Young Girls Will Be Image-Obsessed Whether You Allow Them To Wear Makeup Or Not

shutterstock_170654744 (1)__1395072679_142.196.167.223Girls are wearing make-up three years earlier than they were a decade ago, according to a survey commissioned by beauty products site I’m not surprised by this at all, and I don’t really see it as a problem – particularly since their parents are obviously okay with it. It’s not like 11-year-olds buy a lot of stuff for themselves. Girls are obsessed with their appearances whether they have makeup on their faces or not, as far as I’m concerned.

A spokesperson for, who commissioned the survey, said: ‘Most women were against pre-teen girls using make-up regularly but said they realised that the majority of under 13s were doing it anyway.

They were concerned that these pre-teen girls might develop an unhealthy obsession with their appearance – over 62 per cent thought this was the biggest risk from younger girls starting to use make-up.

My stepdaughter started wearing make-up when she was around 11-years-old, too. I never thought it was a problem – she always stuck to clear lipgloss and really faint colors. She still does. Maybe I would have had more of a problem with it if her 11-year-old self had a penchant for red lipstick and black eyeliner. Who knows.

Basically, kids this age aren’t really in a position to buy anything for themselves, so if they have make-up it’s probably because their parents bought it for them. I don’t think that’s bad parenting. I think like anything else, you have to provide guidance in this area. It’s easy to jump to, Oh no! Too young!, but is it really that big of a deal? Young girls are going to stare at themselves in the mirror for hours whether they are wearing makeup or not. It’s a rite of passage.

I was taping Toy Story for my toddler a couple weeks ago, and I noticed during the commercial breaks on the Disney Channel, some tween or early teen stars from one of their shows were giving make-up tips. My first reaction was, that’s odd, but when I really thought about it, I realized that I started wearing make-up around the sixth grade, too.

In California, grades six through eight are middle school. It was the first time I wasn’t around a bunch of “little kids” and I wanted to fit in with those on campus who were older, I guess. Or my friends started wearing make-up and I thought it was a good idea. Or I was trying to emulate my older sister. Honestly, I can’t really remember why I started wearing it, but I do remember that I didn’t get any pushback from my mother. Looking back on those school photos, the make-up was subtle and fine.

I guess if my stepdaughter showed up looking like she’d spent the afternoon at the MAC counter, I’d have a problem with it – but that’s only because I think heavy make-up looks ridiculous. I would just trust each parent’s opinion on this – that they can do whatever they think is best for their kids – and realize that young girls are going to be self conscious and concerned about their appearances whether we allow them to wear a little lip gloss or not.

(photo: Budimir Jevtic/ Shutterstock)

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  • pixie

    Yep, I started wearing makeup around the same time, about 11 or 12. It was mostly for special occasions or for fun, not an every day sort of thing, and my mom didn’t see any harm in it.

    I think it’s good for girls that age to start to experiment with their image. The majority of tween girls spend a lot of time thinking about what they look like anyways.

    Also, I think it’s good when moms or older female role models help the young girls experiment with makeup in a safe and non-judgemental environment and to help teach them how to apply and remove makeup. And, above all, to let the young girl know that she’s beautiful no matter what and whether or not she wears makeup doesn’t change that fact.

    • ted3553

      Yes yes yes to someone teaching them please. One of my step daughters used to show up at our place wearing enough makeup to look like she had black eyes at 13 and her older sister had never been show how to properly pluck her eyebrows so she wandered around with half an eyebrow. It was delicate as the new step mom to talk through this but between a discussion and taking them to a store where they do make up, I managed to help tame the wildness.

  • SA

    Yep, I started wearing it around that age too. I wore a little more in middle school than I ever have since – I guess just trying to figure it all out and experiment with what I like. I barely wear any now.

    My self-image concerns never had anything to do with my makeup.

  • EmmaFromÉire

    I started wearing make up when I started secondary school, so 12/13. Before then myself and my best friend LOVED to give each other character make overs. As in vampires or frankenstein’s monster, that sort of thing. I wore make up for ballet shows, because pasty stage skin.

    My mum let me experiment with make up throughout school, only ever speaking up if i was very obviously orange, and i’m forever grateful. She knew that i absolutely LOVED it (and would just cake it on on the school bus anyway) so didn’t stop me, sometimes funding a particularly nice foundation/mascara. And from that period have come of the best photographs of me, i look hilarious. No eyebrows, panda eyeliner, porcelein doll blush, you name it I had it. It was a ritual for me and my friends- get on the school bus in the morning and put on our day’s make up, and check each other to make sure it was all blended etc. I hope my hypothetical daughter has that kind of warm fuzzy feeling about it!

  • Taxes Make Kittens Cry

    When your daughter asks to put on makeup, DIY and make em look like a clown.

    • Valerie

      Had a GIF. It won’t work. Oh Goddammit nevermind.

