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

Jul 28, 2011 at 11:43 a.m. ET

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 RedHauteMama.com 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?