Ready or not, school is officially back in session—and in addition to a new outfit, hefty haul of school supplies, and a cute backpack, your daughter may be asking to add something else to the shopping list: makeup.
Watching your kids grow up can be challenging, particularly when they start showing an interest in things that feel “adult.” For some girls, wearing makeup to school is an important milestone—whether it signals becoming more independent, having common ground with peers, or wanting to feel more confident around a crush. But as a parent, it can be terrifying.
Every child and situation is unique
Some children are intrigued by makeup early on in life, while others could take it or leave it. As you begin to consider whether or not to let your child wear makeup to school, it’s important to remember that advice columnists and bloggers (us included) don’t know her or your family dynamic. Ultimately, you need to do what feels right for both of you—and there’s no set-in-stone age for wearing makeup that works for everyone.
But if you’re looking for a little guidance, read on for a few things to consider before you say yay or nay.
Like that perfect pair of shoes, new hairstyle, or bold paint color for her room, makeup may be another outlet for her to express herself.
Understand her motivations
There are many reasons people choose to wear makeup—and it’s important not to assume your daughter is interested in makeup for the wrong ones. Talk with her about why she now wants to wear makeup to school. Are her friends experimenting with makeup? Is there someone she’s interested in and would like to impress? Is the more frequent appearance of pimples prompting her desire to “cover up?” Does she simply want to play around with all the fun colors and products, like her favorite online beauty guru?
This is a fantastic opportunity to have a bigger discussion about self-confidence, prioritizing your feelings about yourself over what others think about you, and valuing your natural beauty while leaving room for autonomy in choice. Like that perfect pair of shoes, new hairstyle, or bold paint color for her room, makeup may be another outlet for her to express herself.
Consider her different perspective
The rise of the internet beauty guru may feel foreign to those of us over a certain age, but easy access to beautifully styled photos of creative makeup looks, insider tips and tricks, and video tutorials create an enticing landscape—and it drives the point home that anyone can pick up the right brush and magically transform themselves with bold colors, a little bit of shimmer, and the perfect cat eye.
While enforcing self-love is important, understanding her insecurities is equally vital. Being a teenager is difficult—confusing hormones, the onset of acne, and trying to establish your place in the world can be overwhelming. If a little bit of concealer or mascara helps her feel more confident in herself, it’s probably worth considering. A love of makeup does not necessarily indicate lack of confidence in oneself; sometimes it’s just a fun way to be creative.
Compromise (and start small)
Depending on the age of your daughter, your first instinct may be to forbid makeup—and that is entirely up to you—but do consider the ramifications of drawing a line in the sand, and think carefully about where to draw that line. For instance, playing “dress up” with makeup at home is a classic way for girls to have fun with mom, but a young child wearing red lipstick or dramatic eyeliner to school may be totally inappropriate.
Compromise can go a long way, as well as help you avoid eye rolls or arguments. There’s two kinds of compromises you can easily make. One is when makeup is allowed. Consider only allowing makeup on special occasions at first, such as a school dances or birthday parties. Another option is to say “no” for now, but let your daughter know at what age she will have freedom to make her own choices about makeup, so she can look forward to that time.
The second kind of compromise is in the look of the makeup; soft, light makeup may be an appropriate place to start. Thankfully, the natural, “no makeup” makeup look is in, which means there are many quality products designed to provide light coverage. Together, you can fill a cute makeup bag with light, school-appropriate shades that are perfect for experimentation. Here are a few ideas for go-to items to include:
- Tinted lip balm. Moisturizing and offers a pop of color without being too bold.
- A light concealer and BB cream. She’ll be able to camouflage any breakouts, and you won’t have to worry that she looks overly done up in Algebra.
- Neutral eyeshadows with a hint of shimmer. Softly colored eyeshadows that aren’t drastically different from her own skin tone can help her feel subtly glamorous without making you cringe.
- Soft pencil eyeliner in a subdued color. Regular pencils and liquid liners can look too harsh or dramatic for daytime.
- Dark brown mascara. It will give the lashes extra length and fullness without looking quite as stark as black shades.
If she’s committed to perfecting the trendiest, over-the-top looks, talk to her about what is school appropriate vs. what may be better-suited to weekends at home or special occasions.
Join in on the fun
Ever look back at pictures of yourself in high school? Heavy-handed application of glitter, white eyeshadow, or electric blue eyeliner might have been on your hit list back then—and sharing your retro makeup photos and application secrets with your daughter can be a great way to bond. It will also show her you support her experimenting and developing her own personal style.
You can also plan a girls day out: visit a makeup counter to get a makeover and purchase a few key products and top off the day with a festive meal out or other adventure where she can show off her professionally done look.
Or keep it simple and spend an afternoon at home playing around with makeup you have on hand, watching and replicating tutorials, and mastering the basics to find out what she likes. Follow it up with a trip to the drugstore or makeup counter to purchase her own set of key products.
What age do you think is appropriate for makeup? Let us know in the comments below!