Inspired by media images of utopian beauty, today's teen-agers are seeking the Fountain of Youth at an ever earlier age.
Propelled by visions of living gods and goddesses who pump iron, eat iron and presumably will never need plastic surgeons to iron out their wrinkles, teen-agers tend to have skin-care habits that rival those of their parents.
"Girls used to come in with their faces hidden under masses of hair," says Kathryn Klinger, a beauty specialist who 15 years ago joined the Beverly Hills salon of her mother, Georgette. "Their mothers wanted to get them interested in good skin care. They were more interested in makeup."
Today, the story is different. The teen-agers are "coming in and asking questions about skin care and following through. Girls of 11 and 12 want to put on eye cream. At 12 and 13, some are using it every day, partly to protect and partly to get in the habit early. It's like learning to brush or floss your teeth at an early age," Klinger adds.
Glenn Roberts, director of creative beauty for Elizabeth Arden, notes that "a couple of years ago, young girls were asking: 'How can I cover up?' Now they're much more interested in clearing up and preventing."
It's tied to fitness, Roberts says, plus "all the new scientific evidence that the sun is such an awful enemy of the skin. They're really thinking now how they might look when they're 40 and 50."
Iris Model, Clinique's director of education, believes that teen-age awareness is linked to both physical fitness and "the fact that we live in a very visual society where being attractive matters. There's a certain pressure on looking good, because everyone is looking better. When that trend runs through the general population, of course, it affects the younger generation."
One young skin-care buff is 17-year-old Kathleen McDonald, who has followed the examples of her mother and older sister. She has been coddling her complexion with a mild cleanser since she was 8 or 9 years old. At age 12, she moved on to facials once every two or three months. Now she has one each month.
Her daily routine includes cleansing her face with a special soap and astringent, followed by a moisturizer and a light eye cream. She buys her aloe and sesame body lotion (no color, no fragrance added) from a health-food store, drinks eight glasses of Evian or Arrowhead water every day, avoids orange or grapefruit juice because she found that the acid irritates her skin, consumes no red meat and no carbonated soft drinks, eats very little sugar but a lot of grains and vegetables and avoids the sun as much as possible.
"When I was 13 and 14, I got pretty dark. I changed when I realized tanning summer after summer is really harmful to the skin. And I got to like being pale. I like the way it looks with my dark hair."
Twenty-nine-year-old Lisa Eilbacher (co-star of "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Beverly Hills Cop") says her own introduction to good skin care was a "fluke." At 14, she met Los Angeles beauty expert Ole Henriksen at a health club. "The first thing he told me was not to use tissue on my face because it contains wood particles."
Eilbacher believes that the '80s "have bred a whole different kind of teen-ager. When I had a pimple, I said, 'I guess I'll buy some Clearasil.' When my 15-year-old sister Kimberly gets a pimple, she says she'll see Ole. We weren't as informed. Skin care wasn't popular for our parents, so it didn't filter down to us."
Kimberly also has her eyelashes tinted, gets a facial every six to seven weeks and follows Henriksen's program, which he describes as "not a whole lot of fuss. Just good cleansing and protection along with exercise and a balanced diet."
Fourteen-year-old David Unger believes that boys of his generation "are more concerned about skin care because we're more concerned about fashion." To keep his complexion clear, Unger says he is careful about his diet, keeps his chocolate consumption down ("maybe I'll have a chocolate bar a week") and uses a special cleanser (Formula 405 by Doak Research) instead of soap.
Seventeen-year-old Connie Callan is convinced that her beauty routine, instigated by her mother, means that "my skin is going to be a lot softer and a lot nicer when I get older."
She uses a natural cleansing foam rather than soap, a lemon facial toner, a day moisturizer, a cucumber clay mask and a night cream.
The high school senior uses foundation only three times a week (when she goes to work) and has a facial once a month.
"At my age you get acne," Callan states. "If I didn't have a facial, it would be horrible."
Callan laughs at the thought of her teen-age brother going in for a facial, but Lili Zanuck, co-producer of "Cocoon," says her 15-year-old stepson does it.
"I'm sure he keeps it a secret from his friends, but when he has a skin problem, he would rather go and get rid of it. I'm a big believer in dermatologists, but I think if you take care of your skin, you don't have to go to them as often."