Monday, January 21, 2013

International Debate - Teenage make-up

My oldest and youngest during this past Holiday break!  
When to start?  How much is appropriate?

A picture taken just a few years ago...they change so fast!

Good morning,
I'm going to digress a bit for this post - instead of lovely images of life in France....I'm instead going to speak about a debate that is presenting fueling in my household - I'm sure it's not an uncommon one - but as a mother of girls - it's inevitable - It's all about teenage make up!  Yes, as a proud parent of an almost twelve year old (her birthday is in 4 days!), we have constant conversations about make up - can she wear it?  Where? When and how much?  Now, she is my oldest and of course the first recipient of the strictest parental rules...As she affectionately said to her younger sisters, you know, that you will be able to wear make up before  me, as mama & papa will be use to it by then.  She gave the example of having to wear an apron at the dinner table as her napkin until she was seven, where as her younger sisters didn't have the same rule.  Yes, she is right, we do mellow with age.  But, my first born is growing up - now it's make up, soon it will be boys etc...I feel like we are entering a new zone here.

Taken a few years ago, again they change so quickly!

As a parent, I find it a constant challenge to reflect on my childhood and think about when I started doing things and also trying to fit our views into this new generation.  I know I never wore a lot of make up - I do remember experimenting with some in early high school around 9th grade.  (Actually, I remember more, my father telling me at the breakfast table that I had too much blue eye shadow on and I needed to take it off before school!)  I also know I adopted make-up gradually - starting with lip gloss, blush, eye liner, eye shadow - my friends also used mascara early on...but it was gradual.  I also remember the fond or not so fond memories of trying mascara myself.  At the time, I didn't understand exactly why girls needed it.  I have beautiful long dark eye lashes that never needed mascara - when I would experiment at a friends house, I would end up looking like a clown.  It took me a long time to understand that my eye lashes were great naturally and not everyone had ones like mine.  My daughters have also inherited my long dark lashes, which I have begun to tell them, it's a good thing!

So back to the household debate.  Before having kids, I would have said, start wearing make up in high school.  After all, I worked for 18 years in a high school and even the youngest students in 9th grade wore some make up.  But what's appropriate in middle school?  It is 6th grade, 7th grade or 8th grade when they should be allowed to don on some make up?  Is it too early?  What's appropriate?

I knew even in 5th grade when we were living in the States some girls were beginning to wear a bit of lip gloss and even some had eye liner on.  Now, my personal opinion is that's a bit early.  Lucky for us, when we arrived in France, and my daughter started 5th grade here, that was never a conversation - girls in 5th grade just didn't wear anything.  (Sigh of relief here!).

Fast forward to this year, the big entrance into Middle School (or College as it's called in France).  Things change here, my little girl was no long a little girl, she was allowed more responsibilities and allowed to go off with friends alone walking, she has even ridden her bike to the bread store to get bread for us.  It's all about teaching responsibility. She was given her first cell phone this Fall.  So the first week of school, she comes home with "I want to wear make up, everyone does in College!".  Well, we did translate the "everyone" down to a lot of girls wear it, mostly in 7th and 8th.  However, some 6th graders are beginning to experiment with mascara and eye liner.  So what is the right age?

The new cell phone!!

I'm a believer in educating and discussing. I try not to jump right in my answer before looking around a bit.  I also believe that for teens, make up can be a gradual thing...start slow, little by little.  Is a little light lip gloss so wrong now?  I believe if you totally forbid it without any discussion, girls may just go into the bathrooms before school and put on "forbidden" make up.  I certainly remember seeing some of my friends do that in high school.  Girls that came from extremely conservative families.  I don't want to go that route.  But I also don't think a fully made up face at age 12 & 13 is also appropriate.  There has to be some middle ground here.

Yes, she has perfected the art of rip-sticking and texting at the same time!

Now the debate in our household is the obvious one, young almost 12 year old wants to wear some make up, I'm biding my time until I get more information and her father says "No way", she is too young, end of discussion. It's fair to say we both don't want her to look cheap.  I've try to tell her make up is to enhance her look - naturally not put a face on.  We due let her experiment a little at home, when she's staying home - I think it's our way of compromising a bit and also monitoring how much she uses.

When I say, I'm biding my time, I'm actually doing research, as I look around at her friends, I check to see who is wearing make up and how much.  So far the results are extremely varied - some friends do, some don't.  I've also seen some girls who are already 12 & 13 wear make up and they look pretty natural and not over done.  I have also seen the opposite with too much eye pencil and mascara.  Raccoon eyes or smokey eyes do not look good on young teenagers!  The results also seem pretty similar culturally - I have seen photos of friend's teenage children in the States, and looked around here in France - I don't think it matters where one lives it's still a discussion.

So, I would love any comments and advice on when "teenagers" should start wearing make up and how much?  Do you have a teenage daughter?  Does she where make up?  How old was she when she started?  Did she start gradually or discuss and let here decide?  They grow up so fast!

