SmackDown: Would You Let Your Tween Wear Makeup?

Filed under: Opinions, Tween Culture

tween makeup picture

Is there anything wrong with a little bit of lip gloss? Illustration by Dori Hartley

Forget the Face Paint and Let Kids Be Kids

by Amy Hatch

When I was in sixth grade, I was pretty tight with two other girls.

These girls were more sophisticated than I was at the time, and I remember very distinctly the day that one of them came to school sporting purple eye shadow. She whipped out the compact it came in, and flashed it to me and our other pal under her desk during reading class.

Two weeks later found me sobbing my eyes out, my head in my mother's lap, as I wailed out my anger and frustration about not being allowed to wear makeup yet. I was only 12 years old, and it was forbidden.

The two girls in question left me in the dust of baby-blue and purple sparkling powder, and I never quite forgot the betrayal.

So when I saw that Walmart is marketing a cosmetics line targeted to girls ages 8-12, I shuddered with horror -- because I can tell you right now, no 8-year-old of mine is ever going to be swiping shadow over her lids in reading class.

It seems counterintuitive to say that after my sad tale. But the ending of the story is that the two girls I wanted so badly to fit in with ran with a fast crowd all through middle school, junior high and high school.

Looking back, their antics were pretty tame, but their crowd wasn't right for me -- and my mother knew that, because she knew me.

A little lip gloss here and there isn't going to lead to a life of pole dancing. But our society has girls on an accelerated path toward adulthood. Don't believe me? Two words: Lindsay Lohan.

Or how about Miley Cyrus, just voted the worst celebrity influence in a poll conducted by ParentDish sister site, JSYK. Cyrus went from wholesome giggles as the star of "Hannah Montana" to taking bong hits.

My kid isn't a child star, but she does live in a world where children are hyper-sexualized. If you don't believe me, take a stroll through the mall one of these days and check out the skinny jeans in size 2T. Or the thongs for 12-year-olds.

And now, the makeup.

Kids should be allowed to be kids. Girls have a lifetime ahead of them of trying to meet an unnatural standard of beauty. They are bombarded with images that tell them that they aren't good enough, pretty enough or skinny enough.

Do we really want our 8-year-olds spending their time primping in front of a mirror with mascara and rouge?

What will they be doing when they're actual teenagers? Oh, wait, I know -- they'll be getting plastic surgery.

This is the absolute wrong message to send to our girls. My mother knew it way back in 1984, and I know it today.

Lip Gloss Doesn't Turn You Into a Lolita

by Lesley Kennedy

Growing up, I was definitely more tomboy than princess. I spent my tween-age summers at basketball camps, playing softball, roller skating and taking part in some seriously competitive neighborhood games of kick-the-can.

Still, around the age of 12, I began to develop an interest in the girlie side of life. I got subscriptions to Teen and Seventeen magazines. I talked my mom into buying me a crimping iron. And, for the first time, I bought makeup. Specifically, Bonne Bell Lip Smackers and blue eyeshadow.

And, (gulp!) 25 years since I bought that blue eyeshadow, tweens still want to wear makeup. Just look at all the brands aimed at the tween market. Starting in February, Walmart is set to launch GeoGirl, a 69-item collection, including everything from blush and mascara to lipstick and face shimmer. The mega-retailer already carries several other lines geared for tweens -- Disney Princesses, Lip Smackers, Lotta Luv, FAB Beauty and Crayola.

I'm fine with that.

When I was a tween, I couldn't wait to get home and get that blue shadow on my lids. Of course, I looked ridiculous. But you know what? Wearing it didn't make me a 12-year-old wine cooler-swilling tramp. It didn't make me feel like I was trying to be a mini-me of my then-idol, Olivia Newton-John. It didn't mean I was going to quit playing sports or caring about school or start dressing like a hair metal groupie.

It just meant I liked wearing makeup.

Now, with two daughters of my own, I don't freak out or panic when my girls want to play with makeup.

And, in a few years, when they're tweens and start to really get interested in wearing a swipe of lipgloss here or a swirl of blush there, I won't deny them.

Critics spout that allowing girls to wear makeup is terrible for their self-esteem. That it creates little Lolitas. That it sends "the wrong message."

I say, relax. Makeup, especially when you're a kid, is just fun.

Perhaps most of all, it's fun to pretend you're like your mom, taking part in her glamorous ritual. I will always joyfully remember moments spent watching my mother prep for an evening out, sitting at her vanity, when she would paint my own lips in the same color she used on herself.

Just because I will allow my daughters to wear lipgloss -- or even blue eyeshadow if they insist -- doesn't mean they'll immediately start painting their faces like child beauty pageant contestants, drag queens or circus clowns.

Teaching them a couple tricks -- and not acting like there's a huge stigma attached to makeup -- will keep them from going crazy with it.

And, maybe, with a little guidance, instead of sneaking makeup behind my back, we'll take a trip to Sephora together that will end up with my kids spending their allowances on sweet, root beer-flavored Lip Smackers and crazy nail polishes.

And less on blue eyeshadow.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.
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