet the same moms who want to ban Geo Girls are the same moms who buy Barbie dolls! Barbie looks like the biggest slut out there for kids.Why not ban Barbies over the top made up a**??? Keep buying that double dd disaster for your darling little girls.I can bet she’ll have an image problem when she’s older!

  22. It it not bad at all. If you ever tried it out it is very light and barely noticable. The fruit punch lip shine which is in a lip stick container is so light it is barely noticable. The only thing someone would think has noticable color is a few of the eyeshadows and the mascara. Maybe 8 year olds shouldn’t use the blush but they could use lip gloss and moisturizer. Anyone 10 and older should be able to use any makeup from that line. It doesn’t make you look sexy it just brighten ups your face. I have more to say at

  23. GeoGirl products are definitely aimed towards younger girls, but younger girls often don’t even visit the cosmetics section! These are very simple products that don’t even show up that much, and I think the real audience is just anyone who is looking for cheap makeup and happens to stumble across it. I own the blue mascara just because I was looking for one and this is the cheapest one around. I don’t think that there should be much concern, especially because it is only found in Walmart stores rather than shops for younger girls like Claire’s.

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