There is a kind of nostalgic allure to the word ‘play’. For most of us, the idea of play is a cornerstone of our childhood. It is in the meet-ups we had with friends and the games we came up with to pass the time. Sometimes, we conjured up fantastical trivialities and rules to justify our fun, from lava floors to imaginary foes. There were Barbies sporting pastel pink ensembles, as well as remote-controlled cars and scooters that cemented our belief that the essence of play is intrinsically linked to toys. This is conceivably why we feel a sense of loss when we arrive at the juncture where we are expected to cast off certain treasured possessions of youth. Unless you decide not to.
View this post on Instagram
In the present day, a new genre of adults has emerged: the ‘rejuveniles’. Sometimes affectionately referred to as ‘kidults’, they are a subgroup of individuals who refuse to relinquish the action heroes, figurines and characters they grew up with. “They are people who cultivate tastes and mindsets traditionally associated with those younger than themselves,” states author and researcher, Christopher Noxon, who examined the phenomenon in 2006 and published his findings in a book titled Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up.
Indeed, it is a widespread enough occurrence that other industries have begun to bank on this movement, amalgamating the wonder and whimsy of toys with the functionality of day-to-day products. The beauty industry is one of them—and naturally so. As children, we are drawn in by the transformative quality of make-up, painting our cheeks in dabs of rouge and smears of lipstick to imagine ourselves in different roles. A touch of lipstick brought to mind the image of a motherly figure; cakings of blush were reminiscent of clowns spotted at the circus. And while putting on make-up as an adult is no less experimental, it does come with higher stakes. Harsh, streaky blending could invite the judgement of strangers or call your professionality into the question. Stray lipstick stains on teeth is regarded as a faux pas. Mismatched foundation, too, has been the subject of many scathing TikTok videos.
Amid such pressure, the incorporation of a friendly face to your make-up arsenal acts as a balm to frayed nerves. It evokes a sense of nostalgia too, harking back to a time when putting on make-up was a form of play rather than a means to an end. “Toys and novelties from their childhood can help them relive some memories and the emotions associated with them. Some may find comfort, joy and security in familiarity from the past,” shares Syaza Hanafi, a certified clinical psychologist with Psychology Blossom. “For some kidults, they may not have had the opportunity to play with some of these toys as a child. Being able to afford these toys as an adult could allow them to play in the way they had always desired.”
View this post on Instagram
It does, however, explain why collaborations between children-centric corporations and beauty brands are so sought-after. More often than not, limited-edition ranges sell out within minutes of release, as evidenced by Shu Uemura’s partnership with Sailor Moon. Eyeshadow palettes, highlighters and lipsticks were given the magical girl treatment, where each item was adorned with key motifs and symbols from the hit anime. Then there was The Face Shop’s Miffy edition, which reimagined fan-favourite Face Shop formulas into all-new flacons featuring the fictional white rabbit. Not forgetting fashion houses such as Marc Jacobs and Anna Sui as well, which tout playful renditions of their make-up and perfumes encompassing popular adolescent icons such as butterflies and rainbows.
There is no doubt that the intersection between toys and the beauty realm is a formidable one. Maybe it has to do with remembrance—a sense of yearning for the whimsy and freedom we once possessed in spades. Or, perhaps we are simply looking to immortalise our childhood heroes through new forms of self-expression, in ways that feel true to who we are at this point in time. And if that looks like a fruity-sweet perfume housed within a whopping ice cream sundae shell, so be it.