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  • Writer's pictureJord

SHOULD KIDS WEAR PERFUME?


Perfumes are being increasingly marketed to children, in an era where trends and communication are global yet very easily hidden from parents.

 

Some parents and experts have concerns about whether children should wear perfume, questioning the impact on child safety and development. Others dispute these claims, touting the merits of perfume for social and mental health.

 

This blog will explore the nuances of both arguments, offering practical steps to achieve a middle ground.

 

Why do Kids Wear Perfume?

Kids wear perfume for a wide range of social and personal reasons. Just like adults, children and teens have complex thoughts and social systems too. Some of the reasons kids wear perfume include:

 

Identity Affirmation and Personal Expression

Perfume is a way for us to express and feel confident in who we are. Perfume discovery is also an extremely personal journey. Since so much of our childhoods are formative in becoming who we are, and experiencing new things, it is natural for kids to be curious about perfume.

 

Social Bonding & Mental Wellbeing

As kids move from early to late childhood, approval generally shifts from the parental unit to peers and external influences. Children and teens use brands in identity construction, and perfumes come in a wide range of styles and aesthetics that appeal to different social groups.

 

Children within an ‘in’ group may seek a popular perfume brand to maintain social status and cohesion within that group. This is the basis of most trends and Veblen marketing generally. For example, a popular clique may all wear the same perfume in order to mark membership, with severe consequences should this social rule be broken.




Children may use perfume as a beacon to an idealised community or substitute for identity affirmation. This can be a lifeline for bullied or otherwise isolated children. For example, a queer inclusive scent may help a child feel less confused about their own gender or orientation. Perfumes with a Yorkshire concept may help foster Northern pride and a sense of stability for a child with a peripatetic upbringing.

 



 

Parental Styles and Cultural Traditions

Parents often model their parental style on their own parents, traumas and family traditions. This may include attitudes to scent, attitudes to consumerism and finance, and cultural norms or religious doctrines that include the use of fragrance. Children will in turn model aspects of who they are on the basis of these rules and teachings.

 

For example, a Muslim or Hindu parent may raise their children with a regard for perfume because this is used to practice the family religion. A rich parent who grew up poor may spoil their child with gifts including perfume, out of fear and resentment of their own impoverished childhood.

 

Body Image & Personal Hygiene

Puberty can make adolescents smell worse, at a time where kids may feel unsure and self-conscious. If like me, you struggled to breathe in your high school’s PE changing room because of all the aerosol, this is why.

 

As children age, they will also develop their own personal style and hygiene habits. Some kids will see perfume as a way to experiment with their style and feel less conscious about their bodies. Some parents may see perfume as a fun and easy way for their children to practice good hygiene.



What Are the Arguments Against Children Wearing Perfume?

The complex social reasons kids choose to wear perfume can lead to social problems later in life without proper guidance. Improper use of perfume can lead to environmental and child endangerment. Here is how:

 

Negative Body Image

Perfume marketing and pricing can harm child development when used to exclude children. Perfume ads promote a specific lifestyle and aesthetic, which can be inferred by impressionable children that those outside of this standard are unacceptable.

 

With the advent of social media, algorithmically tailored to the user, this crisis of body image has worsened while getting harder to detect.

 

Children who can meet this standard may exclude those who opt out of those who cannot meet it. Children who can’t meet this standard may feel less valued as individuals in society, struggling to build self-esteem or connect with community.

 

Exposure to Adult Themes & Toxic Social Messaging

Peer pressure and social exclusion are nothing new in adolescents and young children. However, if perfume’s impact on body image is left unchecked, this may damage identity construction and contribute to more serious social divisions in adulthood. Much of perfume marketing is targeted toward adult insecurities, and designed to weaponise social inequalities; children using perfume may internalise these messages before they’re able to understand them.

