Use of beauty products among U.S. adolescents: An exploration of media influence

Jeong Ju Yoo, Hye Young Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The goal of this study is to 1) identify the types of beauty product used and to compare the frequency with which adolescent boys and girls use them; and 2) determine types of beauty product use are significant in relation to the degree of media influence among them in the United States. While cosmetic use is among the most common ways to enhance the appearance of adolescent girls, teenage boys in the United States have emerged as a sector of consumers in the health and beauty industry as well, which is reflected by their concern with personal hygiene and appearance as well as by increased sales (Shah, 2004). Consumer socialization research of adolescents has identified the media as a major source of influence (Brittain, 1963; Churchill and Moschis, 1979; Mascarenhas and Higby, 1993; Moore and Moschis, 1981; Robertson, 1979). Adolescents’ use of beauty products can be influenced by how much these young people are exposed to media sources, due to the media’s significant and pervasive influence on the lives of adolescents (Taveras, Rifas-Shiman, Field, Frazier, Colditz, and Gillman, 2004). Youth-oriented society has created images of adolescent beauty in magazines, television, the Internet, and on billboards and other types of advertisements (Labre and Walsh-Childers, 2003). Teenagers are believed to be among the heaviest users of many mass media outlets, particularly specialized magazines (Arnett, Larson, and Offer, 1995). The media provide information on fashion and beauty, which have the potential to influence adolescents in the process of their social development and emerging sense of identity. The data were collected from 357 (155 males, 202 females) middle- and high-school students in the United States between the ages of 11 and 18 years, with an average age of 14.3 years. Of those sampled, the majority of them (328; 93.18%) were Caucasian. A pilot study was conducted in order to identify the beauty products used for the development of the survey instrument. Ten product categories were identified for the instrument development as follows: 1) shampoo and/or conditioner; 2) hairstyling gel/hairspray; 3) hair dye; 4) body products (e.g., body wash, lotion); 5) facial products (e.g.,facial soap, moisturizer); 6) perfume; 7) acne treatment products; 8) hygiene products (e.g., deodorant, toothpaste); 9) cosmetics; and 10) nail products. The participants were given a cover letter and a questionnaire. The first part of the questionnaire contained media influence items (α=0.79) developed by Bearden et al. (1989). The second part of the questionnaire contained items concerning beauty product use. The third part of the questionnaire contained demographic items, which collected information on the age, gender, and ethnicity of the sample. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and MANOVA (Multivariate Analysis of Variance). Results revealed that adolescent boys reported using a variety of products with varying degrees of frequency. On a daily basis, 84.7% of boys (n=127) used shampoo/conditioner, followed by hygiene products (84.5%; n=125), body products (61.5%; n=91), and facial products (37.2%; n=55). Adolescent boys occasionally used hairstyling gel/spray (43.2%; n=64) and acne treatments (49.0%; n=71). Most of them had never used nail products (87%; n=127), hair dye (84.5%; n=125), cosmetics (83.2%; n=124), or perfume (65%; n=97). Adolescent girls reported using a variety of products daily. A total of 93.5% (n=186) used hygiene products, followed by shampoo/conditioner (90.1%; n=181), body products (84.9%; n=169), facial products (74.3%; n=150), perfume (65.8%; n=129), cosmetics (62.2%; n=125), and acne treatments (51.3%; n=101) on a daily basis. Occasionally, 51.2 % (n=103) of adolescent girls used hairstyling gel/spray, hair dye (41.5 %; n=81), as well as nail products (71%; n=142). Not surprisingly, further analysis indicated that girls tended to use beauty products more frequently than boys. This gender difference was especially salient in each of the following product categories: cosmetics, perfume, and nail products. However, there was no gender difference in the shampoo/ conditioner product category. Media influence had a main effect on the use of beauty products. Specifically, participants who were highly susceptible to media influence tended to use each of the following products more frequently than those in the low media influence group: shampoo/conditioner, hairstyling gels/sprays, hair dye, and hygiene products. There was no interaction effect between gender and media influence on the use of beauty products The media do play a role in the decision-making processes by adolescents as to whether they should experiment with or adopt a routine of using the following products: shampoo/ conditioner, hairstyling gel/spray, hair dye, and hygiene products. Popular hairstyles of the time are portrayed in the media. Particularly for boys, images of male models adopting popular styles are often portrayed; these same male models are frequently shown surrounded by women. As a result, adolescent boys are encouraged to think that they will be popular if they adopt such hairstyles and use products to maintain them. This also introduces insight-marketing implications that marketers for hair-care products should be keep in mind. For adolescent girls, hairstyling products are seen in so many media outlets for adolescent girls that it is hard for young girls not to be influenced by them. Therefore, marketing strategies for hair products should be differentiated by creating unique package designs or by applying images that are appealing to those age groups, such as celebrity product endorsements. In particular, adolescent girls probably need to acquire product information through advertisements when such products (i.e., hair dye or hygiene products) are not intended for routine consumption. This overview of adolescents’ beauty product use and the media as an outside influence provides the basis for future studies. It is important to acknowledge that the range of hair product use by adolescents is a subject warranting further investigation, including adolescents’ motives for using that class of products, and for ways in which they obtain product information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-181
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Global Fashion Marketing
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010


  • Adolescent
  • Appearance
  • Beauty product
  • Consumption
  • Media influence


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