Make-up and your teen

Most mums (and many dads) will have at least one photograph, story, or memory of themselves, aged between three and six years, wearing mum’s high heels and a dress, with make-up all over their face. Little girls (and some boys) love to be just like their mum. Make up presents the opportunity to look and feel grown up more than anything. Plus, it’s so fun to play with! From lipstick and mascara to foundations and blush, little children love their mum’s make-up.

Sometime around the age of five to seven years, many girls will become particularly enthusiastic, and by the time they’re tweens or in their early teens, make-up will be de rigueur for many.  For most boys, this interest in painting their faces with expensive product dies off around the age of about three or four. It is very rare that boys will have any desires to wear make-up by age eight or nine. When it does happen, such circumstances can be complicated, so this article will only focus on girls.

Many parents are naturally concerned about their little girls wearing make-up for the following three reasons:

  • First, many parents feel that their children wearing make-up may make them ‘grow up’ too soon. Parents justifiably want their children to be little for just a short while longer.
  • Second, parents want their children to feel beautiful without make-up, and not feel as though they need to hide behind a wall of product on their faces.
  • Lastly, issues related to child sexualisation have become increasingly substantial. If they start on make-up young, some parents may be concerned that their children may start on other behaviours at too young an age as well.

At what age is it appropriate for girls to start wearing make-up? And what should they be wearing?

When is it ok to wear make-up?

This is not a question that any ‘expert’ can answer. The simplest reason is because ‘it depends’. It depends on you and your values. It depends on where your daughter is going, and why she is wearing the make-up. The reasons for your daughter wanting to wear the make-up also matter. The most important thing is to ensure that you do not make wearing make-up a source of conflict. This will only serve to push the issue underground and create rebellion when you are not around.

Talking about your values and setting limits together.

You may decide that your daughter can use your make-up anytime so long as you are at home. Or you may have a pamper night with her friends when they can all play make-up artist at home where you feel comfortable with their experimenting. You may feel completely at ease with your daughter wearing make-up whenever she wants to.

How much make-up is ok?

Again, this is something that parents and daughters can decide together. It can be fun to experiment with different kinds of make-up, and different amounts. Take photos and review them a few days after your experimentation. Viewing the photos a few days later can dramatically affect the perception your daughter will have of how she really looks, and can provide powerful teaching opportunities.

Introduce it slowly

If you are a parent who is concerned about your child starting on make-up too young, starting slowly may keep everyone satisfied. If your nine year-old wants to wear lipstick, give her a basic lip gloss with a strawberry flavour and scent. When your eleven year-old wants to get made up, offer a nicer quality lip gloss that looks like it is a little more mature. Provide clear mascara for a twelve year old rather than a fancy black mascara that adds volume and texture. Keep it simple, introduce it slowly, and make it fun and adventurous.

Establish rules together

Decide together on what is appropriate and when. Is it ok to wear make-up to school? To sports activities? To birthday parties? Having conversations ahead of time will reduce conflict when you are in a hurry and Miss 13 decides she needs to re-do her face.

Talk about it

More than anything, keep the lines of communication open. Rather than making make-up a taboo, make it fun, but within boundaries that you feel good about.

For our daughters, make-up can be symbolic of a much bigger transition from a little girl to a young woman. Allow independence but in a way that you can both enjoy the transition, and grow together.

This article was written for Kidspot by Justin Coulson, Ph. D. Justin is a relationships and parenting expert, author and father of five children. Find him at


  1. dawnblyth 02/06/2019 at 9:39 pm

    I have two boys so make up isn’t a thought in our house – apart from Mr 4 wanting to join in when “Mum gets pretty”. I think if I was to have a young girl, I think make up should be use sparingly in quantity and time used.

  2. candyjanenz 02/06/2019 at 3:51 pm

    I remember the pretend make up I think it was called jelly bean and it was perfume balm and almost clear lipstick. It was not so much about what it looked like on but more pretend play which was fun. Now being a mum there is not much time for make up.

  3. kymmage 02/06/2019 at 12:01 pm

    I worry about what is in the make up and if its okay for their skin as well. I don’t wear much make up at all. My eldest has zero interest in it but she use to like putting eye shadow and blush on. I was worried at the time about why she wanted it. But we talked it out. She has always had some body image issues, that are super hard to work through. My youngest doesn’t have access to make up at this point just because I don’t have any.

  4. Alezandra 29/05/2019 at 10:33 pm

    I like it that this is written by a father and talking about make-up. I would love to have this article handy if we have a daughter.

  5. Mands1980 29/05/2019 at 1:46 pm

    I have never really worn much make up at all. My daughter for her last birthday wanted make up so I just got her a basic kit from the chemist with lip gloss, eye shadows etc she was happy with this as she turned 10. From a young age she has wanted lip stick and to decorate her face for fun.

  6. Shorrty4life1 28/05/2019 at 7:46 pm

    I myself can’t stand make up. I hate being caked up in make up worried mascara or eye liner might smudge or my makeup is wrong colour and I walk out looking like Casper. I prefer to go without and just be the real me. I got nothing to hide. My 8 year old would wear make up if she could she sneaks it at grandma’s because she can’t from me with none here lol. Kids love experimenting with that sort of thing and I’m cool with that.

  7. Micht 28/05/2019 at 5:04 pm

    I started wearing makeup at age 18… yes i tried to experiment with my mums makeup but mostly got pretend plastic things to play with…it was understood that i was too young for it…and i accepted that…my girls like playing with mine, they are aged 6 and 3…but i dont encourage it much and so they do lose interest too… when they are old enough i will probably shop with them for the basics..

  8. Bevik1971 28/05/2019 at 4:23 pm

    My daughter is 6 and has shown interest in makeup – I wear makeup every day, mainly due to having burn scarring on my face so of course she see’s that I wear it. She doesn’t have play makeup and I certainly don’t want her putting chemicals on her face. I have mainly Organic makeup so if she wants to wear some blush or something then that’s ok but only around the house. We will talk more about makeup when she’s a bit older

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