Do teenage magazines sell unaffordable lifestyles?

Magazines should take more caution over the cost of products listed

Magazines should take more caution over the cost of products listed

I love the free magazines given out at stations, especially Stylist. My favourite section is the ‘top picks’ – a page of dresses, make-up and household items, all beautifully presented and all of it ridiculously expensive. I often look at it and think "one day, I’ll be able to afford this". But in reality, I’ve NEVER been able to afford items listed in magazines.

I’ve always being attracted to shiny, pretty things. As a young ‘un, there was nothing more exciting than buying a girls’ magazine to read. Girl Talk and its pictures of puppies, anyone? Yes please!

I remember looking with envy at the models with their sparkly nails, pretty dresses and sleek and shiny hair. Back then, my thick, frizzy hair rivalled Hermione Granger’s – if only my mum would buy me that £12 serum and those £100 hair straighteners featured in the mag… but there was ZERO chance I’d ever dare ask her.

So I remember thinking I’d buy it all when I turned older and had the money. Sound familiar?

Of course, magazines are a business. But I really think those aimed at young girls who only have pocket money, or possibly a weekend job, should take more caution over the cost of the products they feature.

It’s simply not a realistic lifestyle being promoted, and their teenage readers don’t fully understand the value of money.

I’ve flicked through a few teenage magazines over the past few weeks – the ones you can buy in your local corner shop. Here are a few things I wouldn’t pay for, and I’m an adult with a full-time job…


  • £319 iPad Mini
  • £85 Viva La Juicy Luxe Limited Edition parfum, Juicy Couture
  • £75 handbag, Paul’s Boutique
  • £68 shoes, Red or Dead
  • £55 onesie, Yumi
  • £45 glitter heels, Office
  • £42 eye and cheek colour set, Paul & Joe Beaute’s
  • £40 boots,
  • £39 slippers, Ruby and Ed
  • £16 lip balm and hand cream, L’Occitaine


  • £85 coat, Miss Selfridge
  • £80 jacket, River Island
  • £32 handbag, Accessorize
  • £27 slippers, Rocket Dog
  • £25 highlighting wand, Smashbox
  • £17 moisturiser, Clinique
  • £15 lipgloss, Benefit

Top of the Pops:

  • £42 shorts, Topshop
  • £35 necklace, Lizzie Burns (Asos)
  • £32 T-shirt, Red or Dead
  • £28 skirt, Motel Rocks
  • £11.50 nail polish, OPI
  • £10 bubble bath, Burt’s Bees
  • £7.25 shampoo, Lush

We Love Pop:

  • £49 Nicki Minaj Pink Friday perfume, The Perfume Shop
  • £40 multi-coloured faux fur lapel, River Island
  • £29 vanity case, Debenhams
  • £29 oversized shirt, Miss Selfridge
  • £22.50 sleep-in rollers,
  • £13 body butter, Body Shop

Things are even worse if you get hold of a copy of US Teen Vogue. I saw some Gucci glasses advertised without a price, so I looked them up online – and found they cost £435!

The value of money

Now I’m older, I know magazines sell aspirational lifestyles, and I know my wage and the products featured in magazines aren’t compatible.

You may not be able to stop your kids seeing magazines. So instead, explain a magazine’s job is to make money. Why are these products there? Celebrities might be paid to wear something, or the magazines might get it free. It’s probably not because it’s a ‘must have’ item.

Children don’t have to buy into this myth. I’m an adult with a full-time job and I can’t afford what’s in magazines either. I have to save up and budget for things I want.

If your child’s still after the latest ‘must have’, encourage them to find a similar but cheaper alternative elsewhere, or explain they’ll have to save up their weekly pocket money for it – that way they’ll learn the value of money. (See our Teen Cash Class guide for more.)

What do the magazines say?

I contacted all of the above magazines to get their thoughts on this issue. Peter Hart, editor of BBC Top Of The Pops Magazine was the only one to respond: He says: "The shopping pages are our readers’ favourite section of BBC Top Of The Pops Magazine and we regularly speak to them to find out how we can improve all aspects of our content.

"The overwhelming response is that they’re happy with the mix of items we include in the fashion and beauty pages. Part of the promise we make to our readers at the front of each issue is that ‘all our fashion and beauty is appropriate and affordable.’ We go to great lengths to stick to this promise each issue, often featuring items starting at just £1 or even less.

"However our readers also aspire to own more expensive products, so we also feature things that can be purchased if they save up their pocket money, or ask for something as a Christmas or birthday present. With the average teen’s pocket money currently at around £6 a week, it wouldn’t take long for someone to save up for that £11.50 polish or £35 necklace if they really wanted it.

"It’s all about having a great balance of products for them to look at, and only a very few are priced at the higher end of the affordability scale. We’ll continue to consult with readers and, where appropriate, their parents, as well as our Editorial Advisory Board, to ensure that all content is appropriate for our target age group of 10-14 years old."

What do you think?

What are your thoughts on magazines selling a certain lifestyle, particularly to teenagers and children? Have you used it as an opportunity to explain the value of money? Please share your thoughts in the discussion below, or in the forum.