What’s the right age to wear make-up?

kids make-up

I spent this weekend with three amazing 9 and 10 year old girls, at the Capital FM Summertime Ball.

It was really good fun – I danced and screamed a lot to Olly Murs and One Direction, and the girls danced in a cooler, more restrained fashion to Meghan Trainor and Lunchbox Lewis.

Going to Wembley to see 20 of the UK’s top pop acts is a big deal for Flea, and she and her friends wanted to look their best – there was a lot of concern about favourite jackets and shoes, and how to do hair.

What there wasn’t was make-up.

There’s not a lot of make-up going on in our house. For a meeting, I might wear some foundation or concealer, and mascara. I might add lipstick if it’s a social occasion. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Flea isn’t too interested in cosmetics, beyond nail polish during the holidays, and a spritz of my perfume from time to time.

Some of Flea’s friends wear sparkly lip gloss or nail polish for the school disco and my attitude has always been, well, that’s okay – your friends are experimenting and having fun, but Flea’s never been THAT bothered and I wouldn’t allow it if she was. But maybe I’m out of step.

Yesterday, I spotted a post online featuring one of my favourite bloggers – the article highlighted four mother/daughter pairings, who compared their beauty regime. Which is all well and good except one of the daughters was 10 years old.

I clicked through to find a YouTube channel where the 10-year-old explains her daily make-up routine (which at 15 minutes long, is about 14 and a half minutes longer than my own). For everyday, she wears concealer (and foundation “if I need a bit more coverage”), powder, eye shadow, mascara, brow pencil, lip pencil, lipstick and lip gloss.

I’m not linking to the article because it feels wrong, really wrong, to criticise a child for their choices. That’s not what this is about.

But in our household, make-up is a long way into the future.

I don’t want to raise a child with the belief that your natural, God-given face is something you need to improve on, or disguise.

I don’t want to raise a child who is encouraged to be self-regarding, in the way that I think make-up encourages people to be.

I don’t want to raise a child who spends 15 minutes every morning looking in the mirror, when she could be playing, reading or doing pretty much anything else instead.

I don’t want to raise a child who doesn’t know that she’s beautiful and perfect, just the way she is.

Maybe it’s just me, I thought. So I asked some blogging chums on Twitter, and the general consensus was that make-up happens in a fairly low-key way around 11 or 12, with perhaps lip gloss and nail polish, and more extensive make-up starts at around 14 or 15.

What do you think? When’s the right age for kids to start wearing make-up?


Photo: Shutterstock

27 thoughts on “What’s the right age to wear make-up?”

  1. I’m pushing 40 and my make up routine normally takes about 2 minutes, perhaps 5 for a big night out – girls have enough demands on their time without losing 15 minutes a day to make up and hair and getting ready

    We need to teach our girls to love the skin they’re in and that they are naturally beautiful and not to try and emulate Barbies

  2. I wear some lipstick for a social occasion and maybe some blusher in the winter when the tan has faded. When she was little, 3 or 4, DD wanted some lipstick on her and I gave her some when I was doing my own.
    When I was 12 I got a make-up palette from a firend for my birthday. My other threw it out (she said she was saving it for when I was older but she actually threw it out). We were also not allowed to paint our nails until well into our teens. I’m not going t have rules about these things but I don’t have to because make-up is not something DD sees at home in a big way. If she wants to do what I do she’s welcome. The youjng girls who plaster it on are ususally those who’ve seen this at home and equate it with being grown up and glamourous.

  3. I was rather aghast that recently a girl in my sons class had a pamper party for her 6th birthday. The idea is cute I’m sure but when they’re having full bright lipstick colours, mascara and eyeshadows applied by a professional beautician it made me feel a little uneasy.
    Having got twin girls albeit they’re only 2, this is a whole new world for me. I wore clear mascara at 13 and thought I was ace so 6 year olds wanting and being that knowledgable about make up baffles me. I like you don’t want my girls to grow up feeling they need to enhance their natural looks. I only wear make up because I have horrible skin otherwise I’d love to go fresh faced. Growing up is a minefield but a full blown regime at 10 is a bit – wow.

  4. Oh gosh, this sounds so wrong! 10 is way too young for having anything labelled as a ‘make-up routine’… I am 35 and I don’t have one!

    Although my toddler and my 4yo love my make-up drawer, they use it in a face-painting kind of way, sometimes going for a drag queen look. Christian Dior would be delighted!

    As long as it’s a bit of fun, like dressing up, I find it alright, but when it becomes part of your routine, that’s different.