Take over holiday break - Youngest and Oldest!


  1. Lauren started wearing lip gloss and eyeliner and mascara around 11 or 12 and thankfully has been very tasteful with it and doesn't over do it. She looks beautiful. She also has very long eyelashes (her fathers side) but the eye makeup looks gorgeous on them. She is very conservative in nature anyway. She ventures into eye shadow on special occasions but rarely. Just have her start and tell her when it is too much. Lauren is now 13. 14 in July. Makeup exists but is a non issue mostly because she uses it well.

    1. Thank you for your advice, always nice to here from you and it's helpful to have a friend with an "older" daughter as it's reassuring to know how others have ventured down this path.

  2. My daughter in 3éme (9th grade) has the right to wear make-up. So far, she just puts on a little liner and mascara. My daughter in 5ème (7th grade) has to wait until next year to wear make-up to school but when she goes to parties, she can wear a little.

    1. So nice to hear from you Meredith. It's great to get the French perspective...hope all is going well with you.

  3. I'm responding as the mom of a nine year old who is invested in your research because I will need it in the future.Im also a friend from your childhood who can verify the fact that you wore makeup conservatively and attest to you beautiful,long dark eyelashes AND I work at a public high school in the states that informed a dress code----whew!

    Middle school--- my thoughts are lip glass, blush or bronzed tastefully done and education about a good skin cleansing regime and SUNSCREEN! So much fake bake in the US and since I live near the shore, sunbathers with no SPF.

    I also didn't go to a makeup counter until I was in college. I enjoy watching QVC and like to see the best products do many makeup artists from smash box to Bobbi Brown, Malle to Laura Geller. Since you are so good about the research why not check out a few makeup counters and tell them your story.What an opportunity for an upcoming bday or other special occasion to get a makeup lesson from the pros who understands a parent's guidelines. Part of the reason I think girls look like raccoons is in part due to fashion but also not having the lesson. I was 22 before I learned that redheaded blue-eyed girls shoulnd't wear blue eye shadow. Go for the muddy brown color however and your eyes pop. I like the show What Not to Wear. It's a makeover reality tv show. The recipient gets a new hairdo and makeup lesson.Carmondy the make up professional talks about an easily achieved natural day look and teaches a smokey eye for a special occasion or evening out. easy and natural is the guiding principle.

    1. Thanks for commenting...nice to know others are interested in the same questions...I love your advice about good skin care - so true. We have always stressed that in our house...with good soaps etc...Having suffered from many skin allergies myself, I tend to have my girls use better soaps hopefully avoid any sensitivities. My oldest has already noticed that when she doesn't wash her face at night..she can feel greasy by morning...I love you advice about getting good advice from make-up artists.

  4. Jen, interesting topic.I was one of 5 girls with six siblings. Makeup for girls was mostly lipstick-7th or 8th grade?My parents never forbade me, but had I used "too much", they would have. I was the second girl and more adventurous than my older sister,a ground-breaker for my younger sisters. My older sister, a stay-at-home, wore dresses to play in before I started wearing jeans.I was an active "tomboy" as a young child and did not have an interest in girly things like dolls, but preferred playing "cowboys and Indians" with the neighborhood boys, friends of my older brother.
    My complexion is very pale and my eyes are pale blue. Unlike on your girls,dark eye make-up on me would have looked extreme. Lipsticks for women tended to be darker in color than today.Think Hollywood glam in the 50's.Light pinks were considered ok for younger girls.I did my nails after a gift from my older sister convinced me to stop biting my nails...a set of 4 colors of nail polish.
    I graduated to a little rouge (blush) later on as I needed color or I looked "sickly". I never liked the exotic look on me because it didn't fit. I was often mistaken for an older girl as I developed early and looked older. It's a tougher question today than it was for parents in our youth because there wasn't the peer pressure that there is today. We did use make-up for dancing recitals and for stage make-up for school plays.Later, when I was in my mid-teens, in high school (!), I often double-dated with my 4-years-older sister, dating college boys and fitting in with the make-up worn by older girls.I'm thinking in those days, life was simpler and boys were more respectful of young girls (and they knew my age) plus my sister was also protective of me.
    I can't believe the differences in the treatment of little girls today! As an adult, I watched the "princess"
    idea take over for little girls and that didn't appear healthy to me, and the differences in the treatment of children of different sexes, that resulted in age-inappropriate behaviors and interests. I taught middle school, sixth grade, for many years and saw the sexualization of young girls.I am still flabbergasted by the "Toddlers and Tiaras" gang of children's beauty pageant TV shows. Little girls dressed up and made up to look like streetwalkers! Lately, the culture screams that girls are women and boys are men. Not so!
    The most upsetting thing I ever lived through is talking to a pregnant 11-year-old and hearing her tell me that "It will be easy; my mother will help take care of the baby." It's great that a conversation is ongoing in the homes of young girls. I think there was a division of thinking between children way back then and children today. Kids always want to grow up too soon, always did. But, an 11-year-old's mind is not ready to deal with adult issues, no matter how responsible they or their parents think they are.
    There are lots of random thoughts included in this post and I must admit I'm out of touch with today's thinking as I've been retired since 2004 and "my baby" is nearly 44! As always, you appear to be checking out all the angles of this issue and I'm certain you will make informed decisions. I'm still reeling from the number of young teachers I encountered toward the end of my career who were more interested in being young peoples' friends rather than their teachers and mentors.

