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  • Jen Dunlap

Girls and Makeup

Updated: Feb 17, 2019

Makeup, shaving legs, high heels - these are the minor rituals of womanhood, and as such, many moms want to discourage girls from exploring them "too young". My mom had ages in mind for earrings (12) and makeup (high school for special occasions), just as she had ages in mind for dating. The problem was that by the time we reached these ages, I was pretty confirmed in my oblivion to fashion, and my stylish sister had been chomping at the bit for years.

Most girls naturally desire to be pretty, even the toddler who shows off her new twirly skirt. This is the feminine drive to find or make beauty that is such a blessing later to a woman's life, whether she lives alone or nurtures a family.

I started wearing moisturizer with sunscreen in college, and sometimes mascara; then mascara reliably as a young mom, and makeup on occasion. My daughters in diapers watched me and asked to wear some, and I'd put a touch of mascara on an eyelash. I let them experiment and wiped up their eyes, and one day saw black streaks running down my 4-year-old's face in the pool. It took me a second to realize she'd had mascara on all day and I hadn't even noticed, she was that good.

This particular child behaved far better in church when she was dressed up, perhaps because she's slow to transition between activities, and the process gave her plenty of time. She also had the coordination to walk in heels without hurting herself, so she wore low heels, "fancy" dresses, and sometimes makeup to church long before puberty. She's 12 now, and has scaled back her routine to just washing her face and curling her eyelashes, which are long enough to show without mascara.

Another daughter started wearing makeup around 10 or 11, watching videos about contouring and shading, and approaching it with the artist's eye. She did the full face for a while, and then scaled it back to just mascara and lip gloss, and we told her we liked seeing her freckles. She's 14 and plenty to do with high school so that she's not agonizing about her looks.

When they asked about shaving their legs, I said, "Whenever you want to. Just so you know, the hair will get a little thicker, and then you'll have to deal with stubble or keep it up." They chose to start between 10 and 12, and it seems they keep it up, but they' re blond, so it's not very noticeable either way.

So far, so good. I really didn't want to make makeup, shaving and heels into big things, and I think starting early put these tools in perspective. They could feel pretty and have a sense for the time investment, and figure out what was important to them, before they got into the body changes and the bit of self-consciousness that comes with puberty.

A couple of moms I've met have handled it this way and report similar results. Perhaps it worked, like many parenting decisions, because it made sense to me. If it makes sense to you, maybe it's worth considering.


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©2018 by Jennifer Dunlap