When are girls old enough to wear makeup?

Personal choice ... knowing when to allow girls to wear makeup.
Personal choice ... knowing when to allow girls to wear makeup. Photo: Getty

I have a seven-year-old niece who lives interstate, she is my only niece and someone I absolutely spoil. On my last visit, she wandered into the bathroom while I was putting on my makeup and was intrigued. We talked, chatted and bonded over our little makeup session. For me, an Aunt who hardly sees her, it was awesome.

When I left to go back home, she asked if she could have some of my makeup. Of course the answer was no. But I found myself buying a lip gloss and glitter eye shadow to give to her the next time I visited. When I handed these over I instantly became the best Aunt ever!

But then I caught myself and wondered where does this stop? Glitter and lip gloss at seven - does that become full blown makeup by twelve? While we all know little girls shouldn't wear makeup, is a blanket ban till they are eighteen the answer?

"I think it is more about bringing girls up with the right attitude towards makeup rather than a certain age they are allowed to wear it," says mum Jodi. Her daughters as dancers grew up knowing the purpose of heavy stage makeup making features distinguishable on stage under harsh lighting. But when it came to every day makeup Jodi taught her girls it is a personal choice.

"My girls know it is a choice from person to person and not an attempt to cover up any flaws, but rather accentuate any features if they wish. Miss 17 started wearing a bit of mascara at about fourteen and went from there. She now only wears a light coverage of makeup and a bit more if she's going out. Miss 15 doesn't wear any and doesn't want or feel the need to. I'm okay with our younger two who are ten and seven wearing a touch of gloss when going to a special occasion."

But is the idea of accentuating features where the real danger lies when it comes to girls and makeup?

Primary school teacher Rose sees her fair share of makeup on little girls every day in her classroom. "Makes me cringe when I see some of the girls I teach, sometimes as young as six, wearing makeup. It especially makes an appearance when it's school photos time. For the younger ones it usually comes from the mum, but scarier still are the older girls already feeling like they need to cover that spot or make their eyelashes longer."

Rose understands that wearing makeup is part of growing up for little girls "a little innocent lip gloss or eye shadow when playing around with mum, aunty or older sister's makeup drawer isn't a worry, I can even remember doing that as a child. But foundation for a 12-year-old? Eye liner on an eight-year-old 'so her eyes will pop in the photos' really upsets me."

Perhaps the age old battle between girls and makeup is one we shouldn't aim to win, but one we should aim to educate our girls on.

"My five-year-old loves makeup and from time to time she will smuggle my lippy into her own bag," says mum Caterina. Her husband hates makeup on his daughter, even lip gloss is a no-no. But Caterina doesn't think a blanket ban is the answer. "I don't want to say no completely to her as I would hate for her to do things behind my back when she is older!"

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Opening up the lines of communication early when it comes to makeup may be the best answer. No expert can deem what the right age is for any girl to start wearing makeup. That is a personal choice and a family choice. But introducing it slowly, establishing rules together and talking about it can set the perfect foundation.

"As long as my daughter knows it is superficial, that she needs to be herself and not feel the need to comply with fashion and standards is what is important," says mum Sofija. "I don't think there is an age of when you can and can't wear makeup, it is more about how our girls feel about themselves in today's society and how makeup can influence them."

As for my niece, we had a chat about her new makeup and how she can only wear it for special occasions and must always ask her mummy first. She was more than happy with that, running off to play, clutching her gloss and glitter like they were prized possessions.

How young is too young for makeup? What are the makeup rules in your house? Are these different to when you were growing up?

 Josefa Pete is a writer and mother to two boys. You can follow her on Facebook or read her blog.

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