Tuesday, 2 October 2012


After the lovely comments from my last post about Competitive Success Syndrome I've decided to start a series called 'Let's Talk' which will go live once a week on Tuesday evening. I think it's good to write about and discuss things that we can all share an opinion on. Please be aware though that I have a strong policy in place that shows zero tolerance towards bullying and trolling which means that, whilst I am all for healthy debate, should I ever encounter a comment left on one of the posts in this series that is blatantly abusive towards myself or a reader I will delete it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but there is no need to bully or berate others. Thank you.

Anyway... Back to the article in hand.

image taken from candiebarbie.com

About 4 months ago, during that pleasant week of glorious sunshine we all enjoyed here in the UK, I took a wander into town with Dave to peruse some shops and grab some brunch. It was market day which in my town means that everyone comes out for a snoop around the stalls. I noticed, because of the academic summer holidays, that there were a lot of children about - and the amount of children wearing cosmetics was vast.

I saw a little girl that was streaked the colour of a satsuma. You know that colour - the colour of a fake tan that's gone horribly wrong. It wasn't the application of the tan that I was distraught at so much as the fact this child's mother had thought it was acceptable to fake-tan a kid that couldn't have been older than six years old. I saw little girls with make-up on too: blushed cheeks, frosted pink lips and lots of eye-shadow. There were evident mascara marks on one child that looked red-faced from a tantrum of tears. 

The question I'm asking today is: How young is 'too young' for make-up and cosmetics? Would you allow a child to wear make-up in public?

When I was a little girl I liked to play with make-up and I had my nails painted on occasional weekends but my step-mother would quickly smear a wipe across my face before she let me out in public. The nail varnish had to come off my tiny fingers on the Sunday nights before Primary School started the morning after. I was a child and therefore I should look one. I accepted this and never cried or demanded to wear it out of the house. 

In contrast to this my younger sister would bawl and scream if she looked like a 'Princess' (read 'mess' here but what adult is going to tell a 4 year old she looks like a clown in that blusher?) but was forced to take it off to go to the Supermarket. She would hide if the nail varnish remover came out of the bathroom. The tantrums are probably the reason my step-mother will no doubt have Tinnitus in her old age.

I'm facing 24 now but in the 1990s when I was a small child my step-mother would have been regarded as awful if she had let us out of the house with a full face (except to a party or something) so whats changed? 


My neighbour has a six year old I will call Rosie*. Rosie is a vivacious (boarding on endearingly cheeky) blonde haired, blue eyed little bundle of girliness. Everything is pink. Everything is Disney Princess. I don't think I have ever seen her out of her Belle (Beauty and The Beast) costume unless it's to go to school. She asked for make-up for her birthday because that's what her friends have apparently. I gave her jelly lollies and she wasn't impressed.

Eventually I passed over my set of Benefit Ticket To Glossytown Lip Glosses that I hadn't really used and she was ecstatic. I don't think her mum was overly impressed (more concerned about her sofa getting sticky than anything else) but Ruby was elated with them. Did I do the right thing? Or am I encouraging something I shouldn't be at her age? I haven't seen her wearing them yet though so maybe her mother won't allow her out of the house with it on.

On a quest to find out more about this subject I turned to a friend I will call Bob*. Bob works in a maximum security prison. He deals with murderers, rapists and, importantly for this post, pedophiles on a daily basis. He was a police officer for 15 years before changing his career for a job dealing with these kinds of people. 

'Some inmates have requested that their families tape or find images from children's beauty pageants to send to them. They may be fully clothed children - except for the swimwear parts - but they still get the same 'response' towards those images that they would from sites on the internet showing worse pictures... A lot of the guys talk about how much they like the make-up making the kids look older as it makes them feel they have a right to look at them as adults if these children have parents allowing them to dress and look like grown-ups. The images aren't allowed but some do sneak through - like everything else in the Prison System' He told me.

Although this post isn't about Child Beauty Pageants the principles still apply to those children walking about in public and on display for anyone to look at. Now that is a scary thought. 

Bob's opinion was that allowing a child to be seen in public wearing cosmetics is effectively a consent to allow pedophiles to look at them and groom them as it sexualizes them. This isn't my opinion but it has given me food for thought.


I took to Twitter to ask how old everyone was when they were allowed to start wearing make-up in public on a full time basis. The results were very varied. A lot of the responses said it was when they hit their teenage years (around 13-14 years old) that their parents thought it was acceptable or didn't put up a fight - usually to cover acne or blemishes more than make themselves more 'attractive' in general. A few said that they didn't really become interested in make-up until they hit their later teenage years (16 - 19).

