My daughter is only eleven years old but she’s begging to wear make-up. I try to tell her that she doesn’t need make-up to be pretty, but she says the other girls in her class wear it and then points to the fact that I wear it too! What do I tell my daughter about wearing makeup? Is wearing make-up a big deal? How do help her with this type of body insecurity at this age? Should I let my daughter wear makeup?
J in Texas
I wasn’t born a Texan, but since I’ve lived here I’ve grown accustomed to the Texas way: bright clothing, an elbow out in every photo, and perfectly done make-up!
Dance recitals here require full make-up for girls as young as three. Cheerleading has similar regulations. Like Halloween, makeup is part of the costume. But, unlike getting dressed up to go trick-or-treating, young girls get the message that makeup is a part of beauty–that makeup is a symbol of status, maturity, and often sexiness.
So, how do we encourage our daughters to adopt a sense of beauty that doesn’t rely on awesome lip color or mascara in a culture that tells them otherwise?
This is a tough one!
I’ve answered my daughter’s “Why do you wear makeup, Mommy?” question a dozen times. She has three flavors of Hello Kitty lip gloss that she regularly puts on before a “big event” (like church! haha!). I often don’t stop her (unless she’s smeared it all over her chin). But, should she ask to start wearing mascara or blush before she’s old enough to wear a bra–that may be a different conversation.
As we deal with our daughters on the issue of makeup, or on issues of body image in general, the place to start is with an exploration of motives. We need to find out what’s going on in their hearts.
I’d encourage you to first have a bigger conversation with your daughter to explore her motives behind her desire to wear make-up. Does she believe she needs make-up to fit in? Does she think make-up will make her prettier and thus give her more friendships or opportunities?
Next, come to grips with what you believe about make-up. Makeup is a thing. It’s not good or bad — there’s no real morality involved in it at all. The decision to wear make-up, then, isn’t really about doing anything “wrong” or “right.” It’s about personal choice.
Some have argued that if we believe true beauty is on the inside, then makeup isn’t necessary (or makeup is sinful for us to wear). But, I don’t agree. The New Testament gives us grace under the parameters of not causing others to stumble and not sinning in our heart (going against our own convictions). Chances are, foundation and blush wearing aren’t going to cross either of these lines. Instead, I like to say that I wear make-up because it helps me camouflage the damage that comes with living in a fallen world.
With one exception. When we depend on make-up for our identity. When we believe that a made-up face gives us value or increases our value, then we have to stop and acknowledge that makeup’s place in our lives may not be healthy or helpful. Can I be honest? This is where I was a few years ago. I was forced to do a makeup free selfie for another publication I write for and it made me come face to face (no pun intended) with the ways I depended on makeup for confidence.
Ask yourself: What do I really believe make-up does for me? Am I relying on make-up to help me be acceptable or be loved?
Now, back to your daughter . . .
Once you’ve got makeup’s role straight in your heart, and examined her heart for traces of the same belief system, (often our girls take their cues directly from us. What we believe about makeup, they believe about makeup) then it’s time to decide. You are the parent, this is a choice you get to make for your daughter. If you feel she should wait a few more years, then tell her so. Chances are, if she’s desperate to wear it–there is something deeper going on there that needs to be uprooted.
Then, assuming you don’t believe she’s wanting to wear makeup for the wrong reasons, then I suggest the following:
- Start off small: Remind her that more makeup isn’t going to bring her the kind of friends our attention that lasts. If she’s still set on wearing makeup, find something simple–like lip gloss or blush–and allow just that thing. Consider setting parameters for wear–i.e. you can wear it when you dress up or when we go out to dinner.
- Give her a timeline to add on to her makeup collection: An indefinite “no” is a lot more severe than a “no for now.” Tell her what age you think it would be appropriate for her to start wearing more makeup. Remind her that a fully made up face isn’t a sign of true beauty. Encourage her that God’s purpose for her life is far greater than looking all done up.
- Watch what you are watching: Through it all, remember, girl mom, that she’s taking her cues from you. If your life is filled with magazines (choked full of done-up women) and television shows that feature women in full face makeup, she’s likely learned that beauty means wearing makeup. If you dispel this theory with your mouth, but then appreciate with your eyes this type of beauty above all else, your sending a confusing message. Help her see that often times, what is truly beautiful is the heart turned towards God. No make up required.
I hope this helps you navigate this tricky part of parenting a girl!