 

For example, a child who was popular in school because they could afford the latest trends may come to see their worth as conditional, primarily valuing themselves and others based on this condition. If unchallenged, this conditional self-esteem can turn outward as well as inward. The child, now an adult may come to scorn people with less money, bigger bodies, or a lack of interest in style. This might severely restrict the people they are willing to befriend in adulthood and contribute to feelings of loneliness. They may even learn to exercise this bias in positions of power.

 

Chemical Impact of Perfume on Child Safety

Perfume can present allergenic, respiratory and toxicity risks to children. Childrens’ lungs are still developing so one child’s favourite scent may trigger asthma attacks in another. Perfume absorption may cause migraines, brain fog, watery eyes and skin rashes. Perfume ingestion may lead to poisoning, seizure or alcohol toxicity.

 

Unsafe & Irresponsible Use

The perfume industry as a whole doesn’t prioritise education for sustainable use or safe disposal. Influencer trend-hopping could contribute to landfills and environmental harm without the proper disposal.

 

When learning to use perfume, children and adults alike can take a while to find that a little fragrance can go a long way. Kids won’t take the time to apply perfume tactfully, and may lack self-awareness. This can create discomfort in public spaces.

 

Overscenting can even be dangerous in small and confined spaces, presenting risk of fire or respiratory problems. Peer pressure and social media may lead to dangerous stunts that backfire.

 

Allowing Your Child to Wear Perfume with Care

With so many conflicting arguments around children’s use of perfume, it’s easy to forget that a compromise can be reached and that this is a dialogue with your child as they grow and change into adults. Here are some simple ways to let your child wear perfume safely

 

Teach proper perfume etiquette

Parents can emphasise hygiene practices without overemphasising perfume use can help children develop a balanced approach to self-expression.

 

Teach your child to spray perfume on pulse points, and to spray perfumes and aerosols in a well-ventilated room. Gently educate your child on the consequences of perfume misuse.

 

Limit perfume use by and around your child

In environments where individuals may have sensitivities to fragrance, such as schools or public spaces, respecting fragrance-free zones is essential. Teaching children about consideration for others' sensitivities can help foster empathy and understanding.

 

For parents concerned about the safety of traditional perfume, there are alternative options available. Natural and gentle fragrance alternatives, such as essential oils or perfume oils, may offer a safer option for children who want to experiment with scent.

 

For creative children who enjoy experimenting with scent, DIY perfume projects can offer a safe and educational alternative. By using natural ingredients and parental supervision, children can explore fragrance in a fun and responsible manner.

 

If your child has a perfume allergy or sensitivity and you’ve agreed they can wear perfume, ensure they use perfume in low concentrations and do patch tests if spraying on the skin. If they have an inhaler, ensure they have one on their person at all times and ideally spares for school, home and other frequent locations.

 

Talk with your child

It’s important your child thinks critically about how and why they wear perfume, so they can wear it both safely and for the right reasons.

 

Establishing clear perfume rules at home can help parents maintain control over their children's fragrance use. By setting guidelines and expectations, parents can ensure that perfume use remains safe and appropriate. Parents may consider allowing their children to use fragrance in moderation, under supervision, while also prioritising safety and well-being.

 

Parents should encourage open communication with their children about peer influence, body image and social comparison. They should help their child build the confidence to make independent decisions.

 

The influence of marketing on children's perfume choices cannot be understated. Advertising strategies targeted at children can shape their perception of perfume and influence their purchasing decisions. Parents must be aware of these tactics and discuss them with their children.

 

Finding the middle ground between expression and safety is key when it comes to children and perfume.

 

Conclusion

Whether kids should wear perfume is nuanced and multifaceted. While perfume can be a fun and creative form of self-expression, it's essential for parents to consider the potential risks and implications. By prioritising safety, setting clear boundaries, and fostering open communication, parents can help their children make informed decisions about fragrance use.

 

Ultimately, it's about finding a balance that allows children to express themselves while ensuring their health and well-being are protected.



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