Mommy Confession: I Let My Toddler Wear Make-Up

little girl make-up

UPDATE: Check out the segment on Good Morning America regarding this piece, and the follow-up article about what “pretty” means to a young child. Also, due to the dangerous nature of some comments that blame victims for their abuse, please remember that make-up (or any other action) doesn’t “invite” pedophiles

This weekend, my daughter had her spring pre-school performance. As we were getting ready, practicing her songs and pulling out her “good shoes,” she walked into the bathroom and reminded me that I needed to plug in the curling iron. “Mom,” she bellowed from across the house, “you need to turn on the hot curly thingy.”

Brenna and I have a pretty solid “dress-up” routine. Every holiday, performance, or any other event that she deems necessarily fancy, we pick out a pretty dress, curl her hair and then we apply a little make-up. Alright, we apply a full face of make-up. On both of us.

Ever since she could sit in front of my vanity, my daughter has loved make-up. The entire idea of painting her face was pretty exciting. She’s begged for blush and pleaded for a little lipstick. And for the past two years, I’ve obliged her.

I don’t wear make-up every day. Even when I went in to an office during the week, I only remembered to put on mascara half of the time. Foundation and eye shadow? Not a chance. I save my make-up for family functions where I want to look nice or evening events that require a little dressing up. And now I’ve created a pre-schooler who thinks that special occasions always deserve make-up.

As a mother with some feminist leanings, I’ve been worried about teaching my daughter that she needs make-up to be beautiful. I don’t want her to think that wearing make-up or curling her hair somehow makes her more desirable or loved. It seems like make-up is counter-productive to any goal I have about her self-esteem and confidence.

And yet… I keep letting her put it on.

For my little girl, make-up feels like something we do to show that an event is important to us. It’s an extra step that lets us spend a little frivolous time with brushes and powders. She sits in front of the mirror smiling as I apply a little blush to her cheeks and eye shadow to her eyes. Sometimes I don’t even put any actual make-up on, I just run the brushes over her skin. It doesn’t change the fun for her.

Every time I see another article about Suri Cruise and her lipstick, I feel mildly embarrassed. People throw a fit about the inappropriateness of bright pink lips on a girl just barely in elementary school. But I’ve let my daughter walk into Church on Easter with sparkling light pink eye shadow, pale pink cheeks and MAC lip gloss.

I know that other mothers must think I’m ridiculous, or that I’m inflicting horrible psychological damage on my little girl. I don’t want her to think that she has to have any additional help to make herself gorgeous. She obviously doesn’t. And I don’t particularly want her to set too much store by physical attractiveness.

But when we get ready together, it doesn’t feel like she’s worried about becoming pretty. It feels like a little girl who wants to pretend she’s a grown up like her mama. It’s a child who wants to have her own special routine to get ready for special occasions.

So yea, I let my toddler wear make-up. Eyes, cheeks, lips… the whole thing. And while I can think of a million reasons to feel guilty about it, I still do it. My daughter is intelligent and strong, she has interests outside of pretty, pretty princesses, so if she wants to dress up with her mom and throw on some eye shadow, I just let her have some fun.

What do you think? Is make-up for toddlers completely inappropriate or do your little girls play with your pretties too?

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!
  • Monica Smith

    I think what is important is that you are having fun with your daughter. I have two daughter one in college and one a junior in high school. The both went through the makeup phase when they were little but now they really don’t think much about it. Taking time to spend time with your daughter is what is important. Enjoy this time – they grow up before you know it.

  • Sheena Mcelroy

    Make-up mommy……you are doing nothing wrong….it’s all in good fun, and we all wear make up to look pretty….my girls 5,8,& 9 love to put makeup on when they are going on a daddy date….They pick out a cute outfit, i do thier hair, they get to wear a little make up and go out for a girls day with daddy…we all buy them makeup from walmart in the little kits for christmas…we put makeup on them for Halloween, and they see and hear us talk about makeup and how we feel when we wear it…just because you let her and encourage her to wear it doesnt mean that you are a bad mom or that she will grow up and be a two dollor tramp….I say good for you….at least you are spending time with her, and bonding with her….just because of this…..I am going to let my girls wear makeup to school tomorrow….

