The Makeup Debate

What is the right age for your daughter to wear makeup? Parents and experts dish on the right age for makeup and how to ensure it looks natural, not overdone.

Preteen makeup 2

"Mom, I want to wear makeup!" Those words may strike fear into the heart of a mom who feels like it was only yesterday she was walking her little girl hand-in-hand into preschool.

"Makeup often represents an adolescent girl's eagerness and excitement to become a 'grown up,' and explore her attractiveness to peers, but for parents, it can bring up fear and stress relating to their child maturing and becoming interested in boys," says Julie Hanks, a psychotherapist specializing in family relationships. "It may also represent a daughter pulling away from her parents to focus more on peers, which may feel scary for some parents."

Start slow

Many parents agreed they would start with light makeup, such as lip gloss and mascara. "When my daughter started 5th grade, she asked to start wearing make-up. I told her that she had to wait until Middle School. After a few trips up to school, I see that most (but not all) of the girls are already wearing makeup," said Mom Dawn Speese. "I have recently decided to relent, because I want her to learn proper techniques and use makeup appropriately and not like most of the girls that I have seen at school."

Carol Tuttle,  mother of 5 and author of Dressing Your Truth: Discover Your Personal Beauty Profile, says she recommends starting with lip gloss and makeup between ages 10-12, progressing to foundation and cover up between ages 13-14. Between the ages of 15-17, blush, eyeliner and eye shadows are appropriate and by age 18 your daughter should have the skills to apply makeup to enhance her natural beauty.

Makeup overload?

If your child is wearing too much makeup, Hanks suggests talking to your daughter to find out the reason behind her makeup overload. For instance, is her skin breaking out? Is she trying to get the attention of a boy?

"When [my daughter] was around 13 years old, she started buying her own makeup, choosing colors that weren't natural looking or flattering on her. Any comments or suggestions from me were met with defensiveness," remembers Hanks. "So, I took her to a nice department store makeup counter and asked the makeup artist to do her makeup (and made sure it looked natural and age-appropriate). I then told my daughter that I would buy her the basic makeup (powder, mascara, and in exchange for all of her other makeup at home."

Too much too soon?

Some parents, however, feel that girls should not wear any makeup until they are older because it sends the wrong message. "We cultivate a natural, no-make up rule early in my family," says Michelle Nicholasen, author of I Brake for Meltdowns (Peseus/DaCapo Press). "My four girls are young, but they understand how I feel about make up. It's for dress-up fun only. My rule is no makeup or pierced ears until they are 18, at which point they can make their own decisions about these issues. I'll have my opinions, but I won't get in their way."

Dad Adam Nelson agrees." I have two very self-confident daughters that look past looks - in themselves and others - and realize that looks are really not important. Their criteria of 'judging' other people is whether or not they are nice. That's what is most important. "

Mom and founder of Kirin Christianson says she picks her battles, and makeup is not one of them. "I'd much rather take a firm stance on boys, drugs, alcohol and getting her homework done."

More on makeup and skin care for your daughter:

Tell us: What do you think -- what age is appropriate for make-up?

Tags: girls and makeup teen beauty

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Comments on "What’s the right age for girls to wear makeup?"

Anonymous March 11, 2014 | 8:10 PM

K... Here's the my mom is alright with me wearing mascara or eyeliner...the only exception is that i cant wear it to school and she has to know. i feel really weird asking her when sometimes i know she'll say no..and when i wear it around my family its like weirrrd because they all start judging me and saying i look like a S..i really do not want to wear it to skool to impress anyone but to feel pretty...many girls at skool wear it...but wwear WAAAAYYY too much...last time i tried to tell my mom that compared to them i only want to wear mascara but she kinda doesnt see the rush to it...recently i bought my own eyeliner, mascara, and lip glosss...and sometimes wear it to skool...but i feel bad not letting her's different because i also have to ask my dad which is EXTREMELY weird...because he is the overprotective type...and i understand him and all but i mean...i'm growing up!!!and also...i'm dyingg to wear makeup with my mom knowing and everyone else aswell but i am alsoi afraid that i'm going to start gettingf addiced to it...and that when i weear it to special occasions people wont really see a "wow" to it....i am also the type of girl who doesnt like showing her feelings to others especially to mom and dad so idk i just think that my mom is right about waiting till 15 and think that this article is right about letting me wear makeup (natural) at age can someone please give me advise???

