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September 23, 2014
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What Age Do Girls Start Wearing Makeup?

What do you do when your 10-year-old daughter is asking to wear makeup?

Q: My 10-year-old daughter has suddenly become obsessed with makeup. It seems to have gone beyond “playing dress up” to wanting to “be” older.  I can’t take her shopping with me without her pointing out makeup she wants. Now she is asking for pointers on how to wear it. It is way too soon for me. How can I handle this?

 

A: Your daughter’s interest is normal and often starts at 9 and 10 years of age. Our children are curious, watching our every move. If you wear makeup, you have been indirectly showing her all you know about how to wear it. You have shown her when to “dress up” and when to have a more natural look by what you do. The issue now is when to start what makeup, and why.

She might have already done the pretend stage of putting on blush, lipstick and mascara when she was younger. Was it clear at that time that this was only dress-up? If so, you have already done some boundary setting with her.

Which brings us back to why she might want to wear makeup now. Is she hoping to feel more confident? Does she want someone special to notice her? Does she think it will create some difference in her relationships with her friends? What about wearing makeup will create this desired change? Are there other ways to meet her needs without wearing makeup? What will she do if the makeup doesn’t create the change she wants?

An NYU Child Study Center (NYUCSC) study reports that 73 percent of girls ages 8 to 12 act and talk like teenagers. They start experiencing teenage worries and concerns about their appearance, their confidence and their body image. Teen pressures can be influencing your daughter’s desire to wear makeup. This study emphasizes our need to listen carefully to the way we talk to our daughters. We need to avoid common stereotypes that focus on looks more than intellect and skills. We need to expose them to understanding how cars and plumbing work rather than focusing on appearance and telling them how good they look.

You might want to read Naomi Wolf’s book “The Beauty Myth,” either together or independently. She takes a hard look at the multiple messages sent to women regarding their personal power in the world. If your daughter balks, suggest that you’ll agree to read a book on skin care and teen makeup with her in return.

Your daughter may be seeing the new lines of makeup that are marketed to her age group. “Geo Girl” is designed in the $4 to $6 range, packaged for 8- to 12-year-olds, and has 69 different skin care and makeup items in its line. If she is mainly the target of marketing, you can address how we all are targeted and need to establish our own identity separate from advertisers’ norms that are artificially created. It might be fun to look at women in different magazines together and notice their “style” and then think about how they handle their natural features.

If your daughter feels that she needs makeup to deal with skin issues, address those from a skin care and dermatologic perspective. If peer pressure is an issue, make sure you remind her of the ways she has already chosen to not be like everyone else. Part of being who we are is developing our own style.

Most of the interviews with youth and parents done for this article do not see any arbitrary age when makeup suddenly becomes appropriate. In our culture, wearing makeup can be thought of as part of a coming of age ritual. As parents we may be more comfortable with the introduction of makeup starting slowly, perhaps with a sheer gloss lipstick before a neutral blush for cheeks and then something subtle for the eyes. This slow introduction could take a year and should be accompanied with good skin care, including instructing your daughter to wash her face morning and night, making sure to remove eye  products.

Often, saying “no” to youth only makes wearing makeup seem more desirable to the point of overdoing it when away from home. You know if this is how our daughter might respond. If you can’t condone it, then one step you can take is refusing to pay for it. You don’t want to drive a wedge between you and your daughter, but you don’t like what is starting to happen when you go shopping with her. You feel pressured. Is there a way you can take charge by having her point out something she is interested in and then having her do a computer search for reviews from consumers and testing labs on the products for her type of skin? Does she know what her skin type is and how it might respond to these products?

I hope you now have some ways to explore the dimensions of makeup and skin care as well as strategies to deal with social pressures that will keep you two talking for years. Good Luck!

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