    Chikdren are little and innocent for such a short period of time; as parents, we should encourage them to retain their innocence and lack of self-doubt for as long as possible.

    Just to reiterate, a make-up routine at 10 is wrong, borderline disturbing in my honest opinion.

  5. I’m stuck in the middle of this hell right now. G and her friends are those who wear the lip gloss and nail polish to parties. Only now some of them have started to wear mascara too. I’ve completely outlawed it, but I’ve noticed that a rather bright pink lipstick has made it into the repertoire, and I’ve had to tell her to tone it down – and ONLY for roller discos where the lights are low.

    I loathe it. It looks totally wrong on anyone under 15, and yet I want to pick my battles. There are more important things to fight with her about. Things that affect her health, or her actual safety, or her future work prospects. So I let some of it go. She is one of those in her class who wear more make up than others. Normally it’s gentle and natural, and it’s because she’s enjoyed experimenting. And currently she does take my advice when it’s too much. But I know there will come a time when the lipstick goes out in her bag and gets put on once I’m not there to criticise. I don’t want her to be one of those girls, but I sure as hell know that if I lay down the law, she absolutely will be. So it’s a fine line. And she’s 10. I’m hoping it’s just a phase…?

    And you so were not screaming by the way – I checked 😉

    1. I am with you on picking battles. I think my argument would be that the make-up is bad for her skin and therefore not necessary. But I’m not sure how well that’ll work when Flea’s actually bothered about this stuff.

  6. My 11 year old will pop on a bit of lipstick for the monthly disco which I’m fine with – it’s all part of the fun of dressing up for a special occasion. What I don’t like is that many secondary schools now allow kids to wear make up to school. If your friends are piling on the slap every day it makes it difficult to resist the urge to do the same, so that’s when the tyranny of the ‘beauty routine’ kicks in – so unnecessary, even at 12 or 13. So sad to see those lovely, fresh young faces caked in artificial products!

  7. I am struggling with this at the moment. My 7 year old daughter is desperate to wear make up, and I think she’s far too young, even for play and dress up. Yet her Grandfather has already bought her some kids makeup, and I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. I don’t wear makeup at all (well, apart from when I’m on stage), and I don’t feel at all comfortable with teaching her how to apply makeup at her age, but she keeps asking. I have no idea how to handle it.

  8. Woah, this is SUCH a minefield. I love your reasons for not linking to the article – it is so true that children shouldn’t be criticised for the decisions they make. And, for me, that sums up my ever changing views on this issue! I always said I would *never* let Ramona wear make up as a child… but I have come to love the idea that she is an autonomous being, and I want to support all the decisions she wants to make that are to do with her body. For me, a child needs to know that they and they alone are the boss of their body – this protects them massively against abuse.
    Ramona has recently expressed interest in my make up (like you, I wear very little, branching out into lippy mostly to help me think of an event as an “occasion”!!) but at the moment she is just as likely to put my lippy on her eye lids, and my eye liner all over her chin, and I am kind of okay with that.
    I think the biggest factor impacting our children’s self image (which for me is the heart of this matter!) is our own self-image. If we value inner beauty, they will too, if we are comfortable in our own skin our children will be comfortable in theirs – even if they have an eye liner beard scribbled on.
    Lots to think about- thank you! x

    1. I think I’d let Flea make whatever choice she makes, but I would feel terrible if she felt that she needed to wear make-up for “coverage” at such a tender age. SO hard to get this stuff right, though.

  9. Personally, being 10 myself, I feel concealer, foundation, mascara, lipstick and more absolutely ridiculous. Sure, I enjoy wearing make-up, but if it’s out shopping, I’d wear a subtle lipgloss, and if it was to a concert, or other special occasion, probably a brighter lipgloss/stick/stainer with a bit of mascara and subtle eyeshadow. But that’s only for occasions.

    This was an interesting post, and I feel that you should start wearing subtle make-up on rare occasions at 8 or 9, more full-on make-up at occasions at 10 or 11, and make-up more regularly at 12 -14.


  10. I commented on your FB post on this, but a routine like that at age 10? Flabbergasted. Do the school even allow that? Ours wouldn’t.

    I’m pleased and proud to have a “tomboy” – no interest in hair and make up and most of the time I have to convince her that a hair brush is a good thing. That said, she is a bit partial to a foot rub / massage from me which I don’t mind doing on occasion. Bit stinky to start with but a great excuse to cuddle up close.