  • Alesa

    Most make up contains lead. Unless you use leadfree make up then you need to get your daughters lead level checked. I had a friend that let her daughter wear lipstick who ended up with high lead levels. Dept. of Health made visits to the house to check for lead, several blood tests were done over a period of time. Quit endangering your daughters life. Go buy lead free make up

    • Bunny

      Where ever you got your information from YOU ARE WRONG. If that was the case everyone who wears make up would have lead poisoning. Check your facts before you try nd preach.

  • jennifer

    to this mommy that takes some time to show her daughter attention is wonderful…one on one time is the best to have and it builds great selfesteem….People shouldnt put her down at all there is to much children that just exsist in this world to worry about petty stuff like makeup….I have raised alot of them children that nobody wanted….with unconditional love and when i found something they were interested in guess what then I was…I have stopped taking children in (and no not through fostercare) because of the last baby I took in…he was terminal from birth because his mommy made wrong choices from conception…he was born really sick and wasnt given long to live..his name was Isaiah wilson…his birth family didnt want him and wanted to hand him over to hospice and let him die there alone with no love at all….i took him home with me..He was given 12 hours to live and i promised isaiah and God as long as isaiah lived i would love him unconditionaly…he lived 16 months and 26 days….his story s on youtube ( in memory of isaiah wilson) there is 3 of them….letting children just excist in my book is sooo wrong….

  • Pingback: How Young is Too Young to Start Wearing Makeup? « Analyze This()

  • Rachel

    The only problem that I have with this is that she might get acne early….. but since it’s not an everyday thing then she should be fine and she is super cute ;-)

  • Hope

    I also have a 4year old Daughter! I have been putting make-up on her for the past two years!! For pictures, or just cause & for play!!! i also when she ask shave her legs for her!!!! There is nothing wrong with what you are doing!!!!

    • t

      Shaving her legs might be a bit much but otherwise all the rest of that seems fine.

  • Scarlet Sidwell

    i find absolutely NOTHING wrong with putting makeup on your daughter. i’m 16years old and when i was younger my mom did the same thing. it was just like play time or whatever; and it’s not like my mom nor this mom puts dark colors, or red lipsticks, or black eyeliners and such on her. THAT would be a little more understandable. but it’s practically just like any other game a child plays. such as dress up or house. if makeup’s too young for a little girl then house may as well be too. so what, because a child plays house they’re too young it’s making them think they should be a mommy too? these are just games or “being like mommy” to them. adults shouldn’t be ruining something like that for a child.

  • Miranda

    I also have a 4 year old and a 2 year old and another daughter due in august. My oldest has been playing in my make up with me since she was 2 ! you are doing nothing wrong, you are doing what more mothers should do, spending quality mommy and daughter bonding time and having fun, my 4 year old has her own lip gloss and chapstick that she carries with her, she comes get her nails painted when i do (not fake nails just painted). they are girls, i only wish my own mother would have done those things with me. Dont let ignorant up tight rude people bring you down !

  • Cassandra

    I saw an article on this on Yahoo, and think that any controversy over this is RIDICULOUS. If your daughter likes makeup, let her like makeup. The progressive society we live in wants everyone to accept people for who they are- a little boy wants to be a girl?….then we accept it. A little girl wants to be a boy?…. then we accept it. A LITTLE GIRLS WANTS TO WEAR MAKEUP?!?!?!?! OH NO THAT CAN’T HAPPEN.

    If we care so much about allowing people to be who they are, then it needs to be with everyone. Some girls like makeup, even when they’re really little. It doesn’t matter, as long as they are safe and secure and loved. EVERYONE deals with self-image consciousness, it’s not just because women are “expected to wear makeup”. People seriously need to mind their own business.

    • Deb

      Spot on.

  • MARYF.


  • Fancypants
  • Pingback: Fashion ModREn » Mommyish blogger Lindsay Cross sparks hate campaign for putting make-up on daughter, 4()

  • Friendly ghost

    News flash to Lindsay Mommy:
    Your 4-year-old is not a “toddler”.
    A lot of girls “play dress-up”, but then Mom understands that she is supposed to wipe off the makeup afterwards, so your 4-year-old doesn’t look trashy. Sorry – - that’s what most people think.