  5. The cell phone causes much more drama in our house than make-up. Learning as we go on the technology debate as there are no real precedents from when we were growing up. India is also blessed with long dark lashes and is only intermittently interested in wearing make-up. She has some lip gloss and clear mascara and so far she is happy with that. I agree that it's best to let her have a little than to push her into wearing a lot behind our backs!

    1. Thanks for commenting, always great to hear from you. Yes, the cell phone causes drama in our house too. We have a rule that it's in the kitchen in the evening/overnight so the "texting" doesn't disrupt her studies...but it's definitely a new generation thing! This post has been helpful, even for my daughter as she read the comments and enjoyed hearing what other's her age did.

  6. My daughter is also 12 going on 13 this March and since she gets to wear stage make up for dance performances she gets a little taste of wearing a lot of make up. But I'm not sure whether that makes it more enticing or not.

    Yes, a lot of her friends have been wearing makeup; some of them look pretty ridiculous too (some of them wear more eye make up than I do). I continually stress that they (Mia and her friends) are so beautiful; their skin is perfect, they really don't need it. I also point out that "your friend so and so doesn't need to wear all that, she's beautiful with it"....Mia usually agrees with me that her friends look pretty funny; they haven't yet learned to apply it masterfully. This brings me to Bobbi Brown...

    If you get the chance check out Bobbi Brown's books on beauty and makeup. I have shared this with my daughter too. I really like her philosophy and style on make up. Her main message is that make up should look natural and enhance what you already have. (Natural natural natural is the message).

    We've pretty much agreed that Mia can wear a light color lip gloss or stain during the day for school. We've compromised on clear mascara (she seems happy with that for the time being). When she goes to a friend's house at night, or it's a special occasion, or they're going skating, it's okay to use a little sparkly shadow. I call it fairy dust; it's not really a color just a little powdery glitter. It's cute and not intrusive. I even wear it sometimes!

    I also stress that if you're gonna put it on then you better religiously take it off....every night...every time!!!!

    I try to make a point of reminding her randomly what nice features she has; how pretty she looks; how nice her skin is; how she doesn't have circles under her eyes unlike her mother...etc.

    When I was in Europe many moons ago, I was impressed how many girls my age (then I was 20), DIDN'T wear makeup. I was in Germany and France. Have things really changed so much now? They didn't wear makeup nor did they paint their nails. That was considered sort of a cheap American look. I guess I adopted that opinion even though I'm American.

    Anyway, I feel as though my daughter and I have a mutual understanding about her makeup use. Each child will be different, I suppose. But I think the underlying message to any girl should be that make up won't make you prettier, you already are beautiful and that comes from the inside out.

    1. Kim - thanks for the recommendation of the book - I will have to check that out! I also totally agree - the natural beauty should be reinforced as beautiful and needing nothing. I'm have said to my daughter, make up is to enhance beauty, not cover or change it. She enjoyed reading the comments on this too - I think it helps her to read about other girls her age and a bit older.

      As far as make up in European - I have to say, French women like to look nice. Not over done, but always lipstick and dressed well. They are now wearing jeans (which you didn't see on women our age even 5-10 years ago) but always with boots or heels. Make up is nice, bit of eye liner or mascara and lipstick. You see some eyeshadow but mostly naturally done. Yes, University students look a bit more casual, but still put together. What I never see here are sweats and sneakers - only if you are going to a class or the gym - but then if you are going out to town or errands after one changes. Nail polish seems to have caught on - but again natural - girls in middle school and hs like brighter colors and creativity but older women tend to be more conservative and also the natural French tip is popular. Thank you again for your comment - always nice to hear from you. It's great having daughters similar in age! Take care.

  7. Have just discovered you from your twitter follow! Thx and you have a new follower in me!

  8. Great topic for discussion. In our house it has never been an issue. It was strictly forbidden in our Elementary school. B began with lip gloss and mascara in 6eme and has graduated to natural colors on eyes and lips this year in 5eme. I don't think any girl needs blush or eyeliner and thankfully mine agrees with me. I think education in how to apply it to look natural is the key. Wouldn't it be great to bring Toni from Paris for a "tween make-up tutorial"? I'm sure there are others we could include from the club.

    Love your blog always!


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