  11. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog this morning – it has made my fairly miserable sick-day a little more pleasant! I too have a 9 year old, along with a nearly 7 year old and this issue terrifies me. Thankfully she’s not interested either and it helps that we live in the countryside and many of her girlfriends live on farms and care more about lambing that Mascara! But I anticipate that the time will arrive before long and I’m hoping to rely on that motherly gut-instinct when it does. What bothers me is the increasingly young age to which girls are feeling body conscious, which then naturally leads to a critique of their overall appearance including their lovely unique faces. I work with children and girls as young as five have been told at home that ‘their tummy’s are too fat’ and I wonder where the hope is for this generation unless we stand against this pressure to look ‘perfect’. Sorry for the rambling. Great post! Mrs C x

    1. Thanks Heather, I’m increasingly thinking about this as Flea gets older, although like you, we are still in the “unfussed” stage by and large, thank goodness!

  12. I’m 24 and have always loved makeup, I love the feeling of the brushes, and the artistry involved in applying it, even if I’m not the best makeup person ever. I find it really satisfying and I’m not gonna lie, it boosts my confidence a ton. I got my first nail polishes (the kids ones) when I was about 7 years old, and my first child’s makeup set shortly after. All my friends and I had them, we’d wear blue eyeshadow to the school discos with pink nail polish and body glitter dusted over our arms with a bit of blusher on our cheeks. It was brill.

    I went through a bit of a ‘just a dab of mascara and lipgloss’ faze from about 11-14, as my Dad didn’t like me wearing anything more (even now, at 24, he still looks at me in horror when I wear red lipstick and exclaims ‘What on earth do you have on your face!?’). But. I was bullied badly in secondary school, and ya know what, a lot of it was because the other girls wore makeup and I didn’t, I was different and I had pimples and I wasn’t ‘cool’ and therefore they had something to pick on (even though they all had pimples too – it’s just you couldn’t see them as much as they were hidden with makeup).

    Yes, we should be proud of who we are and how beautiful we are naturally, and not feel like we ‘have’ to wear makeup, but when you’re 13 and covered in pimples and you want to hide from everyone and not go to school because of it, and you’re not allowed a bit of foundation or concealer to make you feel a bit better, it really sucks. My nanny has always been obsessed with skincare and makeup, and one weekend when I was staying at hers she bought me my first concealer because I told her how miserable I was, and my confidence lifted so much after that.

    These days I hardly wear any makeup day-to-day while I’m at work, just mascara and eyeliner because I like to let my skin breathe, but when I go out and I have a ‘full face’ on, I feel so much more confident. I don’t know why, all I know is I’m doing it for me and no one else, and I think that’s the most important thing.

    I’m not a parent so I don’t know what it’s like to want to protect your child, but having been a child not so long ago, I still remember very clearly the pain of being bullied because of my looks and because I was different to the other girls. And when I am eventually a parent (touch wood!), I would be happy for my 13 year old daughter to wear a bit of foundation and mascara if she wanted to (however, if she tried to leave the house with an orange face or full-on black emo eyes, she would definitely have soap shoved on her face).

    When I moved to Australia at 16 it was such a relief, because out there no one really wears makeup at school – just a bit of mascara and light eyeliner. But out there pimples aren’t something to pick on someone for, out there they’re normal and everyone has such a different attitude to them. For the first time in my life I wasn’t bullied for my looks or pimples, because everyone understood that it was just puberty and almost everyone gets them!

    Totally agree with you that kids/teens shouldn’t be wearing *full on* makeup, but I think a bit of light foundation, concealer and mascara is absolutely fine!

    Anyway, sorry for the super long essay! 😉

    C x

  13. Im 10 by myself and i think foundation and concealer,maskara,eyeshadow,bronzer… are ridiculous to wear at age. Im 10 and cause i dont have clear skin,it has pimples and a bit of acne,i wear compact powder and mascara. For a special occasions i would add a bit of lipstick. Girl from my class for school wears foundation,compact powder,foundation,concealer and bronzer. Its iust too much!

  14. Well I am 11 and I wear make up every day just black eyeliner lip tint lip crayon and I am never pulled up .One girl in myclass once covered her face on concealer and foundation and loads of eye make-up. All the girls including me talked behind her back because all we wear is a not of not very visible eye make up and a bit of à snazzy lip.Our teacher pulled her up on it and she had to go home because she had no remover and the rules clearly sta.te that ” make up should not be visible” you should at least know how to be neutral before you were it

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