  • Pingback: Miract Beauty » Blog Archive » Four-Year Old in Make-Up: How Young Is Too Young?()

  • Victor Golf Charles

    Congratulations, Cross-Haters. Your comments made it into the Daily Mail for everyone to laugh at.

    –Victor Golf Charles, M.D. (Marriage Defender)

  • lilgtogirl

    The fact that none of you see anything wrong with this is exactly why girls are out of control by the time they are 12 in this country. There is no reason her 4 year old daughter needs to be like her neurotic overweight mother who uses make up to mask the fact that she knows she is ugly. These are not lessons to teach a child. I am shocked that people think this is OK. God forbid she spends that time with her child reading or doing ANYTHING of value. Nooooo. As long as her ugliness is passed on to a child too young to deal with it, that is what is important.

    • notahater

      Your comments are disgusting- this article says nothing about this mother’s parenting outside of special occasions when she allows her daughter to put on some make-up. Read to a child? Who the hell says she DOESN’T do that? Special occasions are rare, and she even admits that most of the week she doesn’t wear make-up at all.

      And making hateful comments about the mother’s appearance because you disagree with her allowing her daughter makeup shows what a classless, nasty, disgusting human being you are, and I’m sure if you have kids, they’re a lot more messed up from your disgusting attitude, then her daughter will be from having a mother who allows some makeup.

    • proudmomma

      What a horrible thing to say! You are apparently not a parent because I don’t think any parent would say such a thing and if you are how would you feel to know your child was told she or he was ugly? There is nothing wrong with what this woman chooses to do with her child and who are you to judge her? What gives your the right to critique her in any way? Make up is necessary for performances and being on stage. It makes them stand out. My daughter is a dancer and when she performs it really makes her pop and stand out for the judges. Just because a child wears make up doesn’t mean it should affect their self esteem. It is our job as parents to teach our children about inner beauty.

  • Barbara

    I think this MOTHER needs some serious parenting classes.

  • Pingback: Is a 4-Year-Old Too Young to Wear Make-up? « Family First()

  • Pingback: Entry Seven | Life In The Fun Lane()

  • Tonya Larsen

    I see nothing wrong with a parent that appreciates the fact that their children want to pretend to be just like them as long as it is not harmful to anyone in which this case it is not. It’s when a parent doesn’t spend quality time with their children or talk to them about important issues they may face throughout life and just let them run wild that puts their parenting skills into question.

    GO LINDSAY!!!!

  • Marilyn

    I have a BIG problem with the comment this little girl made “I NEED it to look pretty”???? A 4 year old???? Come on. NO 4 year old needs make-up to look pretty, they already are pretty. To me that is very sad…..this mother is making a terrible mistake in letting this little girl believe that she is only pretty when she has her face made-up…….Please put the make-up to the side for at least another 10 years and let this little angel know that in this world you need a great mind to go with looking pretty to be a success.

  • Krystal

    So I came across this post…. IT MAKES ME SICK. WHY YOU ASK.. Because we all watch Toddler and Tiaras and look at them no one makes them take the show off T.V. I have two girl’s 8yrs and 4yrs both love to dress up and have their hair nails and make- up done. I do this I love having that type of Mommy time with them. This world is so sick in the head to try and bash a mother who is just spending at home time with their child. I have allowed my girls to wear make up when they have had Photo’s done. My girls even get make up for Christmas that is real and is sold in the Children Isles. Why not lash out on the companies that make the make up for the Kids. Really PEOPLE GROW UP AND FIND SOMETHING REAL TO COMPLAIN ABOUT. LIKE JOBS, INSURANCE, MONEY ISSUES, THE NEXT PRESIDENT, FORECLOSURES, THE END OF THE WORLD STOP TRYING TO TELL OTHER PARENTS HOW TO BE A PARENT AND BE ONE YOURSELF.

  • Megan Geyer

    This type of parenting behavior likely will have harmful psychological consequences. My response @

  • Shari

    My daughter did the same thing when she was a toddler. She went to preschool everyday with lipstick and light eyeshadow. My daughter is now 12 and she has received her make- up kits since she is 7 years old.
    There isn’t anything wrong with it, as long as fun.

