Little Girls and Made-Up Faces

A few weeks ago, someone asked me this question:

I was just wondering what your thoughts are on young girls and makeup? I never really thought it was an issue, but I am seeing more young celebrities wear more and more makeup and society is lashing out on them calling them awful names just for some mascara and lipstick! Will you limit how much and at which age your daughter can wear makeup?? I am torn.

I love this question, because I just happen to have a young daughter who loves makeup. Because she’s multi-faceted like the rest of us, Tegan (seven years old at the time of this writing) loves lots of things.  She loves playing with her friends.  She loves singing and dancing and jumping on the trampoline.  She loves video games.  She loves swimming.  She loves playing in the mud.  She loves making things with her hands.  She loves being my cookie dough taste-taster.

And she loves makeup.


She posted this on Instagram with the caption, “I did my makeup all by myself!”

She is garnering quite the collection of her own, and loves to experiment with mine as well.  She comes racing into the room every time my Ipsy subscription comes each month, and we sample it all together, product by product.  She loves putting it on herself, but she loves making up others as well…. myself, and even her dad and/or brothers when they’re feeling in the mood to let her.

Makeup is fun.  It’s expressive.  It’s an innocent exploration.  It’s a way to experiment with creativity, with different moods, with different looks. It’s art!  Yes, children (and adults) are beautiful without it – and Tegan knows that as well as anyone – but there is nothing wrong with feeling beautiful with makeup as well.  There’s been a lot of vilification of makeup lately, and to be honest, I’ve grown really tired of it.    It’s just makeup!  Do we really need to continue to have the same conversation about looking at people’s hearts, rather than at their packaging?

Save for some lip gloss she snags from my purse, Tegan very very rarely has any makeup on outside the house. She’s seven;  she’s busy.  When we’re running out the door for a play date or the ice cream shop or Target, she throws on some pants, slides into her Hello Kitty flip flops and she’s good to go.  She’ll usually brush her teeth. Sometimes, if she’s still wearing her breakfast on her face, I’ll ask her to go grab a wash cloth.   Makeup has so far remained a mostly at-home pursuit, when she’s relaxed and unhurried and has time to experiment.   But – to answer the original question – will I limit how much and at what age she can wear makeup? No, I won’t. That’s her decision.  Despite the futility of the emotion, I do sometimes worry about my kids, for various reasons. Whether or not, or how much, or when, or why Tegan wears makeup never makes the list.

I was recently following a thread on Facebook about little girls and makeup.  Even now, days later, I cringe as I think about it.  We adults have some pretty big hangups.  There was one mom, adamant that her daughter not wear makeup until she was 18, who vowed that she wouldn’t have her child walking around looking like those “dance moms'” young daughters, the ones who look like “hoochie mama little whores.”


Surely, I can’t be the only one who recognizes that the red flag in that statement is not the fact that children are wearing makeup, but that an adult thinks it’s okay to ever ascribe those kinds of words to a child?  I did dance recitals as a kid.  I remember the lights, and the music, and the fluttery feeling in my stomach.  I remember my mom taming my hair into long curly pigtails, and I remember the makeup.  Eye makeup, lipstick, blush.  Oh how I loved the blush!  I do not remember being made to feel like there was somehow something wrong with me wearing makeup at that age.  I was a kid!  I was innocent…. feeling pretty and glamorous and wonderful just as I was.

Just the way Tegan feels now.  Just the way kids should always feel.  Makeup or no makeup.

We’re screwing this up, parents.   Makeup’s not evil.  In fact makeup, like so very many other things, is a neutral until you assign meaning to it.  It’s powder and cream and pigment.  When kids are first happy and healthy and whole, makeup is not a problem.  Grown women calling children who wear it “hoochie mama little whores”?

That’s a problem.

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2 Responses to Little Girls and Made-Up Faces

  1. Lisa from Iroquois

    Oh the memories this brought back. Nail polish, absolutely yes. Clear polish mostly. In fact, growing my nails out instead of biting them was incentivized by not having to into the bowels of my grandmother’s basement to fetch potatoes as long as my nails were a proper length. My argument was that the dirt got under the nails and was nasty. It was really the spiders but regardless … that was the deal. And lipstick. I was allowed pink lipstick. Imagine my fiendish delight when I found a bright red lipstick in a tube mis-labelled as ‘blushing pink’. Ohhh how I crowed … and my mother conceded that I could occasionally wear my pink lipstick.

  2. Ashley

    Gosh what a complicated issue to think about! Thankfully this far I only have a son so it is likely to be less of an issue (though I certainly think it’s fine if he is interested in makeup). I like that you pointed out that she understands that all people are beautiful and that exterior image is meaningless. I hope she can keep that view and confidence as she grows. Makeup can be fun and can be like a pretty new outfit or a favorite pair of shoes to give an extra spring in your step. But I struggle so much even now in my 30s with appreciating my beauty when I’m not wearing makeup. I don’t even wear much but I notice how I hesitate to go out without my powder and blush. It is a hard balance. When did makeup go from a fun thing to something so tied into my self image?