I personally didn't really start to wear a full face of make-up every day until I was about 17/18. My sister, on the other hand, started to wear make-up all day every day from the age of 12/13. As my father put it rather accurately: 'She's looks like a shite Abba tribute act but what can I do? She will just slap it all back on in the loos at school.' He wasn't impressed but there was nothing he could do about it.

But are children being allowed to wear cosmetics at a lot younger age than we all were? I have a friend that sends her little boy to school with gel in his hair (god forbid you touch his hair either - I got screamed at and snotted over by him for going near it). Another friend allows her little girl a little bit of lipstick when the school has a non-uniform day. These kids are respectively 7 and 9. 


I asked my work colleague Rob, father to 18 month old Milly*, when he would allow his daughter to wear make-up. He said 14 but maybe a little younger than that if he felt she was responsible and wouldn't allow herself to get into 'trouble' with it. 

I asked Dave when he would let our (future) daughter wear make-up and he said 25. Dave said he doesn't like the idea of his future little princess being the subject of any male attention before she is old enough to be able to understand the world fully (I may have an up-hill battle on my hands in the future with this one).

Bob said although he didn't have any kids himself he wouldn't be keen on his (beautiful) 4 year old niece wearing make-up until she was 16 for the reasons that I quoted from him earlier.

I asked my dad about when he would have felt comfortable allowing me and my sister to wear make-up. The reply was as forthright as usual: 'I don't like it now but you're adults and can do what you want. I think it's normal for girls to want to wear it as teens because you get interested in idiots [by this he means boys/men] and it goes from there...' There was a lot of grumbling about my ex-boyfriends after this but I shall leave that for another post.


It's a hard question to answer in all honesty. There is no issue with children playing with make-up and cosmetics out of public sight in the safety of their own homes. Isn't that how we all started to understand make-up and learn to love it in the first place? Children naturally want to copy their parent's behaviour so if you use make-up everyday the chances are that your daughter will want to copy you. If your boyfriend/partner/husband styles his hair religiously then probability states that your son will copy and repeat too. This always starts at a young age as it's basic behavioural patterns at work - monkey see and most of the time monkey will do sort of thing.

I've found whilst I researched and talked to people about this topic that fathers are more likely to be strict about make-up and cosmetics whereas mothers are more lenient in their approach to the subject. I have also discovered that what I would call 'our' generation (15 - 30) are far more liberal about the topic and the idea of letting our children wear cosmetics than the generations before us were (30+).

Wearing cosmetics in public is a different matter entirely though - at least for me it is. Having taken into consideration what Bob said about the people he works with and thinking about the comments and input from friends and family in this post I would have to say that I am still not comfortable with children wearing make-up in public - at least until they are in their tweens. 

Is it really necessary to let a child of 6 years old wear cosmetics to the market or the shops? No. I don't think it is. Children are children  because they're young and youth is something that should be celebrated as long as possible - sans enhancements of any description.

I may be being old-fashioned here and I am sure there are plenty of people that will disagree with my opinion on this subject but I have tried to consider all factors when it comes to this topic. It's a great thing to instill a sense of pride in appearance in a child, teaching them to look after their skin and look their best - but to allow a child to wear make-up all the time outside of the house might just instill a sense of panic about how they actually look to strangers without make-up leading to low self-esteem and confidence issues.


A lot of fellow Tweeters said that the thought of young children wearing make-up disturbed them. There was a general agreement that playing with make-up and dressing up in costumes was one thing but that a full face of make-up was another entirely - and that false nails were not acceptable either. Not only that there was expressed concern for the well being of the child's skin as well because chemicals designed for maturer skin would and can damage younger epidermises.

Nail varnish seemed to receive a neutral standing - deemed as 'cute' but not overly offensive or worrying.

There was a massive call for an 'education' regarding make-up - parents teaching and telling children when it should be appropriate to wear make-up and when it isn't as well as a general disgust for the media allowing children to be exposed to celebrities and programs (Toddlers and Tiaras actually make me sick) that endorse cosmetics and, frighteningly, represent what children deem to be acceptable for their age. It also allows adults to believe that their action of allowing a child to wear cosmetics is justified as other parents are doing similar things.

I'd like to thank everyone that took part in this discussion on Twitter. I wish I could quote you all but there was so much response that it would have been near impossible for me to incorporate you all into this post without it being massive. There was one quote that summed it all up though and I would like to thank Sal from Petite Sal for saying it:

Children should be children - play with Barbie, not be Barbie.

And as for fake-tanning a child? That deserves a massive slap and I'm not the only one that thinks so.

