I vividly remember when I first started playing with makeup. It was in junior high school and, along with a group of other girls, I spent most of lunch trying not to poke my eyes out while playing in the mascara and eyeliner one of them had smuggled out of her mom’s makeup bag. We all thought we looked so grown-up with our black liner, even blacker mascara and brown-lined, clear-glossed lips. To be honest, we looked foolish. But, when girls are ready to try makeup for the first time, a lot of foolishness is usually what happens.
The interesting thing about determining whether your daughter is ready to start wearing makeup is that you must acknowledge that she has probably already tried it on her own—especially if she’s at the age where you’re wondering about it. And that’s not a bad thing. Trying out new things and wanting to fit in is actually a huge part of your daughter’s development in her tween years. The good thing is that, as the guide in your daughter’s life, you can help her develop a healthy sense of self by introducing her to makeup—instead of letting her figure it out with her girlfriends in the school bathrooms. (And, in the process, you’ll save her tons of humiliation!)
If you’re on the fence—or even if you’ve determined that your daughter is ready for makeup—here are five tips to help you make sure she feels good about herself, she’s not putting any undue emphasis on the act of wearing makeup, and, most importantly, she is only using makeup to enhance her natural beauty and not letting the makeup itself determine her worth.
Explore the real meaning of beauty
The biggest challenge I’ve seen parents face when their daughter is at the age to care about her appearance is in helping her develop positive self-esteem. Our society makes a huge fuss about what it means to be beautiful, and I can understand the need to keep your daughter from that for as long as possible. But the cool thing about exploring the meaning of beauty with your daughter as she begins experimenting with makeup is that you get to help shape her views. When you talk about what beauty is, I’d shy away from the generic “true beauty is inside you” speech and instead share your funny mishaps about trying on makeup and trying to be cool. Sharing these stories, while also discussing your own battle to become independent and free-thinking, will stick with her more because she’ll see in you what it means to define her own beauty—makeup or no makeup.
Talk about proper skincare
When—or if—you start allowing your daughter to wear makeup, I encourage you to not just talk about the age-appropriate shades and styles; you should also talk about taking care of her skin. One mistake I made when trying to wear makeup was plastering my face with too much foundation and powder (and in the wrong shade at that), and it wasn’t until an aunt saw that I had way too much on that she gently shared that I needed to take care of the skin under the makeup, too. This is especially true if you’ve realized that the reason your daughter is thinking about makeup is to cover acne or other skin conditions that occur during adolescence. As your daughter begins to experiment, be mindful about the ingredients in the products, talk to a dermatologist about which products to use for her skin tone and help her find safe products that will not irritate her skin. Another suggestion: Help your daughter to develop a healthy skincare regimen that includes how to take off her makeup at the end of the day.
Listen to her reasons
More times than not, our daughters begin showing interest in makeup to help them fit in or be more like the others girls in their age group, and I encourage the families that I work with to really listen to why their daughter may—or may not—be interested in makeup. It’s easy for parents to assume that their child just wants to be more grown up, but hearing it from her and seeing how she really feels will help you be a more effective guide for her. Erica Preus, a Hollywood Beauty and FX Makeup Artist, agrees, sharing that “ …makeup can be a beautiful form of self expression for a budding adolescent female. Talking to your child about how to properly use makeup instead of instantly jumping to ‘you’re too young’ will create more of a bonding experience between the mother and daughter.”
It’s also important to listen to your daughter if she says she’s not interested in makeup—because not all girls are. Your daughter may have no desire to wear makeup, and that’s perfectly fine, too. The takeaway is to not jump to conclusions about her reasons for being interested (or not).
Get a makeover by a makeup professional
I used to love going to the MAC Cosmetics counter in high school. The makeup artists there all looked so amazing and cool, and while I knew my high school job couldn’t pay for the overpriced lip glosses and bold eye shadows, I longed for the day when I could buy anything I wanted from their counter. Do you ever see your daughter drooling over the makeup counters, too? If so, I encourage you to schedule a makeover for her at one of the counters and be a part of her process in finding the right products for her skin and her age.
Whether you’re a parent who’s into makeup or not, once your daughter is showing interest, Preus suggests taking her to a makeup counter and allowing her to choose an item with the help of one of the sales associates. “She’ll feel a sense of ownership over the look it gives her, and you can be comfortable knowing you were part of the process,” Preus explains. The idea is not to let your daughter go haywire over the makeup at the counter, but to give her a healthy sense of how she wants to look while wearing it. Another benefit to starting with a makeup professional: They can teach her the right ways to apply the makeup so she’ll feel confident while wearing it, as opposed to wondering if she did it wrong.
Talk openly about the identity she wants to create
Lastly, use your daughter’s interest in makeup as a way to learn more about who she is and who she wants to be. Talk to her about what she hopes to accomplish with makeup or how does she hope to present herself once you allow her to start wearing makeup. No matter what you decide to discuss, I encourage you to approach the conversation from a perspective of curiosity. On a daily basis, young girls are trying to find their identity, and, for some girls, makeup becomes that outlet. Preus adds that makeup is “just like any creative outlet,” and “exploring it can be rewarding”—both for her and for your relationship with her. “Having an open mind to letting her experiment little by little will go a long way to helping her explore her own creativity,” she explains.
Ultimately, having a daughter who feels like she can explore her identity with you by her side is better than obsessing about whether she’s too young to wear makeup. And as her parent, you can help shape not only her choice in makeup styles, but you can also help cultivate a positive self-image.
Mercedes Samudio, LCSW, is a parent coach who has been working with families for years helping them achieve results in developing dynamic parent/child relationships, ending the shame around parenting and giving parents the confidence to raise healthy children in today’s world. She is a leading parenting expert certified in nonviolent parenting and attachment parenting who received her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from UCLA.
Mercedes believes that all parents need support to develop their parenting skill set. You can read more about her parenting expertise at http://theparentingskill.com.