  • Dana

    I can’t imagine why all these people are jumping all over you-so silly! I have a 4 year old daughter who has been “playing Mommy” with me for years. When I put on my makeup, there are some days she will sit with me and ask for a little bit, so why not. She knows she is beautiful with or without it-it’s just a bit of fun. My findest memories of my Gran are watching her in her light up mirror putting her make up on & sharing some with me. Keep spending this time with your daughter and being a great Mommy!

  • sheila

    omg….i cant believe people are acting like this! i have a 5 year old and she puts makeup on all the time! she likes to wear lipstick and eyeshadow! shes a girl for crying out loud!!! its ok people! its not like we are putting them out on the street corner! i mean come on! people are just trying to make a big deal out of nothing! let her be a girl and a child! let your daughter wear makeup if she wants! thats your business!!! :) she is a beautiful little girl btw!

  • Pingback: Daily Uh-oh: Mom criticized for allowing 4-year-old daughter to wear makeup - OC Moms: The Mom Blog : The Orange County Register()

  • Mrs. Lynn

    Meh. I wore makeup as a kid. For dance recitals, pictures (just enough to make my features “pop”) and for fun. I wasn’t allowed to wear it to school or every day, just sometimes. I’m not in favor of children wearing makeup every day but I don’t think you’re harming your child either. People need to calm down.

  • kramer

    Great message- you’re only pretty with makeup on.

    It’s important to look pretty on photo days or for recitals, so here’s some makeup.


    • Pinto

      Honestly, I don’t see how you can get to that conclusion. I have a three year old, who begs to ‘have some too’ whenever I drag out the makeup box for an event, who’s favorite part of Halloween is having full-on ridiculous makeup all over. By playing dress-up with some eyeshadow and lipgloss, all you’re teaching your daughter is that makeup can be a fun game to share with Mom. I think the only way a child would start feeling like she must wear makeup to be pretty is one who has learned that a ‘beautiful’ woman doesn’t step outside with makeup on. And there are plenty of moms like that out there.

  • Pingback: Mom, I’m sorry… » Jennifavor()

  • Pingback: Four-year old in make-up: How young is too young? | WakeUpFace()

  • Pingback: Mommy Shaming: The New American Past-Time()

  • Pingback: Don’t Tell Your Daughters, But Eventually We All Need Makeup()

  • Pingback: Heidi Klum Draws Criticism For Putting Lipstick On Her Daughters()

  • Pingback: Gwen Stefani Wears Make-Up For Her Husband, And I Can Respect That()

  • gabby

    i agree, four year olds wearing make is them wanting to be like mommy.

  • cella

    i have no problem with it. i’m a stay at home mom for the most part but i also do makeup & hair on the side so my daughter obviously knows this & wants to join in the fun. we play dress up or i do her makeup & she does mine lol i don’t let her wear it out often but by the time she’s 4 who knows she’s 2.5 now lol & around the house or for special occasions who cares?? she loves it & she knows she’s plenty pretty without.

  • ErinM

    As adults, we wear makeup mostly to cover our “flaws:” foundation and concealer to hide the blemishes, mascara to make our eyelashes an acceptable length, blush to make our cheekbones look higher. That’s not how little girls see makeup, unless you tell them otherwise. They see fun colors to put on their faces, much like picking out what color shirt they want to wear that day. No one outside of pageant mothers puts eyeliner on a child while saying “you need to wear this because your eyes are too small.” THAT is what’s damaging to children, telling them that there’s something wrong with them that needs to be fixed.

  • Fei

    My 6 year old loves to wear “make-up” on special occasions too. Just some pale eyeshadow and lip gloss (I don’t even wear eyeshadow). I don’t think it’s bad, she’s not a super girly girl – she likes animals, bugs and nature. She loves reading and writing and drawing and making. If every now and then she likes to put on make up and spray herself with her “special dora perfume” then what’s the harm?

  • Pingback: Baby Perfume, Smell, Cosmetics, Dolce & Gabbana, Designer Baby()

  • Pingback: How Old Should Your Daughter Be Before She Is Allowed To Wear Make-up [Poll]()

  • maybebat

    Everyone is being ridiculous. Makeup is fine on little ones as long as it doesn’t become a crutch or a necessity for them. As long as they understand they’re beautiful with AND without makeup, it’s fine.

  • Pingback: Is It OK For Little Girls To Dabble In Makeup? | TUTUZ NEWS()