Posted by: canthold | December 12, 2007

Is Makeup Harmless?

Number six on my oldest daughter’s Christmas list is real live lipstick. She’s not content with Chapstick or lip balm, she wants the fully saturated color of grown-up lipstick.

She’s not getting it.

I think that I’m a pretty liberal parent, but there are a few things on which I stick to my guns. I’m against caffeine for kids. They don’t need it. I don’t need to deal with them on it. And the only place they would get it is in soft drinks and there’s way too much sugar for them to drink those – I push water. (They love cream soda and root beer, but I blame my husband for that.) Another thing I have been standing firm on is no sleep-overs. I’m not ready for what is possible there, I’ll leave it at that. And lastly, no makeup.

Today, possibly as a result of the Christmas request, a little boy in my daughter’s class (a crush?) gave her some lipstick as a present. I saw the transaction when I was in the classroom volunteering. When it happened, I told them both that my daughter was not allowed to have it. After school, I asked the boy’s mom if she knew he was giving it away. It could have been pilfered from her purse for all I know. She didn’t know, but it came out in the conversation that it had been the boy’s to play with, and not something she wore. It was bright magenta when it went on, even though it looked brown on the outside.

I gave the other mom back the lipstick and told her that my daughter wasn’t allowed to wear makeup. My daughter became very upset and cried. I’m sure that taking away the gift from her special friend was part of it, but also she coveted the forbidden treasure. The other mom made light of the issue as if I were being too hard-core. She implied that I was fighting a losing battle on this one. I walked away scratching my head – was I? But after thinking about it, I decided that I feel what I feel and I’m not going to cave in on peer pressure of my own.

The thing that I realized when we got home was that the makeup meant different things to my daughter and I. She looks at it like a simple beauty product and she’s just about looking pretty. It’s unknown and forbidden and it’s possible she’d lose interest if I let her have it liberally. But maybe not.

I look at makeup as a tool to make a young girl look more like a grown up. What do girls want to look more grown up for? Boys. What do girls and boys eventually do together when they grow up? Have sex. Okay, that’s extreme, but that’s what I’m getting at here. My six-year-old is not about to have sex, but she’s emulating a look that is way beyond her maturity level.

Take the Bratz dolls. I could never figure out who was buying these things. None of my friends would ever let their girls play with them, let alone own them, nor would I. Come to find out, girls in my daughter’s class have them. My daughter just might be the only one not to have any. But just look at them. They are all very sexy. Who are they marketing these to? What age group is this appropriate for? The girls that are old enough for them are not playing with dolls anymore. The girls that are playing with dolls don’t need to have sexy vixens with come hither clothes. That can’t be healthy.

I’m specifically picking on Bratz because the lips very prominently display shiny lipstick. I know that they advertise the dolls on Nickelodeon, where my kids watch Spongebob Squarepants, a show my husband and I love, too. It can’t be that she wants to be like me. I don’t wear lipstick.

My aversion to some makeup (I only use eyeliner and mascara) has to do with the chemicals. I used to wear nail polish to keep from biting my nails, but it didn’t work. I realized how much junk I must be ingesting in that process. Besides, have you even bitten your nails after removing nail polish? That’s the worst. Also, given the efficiency through which your skin absorbs things, patches have become more popular as a medicinal distribution method. (Forget to take The Pill? Get the patch!) Think about the 50 chemicals in the hand lotion you use or foundation.

Think about the lead in your lipstick.

That’s right. Some dark lipsticks have an unsafe level of lead in them. How likely is it that my six-year-old is not going to ingest lipstick while she’s playing around. Her young mind is too brilliant to waste. But I digress… (Though you can read more here.)

I want to be the parent that guides my child into adulthood with the right tools and morals and strength to live fully. That includes setting boundaries and protecting her from the world until she’s ready to learn to protect herself. That fine line between being over-protective and just-protective-enough isn’t blurry to me when it comes to the premature sexualization of my daughters. But for all I associate with makeup, is it really just harmless fun?