Lisa March 10, 2014 | 7:52 AM

I disagree when people say girls wear makeup to impress boys. They do it for THEMSELVES. Please do not ask "Who are you getting dressed for?" Because that's a pretty annoying question when you're doing it for NOBODY. Well you are doing it for one person- YOURSELF. Some girls wear makeup to feel pretty, others it's just for fun.

Hazel February 28, 2014 | 2:01 PM

I'm twelve. I put makeup on like; mascara, powder, and lipgloss very little though. I'm wondering, how much makeup could I put on and what would I look good with.

Kate February 23, 2014 | 8:18 AM

I'm recently 14 and since the age of 13 I wear a full face of make up at the weekends but during school I just fill in my eyebrows chuck on some mascara and some concealer with some tinted lip balm. Usually at the weekends I will wear light foundation with powder, bronzer and eye shadow if I'm in the mood I wear mascara everyday and often eyeliner in my waterline or line my lash line but never both together. I wear lipstick or lip gloss as well. Honestly some people are such control freaks they can't get over the fact their daughter is growing up, obviously my mum wont let me go out looking like a but she respects that make up is a passion for me. I don't wear make up to be confident; I already am I wear make up because I enjoy it. BOOM

DonnaMariaWHV February 06, 2014 | 12:54 PM

All articles written about subjects like this should reiterate over and over again that all children are different. Just because you have a 13 year old asking to wear make-up does not mean all 13 year olds feel the same and acknowledging that fact will keep some moms from pushing their daughters too soon into something they are not emotionally ready for. I went looking for averages ages girls show interest in make-up but after reading this article I came away almost feeling like I should be starting my daughter on some sort of regimented make-up routine as a rite of passage to her adult life. I know the article was written about "The Make-up Debate", but a well rounded article should have included the child who is not interested as an option so parents aren't inclined to think their child is some how delayed.

Louise February 05, 2014 | 2:08 PM

For most girls, they want to wear makeup because they think they look prettier with it, or for some girls,it's because of peer pressure. Whatever the reason, someday your daughter will want to wear makeup. As a mother, it's good to let them wear a little makeup (a small amount of mascara, lipgloss) so they don't serectly wear makeup. For any daughters reading this, Rember that you are your mothers baby to her. Respect what she says and if she says to wait to wear makeup, just wait. You don't need makeup to be pretty or popular, you look just fine as you are. I think that really as long as your child is over ten years of age, she's old enough to wear a little mascara and lipgloss:)

Emily January 05, 2014 | 2:50 PM

For moms that don't know what to do, here's an idea. I was just looking around at e.l.f. and I saw the e.l.f. essential master set- master set. It is $150, so it is pricey, but if you wait until big sales like black Friday and cyber Monday, then you can get it for a lot cheaper. Anyway, here's the idea: buy it yourself for your daughter, or split the cost with your daughter (if she really wants to wear makeup). You can have total control over it and introduce new products to her as you feel comfortable. That is a good way to make her feel good about herself,make her feel included in her social group, make her less likely to rebel against you (like putting makeup on right after arriving at school, and taking it off before school ends), but it will give you the peace of mind that you are in control. Just an idea that I recommend. P.S. If you don't want to buy the big set that I suggested, then just buy one of every type of thing that are willing to let her wear.

Christina L. November 17, 2013 | 2:42 PM

I just turned 13 a month ago and I really want to wear makeup. when I was in my late 12s's I wore mascara and my mom found out, she said that she didn't think o should wear makeup and that I look like a S with it on. Its been 4 months since the last conversation about makeup and I want to ask her. I think that at the age of 13,you should be allowed to wear foundation, concealer, light shades of eye shadow, mascara and a little bit of mascara but not too dramatic. wearing makeup not only enhances your natural features but it also builds up your self confidence.

Amy Nguyen October 20, 2013 | 8:06 PM

I think the problem is not with how much make up the girl is wearing, but how she applies it. I know girls who wear foundation and concealer but applies it well, so that it looks like its her own skin. Other girls may wear only a little bit of foundation but with the wrong color making it all look bad. As for Margaret, others may argue differently. At the age of 15, your skin can go through a lot of break outs and acne. I know I am. As a result, I also get acne scarring. I also get heavy eye bags because of staying up late and studying as well as waking up early for clubs.

