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When is it Okay to Start Wearing Makeup?

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tweens and makeup
Mom, when can I wear makeup? My oldest daughter started asking about wearing makeup when she was ten. In my head I call her my breadcrumb daughter. She always leaves me little clues as to what she has been up to, almost as if she wants to be caught when she does something out of character or defiant. And around that time, my tubes of mascara went missing. Without much detective work, I could quietly find them in her desk drawer, or in her backpack. I mostly chalked that one up to curiosity. But the questions started then – at ten years old. When do I get to wear makeup?
I am pretty sure that when she was ten she heard me, unlike now at 12 and a half. I am fully convinced that my oldest hears bells or Greek or birds chirping these days when I open my mouth to speak. “Yes, uh huh. Yup. Of course.” She says all the right things, but if I stop and say: “Can you repeat what I just said to me?” That usually ends with: I am sorry I wasn’t actually listening.
When my mascara started disappearing, that was a jump off point for a real live teachable moment about tweens and makeup. The skin you get is for life. Mascara is not for kids. We don’t take other people’s makeup, especially eye makeup. We talked about getting pink eye and other infections from sharing makeup. We talked a lot about grooming and keeping skin clean and how makeup isn’t that much fun when you feel you have to do it every day. I personally don’t feel tweens and makeup go together naturally. But I left that out. Then we talked about the fact that she has beautiful skin and she might never need makeup. We both agreed nobody really NEEDS makeup. We also calmly talked about why she wanted to wear makeup.
Even still, two years later her answers to these questions very often are: “Well, Dianna wears makeup
 and Eden and Jane wear makeup. And it’s cool.” These are not good enough reasons to do things, or to change behaviour. I don’t think tweens need makeup to be cool. My husband backs me up 100 % on that one. His Catholic upraising serves him well at times like this.”We are not talking about Dianna, or Eden or Jane,” he always says. “We are talking about you and our family. In our family, kids don’t wear makeup.”
I have worn makeup since I was 14. I danced as a kid and I wore garish makeup for dance recitals, but I washed it off happily when we were all done the show. I am quite certain I didn’t defy my mother at least until I turned 13, and then I think I took makeup to school a couple of times. But mostly I didn’t have it, so I couldn’t wear it. When I was old enough to earn money and I had a part time job in grade nine, then I made my own decisions about makeup and clothing.
Two years later, after this initial discussion, I am still a broken record. This weekend at dinner, my youngest daughter told me two girls in her grade four class, Bridget, and Zoe, not their real names, wear makeup to school every day. I know full well, from being in the school and attending field trips and assemblies, that MANY grade seven girls wear makeup. One has a nose piercing she got in grade six. Another has a strange piercing somewhere else. In grade six, my daughter told me that several girls snuck the makeup to school in their backpacks and applied it in the washrooms. Those girls would have been 11 and 12. That same year I witnessed grade six girls openly hugging and kissing their BOYFriends before hopping on the bus. They were dating, and going out. (I will have to write a post about this one because we often have similar conversations to which I say: Okay, so who drives these kids to their Dates? and who pays for their Dates?)
I remember being a kid. I remember being in a hurry to grow up. But I know that if I had applied makeup routinely at school in grade 4 or 5 or 6, my Mom, or the teachers, or the principal of the school would have put the fear of God into me for being sneaky and inappropriate.
It worries me a bit that this has somehow become okay. If the reasoning for wearing makeup were fully articulated and made sense I might have a different take on this. But right now at age 11 and 12 when girls wear makeup it’s generally, in my opinion, to make themselves look more attractive to other girls, or boys, or present an older more mature version of themselves to the world. That’s a very slippery slope.
Are you a Mom of girls? Do you have a makeup rule in your home? When is it okay to wear makeup? What do you think about tweens and makeup?

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.


  • Raina

    I was not allowed to wear make-up until I was 13. I let my daughter wear mainly lip gloss and glittery goop for special days (she is 8).

  • Kerrie @ Family Food and Travel

    Such a tough one for parents to make a decision about when so many girls are wearing makeup younger and younger. Like you said the concern is not the makeup per se as the desire to wear it to impress other kids, and most likely older kids.
    I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until I was 13 and then only mascara. I think in the end teaching your girls they are naturally beautiful is so important.

  • Christine Lee-McNaughton

    Before I answer your question, let me first tell you how beautiful your girls are!! Okay, I was not permitted to wear make up before the age of 13…but I tried. I got reprimanded for it! My parents told me not to be in a rush to wear make-up or look older. They told me to enjoy my youth and that I’d have plenty of time to wear make-up when I was older. I once went to my mom’s work after school and was maybe 11 or 12, and had fire engine red lipstick and BLUE eyeliner on. LOTS of it! My mom was mortified! LOL!

    Little One is now 5 yrs old and she watches me apply make-up and wants to wear it too. I tell her that she is beautiful the way she is, and make-up is for adults. I have conceded a bit and have gotten her Hello Kitty (CLEAR) chapstick/lip balm and she thinks it’s make-up. Pale or clear lip gloss on special occasions only for now.

  • Gingermommy

    My five year old wears nail polish and lip gloss but 12 is the age I like. Too strict and they will take it to school and their friends and do it anyway (when parents say 16 or something)

  • Cascia Talbert

    You are doing the right thing, Mom. I have two girls, one 17 and the other 8. Like you I started wearing make up around the age of 14. I didn’t wear too much so my parents were okay with it. I also have an older sister, so I waned to be like her. My girls do not wear make up, although, I’ve let my youngest daughter experiment with it under my supervision. Of course we washed it off afterwards and I will never let her leave the house with it on. My older daughter does not have an interest in wearing make up. If she did I would let her wear a little but I would have to approve before she left the house.

  • Jenna Em

    What a tough question. My daughter is very much a girly-girl and started wearing make up for special occasions at around 6-years old. No, she did not ask me and put it on herself. She can definitely wear it in high school on a day-to-day basis–but earlier than that, I’ll have to see what stage she’s at and what her friends are doing.

  • Romeo Smith

    Being raised a gentleman, manners school & strict family – I learned that the true beauty of a woman isnt in what she looks like on the outside but that of whats found in the heart! And even that of like a friendship, beauty, grows as time goes by and we should never let children grow-up to fast – they seem to do that already!

  • Lauryn Rescoe

    I was raised by my father and wasn’t allowed to wear makeup (or wear colored nail polish). Until I was a teenager (13-14) and would just wear my friends. He would always tell me I looked like a clown when he did see me with it on!