  • Valerie

    Um, so I started wearing make-up in the days of dark lipstick and eye-liner. I went to school every morning pretty sure I was looking like this:

    • Rachel Sea

      I started finding any possible excuse to paint my lips black from when I was about 7. Looking back, my mom should not have been surprised that the little hippie she tried to raise turned out to kind of be a goth.

  • Rachel Sea

    I feel like 11-12 was about the age when we all started playing with makeup. The only thing anyone wore at school was lip gloss, but it was part of every slumber party and more than a few lazy Saturdays.

  • Jill

    My friends and I used to walk up to the drug store to buy Beanie Babies and make-up so we chose for ourselves. That being said, we would buy random stuff like face masks and the lady behind the counter would always say “you’re so young, you don’t need anything like that with your beautiful skin” which was sweet. I do remember wearing purple eyeshadow for a period in middle school and trying things out so I’m sure I looked like h**l a good portion of the time but thats how you learn (hopefully) to apply it w/o looking like a clown.

  • CW

    I do not allow my 11 y.o. to wear makeup, and the earliest I will consider allowing her to do so is when she enters high school. I’m not at all worried about appearance obsession but rather I feel that makeup is age-inappropriate for middle schoolers. The sexualization of young girls by the fashion industry is something that I find icky. She’s not a woman yet and shouldn’t be dolling herself like one.

    • Celia


  • C.J.

    I started wearing make-up when I was 12. That was when that nasty purple 80′s lipstick was in style. I rarely wear make-up now. When I do I have to borrow it from my 11 year old daughter. I don’t think it is a big deal that she wears make-up. We have talked about make-up and that she doesn’t need it to be beautiful. She is pretty good at applying it and doesn’t wear a lot so I let her wear it.

  • MerlePerle

    I think I started wearing make-up around 11, too. But it was powder make-up and I looked ridiculous! I wish Disney stars would’ve given me some advice back then as my mom was no help!

  • Kay_Sue

    When I was 12, my grandfather passed away. The week after his funeral, we all stayed at my grandmother’s house–my family, my mom’s brother’s family, and my mom’s sister. I’ll never forget the kinda of stolen joy feeling of her putting on my makeup for the first time–just a little eye shadow and some lip gloss and a touch of blush. It was really just dress up, to be honest, but it is a memory I cherish to this day. I am solidly on the side of trusting your judgement as a parent (or that of a somewhat naughty sibling, as it was in my case).

  • March

    As long as the rest of the entire friggin world keeps being obsessed with appearance (one’s own and everybody else’s) I don’t think we can prevent young girls from joining in the “norm”.

  • SarahJesness

    It seems to me that most girls start wearing makeup to fit in with the other girls. And in middle school, most of the girls looked like raccoons because they either thought it looked good or hadn’t figured out how to put makeup on well yet. Whatever, I don’t see an issue with it.

  • itpainsme2say

    I never started wearing makeup because it always seamed time consuming and I like sleep. Also eyeliner kind of brings attention to the fact one eye opens less than the other. I think I spend a equal amount of time in the mirror so its not like a high road or anything. Just make sure they don’t cover there real faces so much that they look unnaturally sick like the Kardashians when they don’t have it on.

  • Katherine Handcock

    I think the concern I have isn’t that girls want to try makeup – one of the highlights of my tween years was Mom letting me and my friends experiment with her unwanted Clinique bonus lipsticks, eyeshadows, etc. during sleepovers – but more that wearing makeup now seems to be a daily thing for a lot of tweens. When I went to school, there was some light coloured nail polish and some tinted or sparkly lip gloss, but I see a lot of tweens now wearing a full face – foundation, eyeliner/eye shadow, lipstick, etc. What I’m afraid of is that if they never see their own, natural face as being okay unadorned, how will they ever feel comfortable deciding, “You know what? I’ll go bare today.”

    I’ve worn glasses since I was five, and during the occasional periods I’ve tried contacts (always fairly short experiments; glass-bottle lenses in glasses equal monster contact lens, and I never got used to the feeling) I found my face looked really strange. When I extrapolate out from that experience, I think of all these girls who think their faces look bizarre (or at least, not beautiful) without artificial colour, and that does make me a bit sad. I don’t have a problem with daily makeup – if it makes you feel good, more power to you! – but I do have a problem with starting to view our real faces as alien.

    • ted3553

      I feel the same way about girls and women who have issue with a bare face. There’s a thing going around facebook to post your pic with no makeup and I see the reactions of friends who have been praying that they don’t have to do this. I think of makeup as an accessory and hope that people feel ok enough about themselves to go without it

  • jonny

    Mothers are concerned their daughters might develop an unhealthy obsession with their appearance? Hmm.

    Maybe try not objectifying them to protect your illegitimate entitlement to control male filial and marital slaves?

    This species is a writeoff.