Sarah September 04, 2013 | 8:15 PM

I was reading some articles about this subject and came across one that said the mother didn't let the child wear Chapstick until she was ten. I was very concerned about this. I had chapped lips as a child and loved the way Chapstick felt ( clear Chapstick ). Each family should find what works for them, but don't limit things that the child needs.

sierra August 14, 2013 | 5:52 PM

im 12 years old and i have very bad acne! i honestly hate makeup but i do wear it and its only because of how horribly gross my skin is but when i wear makeup i make it look very very natural so no one knows im wearing any not even my parents. I wear concealer, tinted moisturizer, and powder. In my opinion i think you should have the option to wear makeup at a somewhat young age but not for just no reason you should only wear it if u have severe skin issues like me

Amanda August 08, 2013 | 6:24 PM

my daughter is twelve and she has always had dark circles under her eyes. i started to let her wear concealer, mascara,lipstick, and blush. i don't find anything wrong with letting my child wear makeup as long as the "look" is somewhat natural and that she understands that makeup doesn't make you prettier. I have no regrets letting her use makeup because I noticed that ever since shes stated to wear makeup her self-confidence has risen and she seems more positive in the way she acts. overall I think girls should be allowed to wear makeup not to make them prettier, but make them feel more comfortable with themselves.

Lisa July 22, 2013 | 11:32 AM

My daughter is 14 and today, for the first time, wore mascara to her violin camp. I was surprised, and a bit sad, since this, to me, is a more grown-up thing to do, and she is still so young. After reading some of these posts, I think I will talk to her about it. I think make-up does two things: it makes us feel so much prettier, and, it makes us feel uglier. Let me explain. During the day, when we have it on and it's tastefully worn, it makes us feel pretty. But without it, knowing it is off, we look barren, unfinished, and raw. This flip in feeling is what some of us - most of us, I am guessing - should deal with when we are older, in later, more mature years, when we are confident and educated enough to see ourselves pretty - and attractive - both with and without it. Make-up is fun, and it can give us bolder, more beautiful looks. And do not kid yourselves that this is for us - it is also for boys and men. Yikes! And having written that, my 14-year-old will have a small amount allowed for now, and with discretion, more as she gets older. And because she is such a beautiful kids now anyway, convincing her of natural beauty - and her fabulous INNER beauty - shouldn't be so hard to do.

Lynda Cornish July 07, 2013 | 11:04 PM

Lets be realistic. I know that we want our daughters to ' love themselves without makeup' , but that can be hard for them. Makeup can actually help them feel more confident in their own shoes. Besides, my 12 year old still hasn't shown any intrest in makeup whatsoever. Yesterday me and her where all alone in the house without my husband or son. I know girls at her school are always wearing makeup, so I thought it would be fun to give her my makeup and see how well she applied it. I gave her foundation, concealer, eyeshadow, stick blush, mascara, lipstick, an eyebrow brush, and lipgloss ( she was smart enough to understand hat she couldn't do a good eyeliner) . She blended the foundation on her face and neck with a beauty blender, and it looked great! Then, she concealed her acne and pimples ( she actually started getting these at an early age...) . Still looked great! Then she brushed her thick, gorgeous Italian brows out. Still great... Next came eyeshadow. She took two natural brown/tan colors and blended them on her eyelids. Great job! Then she put a light amount of mascara on. Still great! Then she just put on the pink lipstick and lipgloss. The ending result? GREAT!!!! I asked her how she did so good ( I hadn't even given pointers!!!) and she simply said YouTube was the answer. She liked the naturalness of the ending result, as did I. Also, she said that the process was fun. Now, I think that whenever she wants a natural yet simple look for school Ill allow her to do this. Btw, IM NOT IN ANY WAY SAYING THAT MAKEUP MAKES YOU PRETTIER! I THINK THAT MY LITTLE GIRL IS BEAUTIFUL EITHHER WAY!

