NEW DELHI: he still plays football the rough and dirty way, but on waxed legs. Meet the contemporary schoolboy for whom spikes are a hairstyle, not running shoes; ‘stud’ a byword for him, not his football cleats, and personal grooming a way of life. South Delhi high-schooler Vicky, for instance, wears his hair long at the front and disheveled. he says it’s the ‘JB’ look – short for teen pop icon Justin Bieber. all of 15 years old, Vicky is also extremely brand conscious, splashing the better part of his allowance on top-notch face wash, hair wax, perfume and fairness cream. “Boys my age in class take their looks very seriously. What’s the harm? There are so many products in the market that can help you look your best, so we try them,” says Vicky. his friend Ravi adds, “There are many boys in the hostel who use face packs and different brands of styling gel. There is nothing surprising. they buy these products with the money sent by parents.” these trends echo the surprise findings of recent corporate surveys on male grooming. the data shows Indian men now spend more time and money on their physical appearance than women. nonetheless, this touch of narcissism in boys aged 13-16 is surprising. At another private school, Samir (14) says hair dyes are the latest fad. “We are not allowed to wear coloured hair in school, but we usually get it coloured during holidays. Football players wax their legs. I think almost all boys try to use sunscreen or fairness creams. I personally prefer buying expensive products used in salons as they are safer to use. my mother suggests I buy herbal products to avoid allergy.” Samir and his friends say boys who can afford it go to up-market salons to get their hair styled. “I like Eminem, so I tell them I want my hair done like his, while many others like the JB style,” says another boy in Samir’s class. But rushing into the ways of men has its pitfalls for boys. Cosmetics are known to contain a variety of chemicals, some of which can harm skin and hair, and even cause cancer. Dr Kaushal Verma, head of dermatology at AIIMS, says, “Girls were known to experiment with cosmetics. But in the last four-five years, we are seeing even boys using different brands of deodorant sprays, hair colour and creams. many come to us with itching, rashes and allergies. Ingredients of these products are not disclosed. they could contain lead, arsenic and other harmful substances. many boys use hair colour and sunscreen. At this age, their skin doesn’t need any of these”. Toxicologist PV Mohanan agrees. “Sodium lauryl sulfate, which is commonly used in cosmetics, is a potential carcinogen but what matters is its dosage. its overuse can be harmful. the same applies to all toxic substances in cosmetics. also, in most cases, the ingredients used are coded information not revealed to consumers,” he says. Salons in the city also report an increasing clientele among teenaged boys. At Affinity Salon, for instance, adolescents come with specific demands. “The teenagers like spikes or hair styled in a different way at the front. they go for hair colouring or ask for hair wax for a matted or dirty look. Their parents usually accompany them,” says Raj, manager of its Defence Colony branch. “I see a lot of children, including boys, using face creams, hair colour and bleach. We have tried discouraging them at school,” says Harpreet Khadar, chemistry teacher at Modern School, Barakhamba Road. Adults with adolescent siblings or cousins find the new attitude shocking. “As a child of the ’90s, I find a drastic change in the way young adults view themselves,” says NGO worker Shivani Shah who has seen her sister grow up in recent years. “It is scary to see boys and girls strutting off to the store, blindly trusting advertisements without any awareness of the toxic products in cosmetics. Government officials and even companies are responsible for what’s on market shelves”. Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal of Springdales School at Pusa Road, sees the trend as a lifestyle issue. “The body beautiful is an obsession. But I think it’s more of a lifestyle issue. it starts around Classes 8 or 9. We see them wearing deo and lip gloss. Hair colours and creams are common, too. I see parents’ hand in all this. instead, they should watch the health of their children. Acne, for instance, is due to the fast food children eat, and this neglect of the body is covered up with cosmetics,” she says. Psychiatrist Dr Sunil Mittal blames powerful ads more than peer pressure. “Consumerism is overwhelming. Models in ads are younger to show fresh skin or complexion. But beyond all this, the definition of good looks has changed. For instance, dresses and colours are more unisex today. Pink and purple, considered girlish colours in our times, are now fashionable among boys.” (The boys’ names have been changed)
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