Parenting Tips

When your Daughter wants to wear Makeup: Lessening the Trauma (for yourself!)


 by Stephanie Partridge

I will never forget that day.  My bright, beautiful 13 year old daughter bounced into my room and sidled up to me, unable to conceal that gleam in her eye.  She could barely contain herself (she has always been a very happy, bubbly, smiley girl) as she whispered, “Mom, I want to start wearing makeup.”


My little girl was growing up.

Now granted, she had played dress up and “worn” makeup.  But this was different.  Now she wanted to wear makeup “for real.”  In a flash, her young life sped through my mind.  I saw her, at this moment, playing with her dolls and the next wearing makeup.   This led to a slippery slope (in my mind) of high heels, prom dresses and (gasp!) boys.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this!  She was supposed to be my little girl forever!  Of course, my imagination far exceeded the reality of the situation.

I stopped my racing, panicked mind, took a deep breath and smiled (a sickly smile, but a smile all the same).  “Why do you want to wear makeup?”  I asked, looking at her beautiful, peaches and cream complexion, wondering why in the world would she want to put makeup on that gorgeous face.

“I want to be beautiful like you.”  She replied simply, as if I should have already known that.

I bit my lip to keep from telling her, “But it’s the inside that counts.”  But I did not say that, not yet.  I just looked at her and listened.

“I know that it is more important to be pretty on the inside than on the outside,” she continued, reciting what I had told her time and again.  “But I think it would be fun to wear makeup.  I really, really want to.”

I caved.  After all, I was 12 when I started buying at my Clarins makeup.  So the lessons began.

What age is the “Right” Age?

The age to start wearing makeup really depends on the child and your own beliefs.  Some parents don’t allow their girls to start wearing makeup until they are out of school while others are fine with middle school age or even elementary school age.  I personally think that 12 or 13 is a good age for most girls – not all, but most.  At this age, they are usually responsible enough apply their makeup in a way that they don’t look like a circus clown.  In the end, though, it is up to you to decide if your daughter is ready to start wearing makeup.  Before you say yes (or no), consider these things: 

  • It will make her look older
  • If her peer group is wearing makeup, it will keep her up with them
  • It will bring a certain focus onto outer beauty
  • It will help her self confidence
  • It will probably draw attention to her
  • It will make her more aware of her outer appearance
  • It will increase her hygiene habits

Less is More

When it comes to makeup, with young girls especially, the rule of thumb is less is more.  Help your daughter select makeup that is appropriate for her.  Stress to her that more makeup is not necessarily a good thing.  The purpose of makeup is to enhance your features, not overpower them.  Tell her that when someone looks at her, she doesn’t want them to say, “Look at that girl’s eye makeup!”  She wants them to say, “Wow, her eyes look nice!”  When the makeup (eye shadow) enhances her eyes, it is much better.

The Face Washing Issue

When your daughter starts wearing makeup, it is more important than ever that she wash her face regularly.  Mild soaps like Basis, Purpose and Neutrogena Face Wash are great for young skin.  If she experiences breakouts, she can use an acne product like the Neutrogena Rapid Clear product line.  She should not overwash her face, but she should wash her face every morning before putting on her makeup and every evening before going to bed.  She should not get in the habit of going to bed with her makeup on.  This is not good for her skin (or your linens) and is a bad habit to start.

Acne Facts and Myths

There are a lot of myths out there about acne.  Don’t let your daughter fall into a trap of confusing misinformation.  Give her the facts.

  • Acne is not caused by poor hygiene – in fact, if you wash your face too much or too vigorously you will make the acne worse.
  • Acne is not caused by diet – scientific research has found no definitive link between diet and acne.  Certain food sensitivities may seem to correlate with breakouts however, and in that case, those foods should be avoided.
  • Acne is not just a cosmetic issue – it can leave scars and damage a person’s self esteem.
  • Acne is not just a skin issue – it can be an indication of other issues in the body including illness or stress.
  • Acne is not uncontrollable – it can be controlled and managed.  If over the counter products don’t work, see a dermatologist.

Tips for Starting Out

When your daughter is just starting to wear makeup, encourage her to start small.  Pick up a few basic things and help her get started.  These items are great for a beginner’s makeup bag: 

  • Translucent mineral powder
  • Tinted oil free moisturizer
  • Rose or peach colored blush
  • “Real” makeup brushes (NOT what comes with the makeup!)
  • Eyebrow brush
  • Eye shadow in neutral colors – golden brown is great for any eye color
  • Clear or natural mascara
  • Tinted lip gloss

Many department stores and makeup stores offer classes in makeup application.  Some salons do as well.  If you are at a loss, you and your daughter may want to check out those options for some instruction. 

Bottom Line on Beauty

Try to keep your head about it all.  Your little girl is growing up, but if you freak out, things could get out of control.  Be gentle but firm, giving her choices wherever you can.  For instance, show her two different palettes of neutral eye shadows and ask her which one she wants.  If you just turn her loose on the makeup aisle, two things are bound to happen.  One, you will be on that makeup aisle FOREVER and, two she is likely to present you with robin’s egg blue or sea green eye shadow.  For a young girl, it is a good idea to stick with the neutrals.  Actually, that is a good rule of thumb for any age.  The key here is that you are setting a standard.  The makeup habits she develops now will be carried on or at least will influence her makeup habits later in life.  Lay the foundation now and give her something solid to build on.

Stephanie Partridge is a freelance writer and photographer as well as a FOIA analyst for a federal agency in Washington, D.C. She is a single mom to Jeffery, 19; Micah Elizabeth, 17 and Benjamin, 15.



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  • Wow! This is so thought out – I appreciate the tips, even though mine are still little.

    When my daughter asks why I wear make up – I say, “To be fancy” — not, “To be prettier.”

  • Amen, sister! Beautifully and lovingly written.

    I’d say that some women might have something to learn in here too (the “less is more” bit).

    You can teach my youngest daughter any time. She’s only 8, but already has some practical experience. You’ll have a ball together.

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