Pamele July 04, 2013 | 5:16 AM

Come on now...lets be real here. There are limits...age appropriate of course. The fact is, that whether we like it or not, our daughters are most likely going to want to wear make up at some stage. I think the key here is yes, teach them to love their natural selves, but also teach them about moderation, as mentioned in the article. Teach them how to ENHANCE their natural beauty while instilling in them a sense of pride in how they look without any makepup. That they are Beautiful without make up and dont need to use make up to become more attractive. I think that when my daughter reaches highschool, at the age of 16 I will let her use lip gloss and mascara and when she is 17 almost going on 18 then we can talk about eyeliner and eyeshadow, but NOT concealer!!! As mentioned above, unless they have serious skin problems, there is NO NEED for concealer and even then it usually only compounds the problem. I think it is all about balance. In South Africa we have an Afrikaans saying, Vroeg ryp, vroeg vrot! which translated means, ripe early, rotten early....if we allow our daughters to get swept up completely by the current social norms, we , as mothers have failed. I for one, want my daughter to know her self worth (and know that it doesnt depend on a pot of concealer, or stick of eyeliner). But, like most other things in life, if not "abused" can also be a positive thing, like a pretty dress, its ok to enjoy a pretty dress and how it makes you feel, as long as you know...its not the dress that makes the woman, but rather the woman that makes the dress.....Balance. I did not pierce my daughters ears when she was a baby because I wanted it to be something she looked forward to...something that she was excited about, that we could go and do together. I took her on her 6th or 7th birthday and she was very excited. She does, however understand that body piercings (one in each ear I am ok with) and Tattoos are out of the question. When she is old enough to leave the home, it is her choice. Having said that, I had started young, explaining how our bodies are a temple and we must look after them. I used the whole Hanna Montana phase she went through and expalined that when she was CRAZY about Hanna Montana, all she wanted was the bed spread etc etc, but now, she has outgrown it and doesnt care much for that show or music anymore. I explained that if she were to mark her body, she may regret it one day as it was permenant. I overheard her saying the other day, hey, your body is a temple, look after it!!!! Teach them young and then cross your fingers and pray ;-)

asdfghjkl; May 23, 2013 | 8:44 PM

I'm 13 and I want to wear make-up. My mom wont let me, so I only wear it when she has to go to work (mascara mostly). How do I let her know that I want to wear make-up. I always watched my mom, when I was little, when she put on her make-up. So then I learned how to put it on, by watching her. All my friends wear makeup except me. I felt left out so I started using mascara and hiding it from my mom. Please inform me how I could tell my mom I want to wear make-up.

Hannah April 24, 2013 | 2:59 PM

I didn't wear makeup until college - I was 19, and for very dumb reasons (because my boyfriend at the time wanted me to because he didn't think I was pretty enough without it). I didn't have any clue about technique (and learned as I went, and a little from my younger sisters). I was perfectly fine without it until 19, and over time (and long after the boyfriend was out of the picture) I learned how to apply it to enhance my natural beauty and how I didn't need to wear it all the time. I think when a girl is ready to wear makeup she'll broach the subject. I think it's important for mothers to explain makeup to their daughters, how to where it, and learn the motivations behind wearing it. A girl needs to be confident in her own beauty, and this needs to be reaffirmed by both parents. It's really important to me that my husband loves me and thinks I'm beautiful with or without makeup, and this is something I'd hope our children someday will hear, see, and know.

Zara April 05, 2013 | 11:35 AM

I started wearing concealer around the age of 13, but that was only due to my acne. If I didn't have acne I would've never started wearing make-up at that age. Now I'm slightly older and I still use the concealer, along with BB cream, to cover up the acne scars and eye-liner of lip-gloss every now and then. I don't think age has anything to do with make-up, it's just a self-confidence thing I guess.

PattyO March 19, 2013 | 2:03 PM

I am a mom of an almost 11 yr old. When I was her age, my mom would forbid even "play makeup" and I also hid makeup bags during middle school/high school. My daughter has been playing with "play makeup" since she was very little. We talk about wearing makeup to enhance, not end up looking like a clown. Personally (this is just my opinion)I think it's ok to wear appropriate amounts (lip gloss, tiny amount of sparkly eye shadows). I think because I didn't make such a big fuss about it and my daughter was able to "play" when she was's not such a big deal at home.

Ann February 25, 2013 | 4:47 PM

I am 21 and I still dont wear make up I am in athletics and have a boyfriend who loves me for me and i hope girls don't think that makeup is the only thing that makes them pretty because it's not true girls are pretty without make it shows who they really are so don't follow the crowd be your own person and don't listen to anybody who tells you differently

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