*Names of some of the people mentioned in this post have been changed. I can't dictate who may or may not read this blog as the internet is such a vast space therefore they have had their identities changed for protective purposes.

If you feel like you would like to contribute in some way to the topic or share your opinion on this issue please feel free to contact me on Twitter at @Superfluous_B or email me at thebeautyswatch@gmail.com. If you wish to remain anonymous should I chose to use any of your opinions or quotes in the post please let me know during your contact. Thank you.


  1. I really like these series and this is a really great topic!
    I wore makeup at 16, only clear lipgloss and eyeliner in my waterline (which is a cultural thing as I use natural Kohl which is good for your eyes)
    but the fake tan thing -__- are people serious?!
    Hareem xx

    1. Thank you very much :) Unfortunately I am serious about seeing a kid in fake-tan and I wasn't impressed. I think teenage make-up is fine but I think children in make-up is appalling! xxx

  2. The thing is with children trying out make-up too, is that you know they're going to pile it on, use the brightest colours possible because they're playing with it. Obviously a mother shouldn't allow a child of 6 to go out like that. I'm pretty sure if i had caked on so much make up that I looked like a clown my mum wouldn't allow me out either and I'm 23! x

    1. I don't think my dad is happy whether I look natural or cake it on but you do have a point there - they do tend to go for the really bright colours, don't they? xxx

  3. Another great post Helen, I used to play dress up with my cousin at my Gran's all the time but I never left the house with a full face of make-up! I started wearing tinted moisturiser when I was 13/14 to cover blemishes. If I ever have a daughter I will definitely be teaching her that she doesn't need a full face of make-up, I think ever mother should do that too!

    1. Thank you very much :) I will be doing the same thing as you with my daughter - I hope that everyone does to be honest :) xxx

  4. Kids need to be kids. If they grow up too fast they're never going to be able to re-visit their youth, they need to enjoy it while they can. Lots of people wore make-up at school from the age of 12 onwards (that I noticed), and I thought it was really unnecessary. I didn't really start wearing make-up until I was about 18 and started going clubbing. I think it's very important that young people don't develop the mentality that make-up is their 'mask' and they're not pretty enough to leave the house without it. I certainly will be discouraging any future children of mine from wearing make-up for as long as possible! x

    1. I do agree with you about that - a lot of girls younger than us don't think they look good enough without make-up for any situation! I think a natural and healthy interest as a teen is healthy but like you, I won't be encouraging it further! xxx

  5. I wanted to wear makeup from about the age of ten only because I wanted to be creative not grown up if that makes sense. I started painting my nails dark red and black because I was into the punk look and by the time I got to high school 13/14 I was wearing dark eyeliner and purple lipstick.

    I think my mom had more of an issue with my wild hairstyles than my makeup, I had my hair really short and bleached and then one summer I had a mohican with the sides full shaved off and I fooking loved it! My dad used to help me bleach my hair and my cousin helped me do my mohican really high. My mom on the other hand used to say I would scare the neighbours lol!

    I think nail polish and lip balm are fairly innocent but when you get into things like mascara and fake tan it just looks stupid on a child.

  6. I think this is a really interesting point you bring about here. I actually came across this post because of research I'm conducting for a documentary I am currently working on. At the moment I'm focusing quite a lot on childhood, and how the influences that we have from a young age affect us for the rest of our lives. In a society which is currently so focused on the objectification and the sexualization of women, I cannot see how allowing a child to wear make-up would be a good idea. Of course, for dress-up purposes, make-up is just another way for a child to play and have fun. I certainly remember having my face painted like a tiger countless times when I was younger, and I loved it! However it comes to a point where make-up at a young age can cause children to become self-destructive. After all, if you're told your whole life that you absolutely need a certain thing to be attractive and desirable, you're going to latch on to that thing. Teaching young girls that make-up is essential in their lives could one day cause them a lot of harm- confidence issues, low self esteem and negative body image. In later life girls will believe that there is a constant need for them to change the way they look because they will believe that their natural selves are just not good enough.

    And I understand that a lot of girls do feel the pressure to be perfect and flawless and fit society's ideal of beauty, but forcing them into such an appearance-based culture from such a young age is, in my opinion, definitely not a good idea, and will make things ten times worse for them as they grow up. I believe that we should teach young girls that they are beautiful just the way they are, and that true beauty is found within. We should educate them and teach them to aim high, rather than enforcing onto them a life which revolves around exterior appearances. Perhaps then girls would have less problems as they grow up and develop as people, and be able to live a more contented life where they can love themselves just the way they are.

    And the fake tan thing, don't even get me started on that...


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