First. things. first. NOBODY needs to wear make-up. Nobody. It does not mean you are a more valid or respectable or attractive human being if you wear it and if someone tells you different then you have my permission to head-butt them. Okay maybe not, no violence. But it's true.
Despite not needing it to survive, a lot of people do wear make-up and for many different reasons. Women often wear it so they feel more ready for the day, more 'put-together'; it's the war paint, the face we show the world. It's partly ritual too. If I am going on a night out that is part of the routine. For many people, including myself, it's fun. It's creative and enjoyable to paint your face and make it look how you want that day. I covet certain make-up items for their beauty and ability to brighten up my face and my day, I get excited by certain lipsticks and eye shadow palettes. I love the different finishes and the myriad of colours available. And I don't ever, not once, give a flying monkey's bum what anyone else thinks of my make-up. I don't care what anyone else says 'suits' me or thinks is inappropriate. Unless I am working, then I conform, or don't wear it at all, girls gotta earn.
Now we have the purpose of make-up all straightened out, is it okay to put it on a child? Well, allergies aside, why not? I don't wear it because I feel like I must to look nice, pretty, sexy, beautiful, presentable, not tired, not hideous. I wear it because I feel like it that day and I enjoy it. So why can't kids put make-up on for fun, if they choose too. My almost two-year-old son already loves watching me put my make-up on and touching anything I'll let him get his hands on. He loves how the brushes feel on his skin and copying what his mummy does by putting blusher on his cheek. Why should that be any different for a little girl too? So long as you are not telling them it makes them look pretty (as that implies prettier) then what's the harm? Emphasise the fun and creativity of it and you can't go wrong. Let them experiment as they grow up, whether boy or girl, and if they are in no way interested in it then don't tell them they need it. Because they don't.
The real problem with make-up comes when we say things like "Mummy needs to put her face on" or "I can't go out like this!" or "I need it to make me look nice". We all feel that way sometimes but, in our current pressure cooker of a society, our little girls (especially) don't need another person telling them that they need make-up to be respected and liked. They need to know that their face is fine and that how they look is irrelevant in most circumstances. If you emphasise how you look to your kids they will think how they look is really important too. It's no good spouting off self-loathing diatribes about being fat and ugly then telling them they don't need diets or make-up. That doesn't make sense to young, growing minds. Be the best example of loving yourself and they will love themselves too. Make-up is not evil. The patriarchal society that tells girls they must be attractive to be valid is evil.
The history of make-up might relate to make-up making women appear more sexually attractive but it doesn't need to mean that now. It can just be fun, like dressing up. We need to get away from the idea that women must attract men to have a full and worthwhile life. That starts with make-up, wear it, don't wear it. It doesn't matter. But don't tell kids that it's a grown-up thing because then that automatically links it to sex, which is ridiculous. It's a vicious cycle that many teenage girls find distressing: wear make-up-attract-boys-be-validated-sleep-with-boy-be-vilified. They don't need boys or make-up and linking one to the other is damaging. We need to tell our children that wearing make-up does not make you more or less likely to attract a mate and there are more important things to worry about that attracting a mate any way.
To conclude, there is no 'right age' to start wearing make-up because it is for frivolity, creativity and amusement - not to make yourself attractive to the opposite sex.*
Fem Love - Danielle
*Very hetero-normative, but that seems to be where the problem is
What do you think? Do you let your child put on make-up? Do you think there is a 'right age'?
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He also likes to try on my shoes - so cute!