  1. This is spot on. I hope you don’t mind I’m linking back to it!

  2. This is a very thought-provoking post. I don’t wear make-up on a daily basis because I just can’t be bothered with the fuss. My girls have never asked to wear make-up, probably because they don’t see it around all that often. But what would I do if they wanted some to play with? I’m just not sure. I know their grandmother (my m-i-l) would willingly fork over stuff to play with, but I don’t think I would. At ages 7 and 4 3/4, they’re just too young to play with that stuff.

    We also don’t have any of the Bratz dolls or Barbies here. I disagree with the messages they send, and I loathe cheap plastic crap floating around the house.

    I guess this is a long way around to saying that you’re not being over protective. Or if you are, then so am I.

  3. My girls have a makeup chest, that is a part of their pretend play (I’m much more Montessori than I admit). I’m crazy aware of the chemical issues, but it is something I allow.

    They aren’t allowed to pull it down often, because every stitch has to be off if we are going anywhere. It is just like everything else in their “dress up bin.” It’s not for the grocery store or church or even the front yard. Of course, my ten-year-old still enjoys painting much of her entire FACE, so it always turns into something more like a tribal custom, than a desire to be grown-up. She’s more obsessed with getting boobs right now – I’d much more prefer a desire to wear lip gloss. ugh.

    Granted, we educate at home, and I have a tremendous amount of time with and influence over my kids. While they are still faced with the temptation of commercials and their friends at outside activities, I see first-hand the influences that their friends face all day – every day.

    I think one of the greatest lessons you can teach your kids is that every parent is different, and every home has different rules and guidelines … and they are to follow the guidelines set by their parents – knowing and understanding that they are set out of pure, passionate love. “I give you limits because I’m CRAZY about you!”

    Let me know if you hit on the whole “training bra” subject. I mean – really – what is a training bra? There’s nothing there to “train” yet!?!?!

  4. Thanks for participating in this week’s Carnival of Family Life, hosted at Adventures in Juggling. Stop by and read the other wonderful entries!

  5. […] parenting soap box and makes what might seem to some to be an unpopular choice for her daughter in Is Makeup Harmless? But she is the mom, so she gets to decide what is best for her young daughter, even if it might […]

  6. Great post. I wholeheartedly agree with you. NO reason a 6 yr old needs to be wearing lipstick or any other sort of makeup. (Chapstick is ok)
    Heck, my dd is 13 and the only time she wears any make up at all is if she is in a show.
    I wish there were more parents like you (and me) who are willing to stand up and fight for our kids.

  7. I totally agree on the lipstick thing. If lipstick is allowed now, what will be expected in 3 years and 4 and so on? I allow my girls to play in make up at home, but just like was mentioned, absolutely not if we go somewhere. (with the exception of lip smackers). No sleepovers? I hope you aren’t asking for rebellion at some point… There’s a fine line between enforcing appropriate behaviors and family idiology, and hiding from our kids the ‘possible’ avenues of learning something that goes against our family idiology. My 7 yo enjoys sleepovers which consist of crafts, games, high school musical and lights out at 10.

  8. The no sleepovers things is because I have heard of several instances now where girls were molested by fathers during the night. Most were cases where the families knew each other for a long period of time, too. I have heard of the “almost overs” where the kids hang out and get into their pjs and stay up late with the parent coming to pick them up between 9 and 11pm. I’d do that. I’d like them to have the fun, but not put them in harms way. I might be going against the grain, but I’m not ready for that yet.

  9. […] Carol presents a fantastic post on the marketing tactics used by companies called Is Makeup Harmless? […]

  10. Here’s a sad twist on this debate … What about a father, like me, who agrees whole-heartedly on a daughter not wearing makeup, solely for the development of a positive self image, however my wife (and daughter’s mother) disagrees with this and enjoys the Barbie mindset and puts lipstick and nail paints on our 3-yr-old (who, incidentally, just told me that girls wear makeup to look pretty). What’s a Dad to do?

  11. I know exactly what you are going through. I could write a book about co-parenting with a spouse who has entirely different views. It’s making me crazy.

    I was referred to the book: When Parents Disagree and What to do About it, by Ron Taffel. I just ordered it, so I cannot attest to it’s worth, but it received good ratings on Amazon.

    Outside of that, I would just pick your battles and make sure that your daughters know that you think they’re beautiful on the inside and out without any help from beauty supplies.

    Good luck.

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