Make Up and Middle School

A summary of another lively thread on the Tweens Group - this one is about when you should let your Middle Schooler wear make up - and is that even your decision to make?


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"Just curious what other parents of middle schoolers think about makeup. My instinct is that my 6th grader is too young to be leaving the house wearing makeup. But, looking back, I can't remember my parents putting any restrictions on it. I am pretty sure I was wearing blue eye shadow like any good 80's girl by middle school. And by restricting it, I might be making her more determined to sneak around and wear it anyway. Thoughts?

My 7th grader has been interested in make-up, nail polish, etc. for as long as I can remember, so we've had to compromise for school. She is allowed occasional lip gloss and that's it, since I figure it'll fade by 2nd period anyway. She did buy herself an eyelash curler, which I ok'd since it isn't actually make-up. The other point of contention is wearing heels - she has a pair but is not allowed to wear them outside (and I deliberately bought them one size up). I feel for her, since she's genuinely interested in fashion, but she's just too young to be diving into the deep end."


Following Peers:

"I grew up in Miami an middle school was 7 - 9th grade.  I have to admit I was a follower.  So I went to a mostly Jewish middle school (I am Jewish, culturely, myself) a very Jewish American Princess-type school.  And they all wore make-up and I did because they did, no other reason, seriously.  My Mom didn't mind at all. In HS, I switched HS's to a different zone HS.  Actually the JHS I went to was not in our zone, it was in the best school zone in Miami so my parents used someone else's address to get me in there.  Well after the 3 years I hated the other kids there and wanted to go to our zone HS.  So I switched.  This high school was very diverse.  But the popular girls were mostly WASPs and they were beautiful.  All mostly blond, tan, and seriously physically fit (Miami after all). Lots of thigh muscles.

And their trend was to not wear make-up at all, and honestly because of them right then I stopped wearing make-up completely and haven't gone back since.  Only sometimes at special occasions.  I see some of those people on FB and they still don't wear make-up.  So all and all, seriously I was a follower during those years and those were my reasons.  But I liked that I followed the no make up wearing crowd in HS that that crowd was into the o'natural look of looking physical fit and natural.  Same with their hair, not blowed dried or anything, just natural.  Some had extremely frizzy long hair and they didn't try to cover it up in any way, just let it be long a frizzy.

By the way, do you all find, that in middle school, kids really want to assert their grown up ness more than in HS in certain ways? and then in HS, kids kind of relax about that? as far as asserting this, I am all grown up thing? What I mean, is in JHS there is more of this battle to prove something to the parents, while in HS that is not there as much, but of course doing things the kid really wants to do that parents won't let them do is still in HS, it is just that it is not to prove anything, but just that child really wants to do it.  Or maybe that was just me and the kids around me.  That is a bit how it felt."


"I have two daughters, 17 and 12. We let the first one wear makeup in 6th grade because she was being bullied and in a really bad situation that we didn't want to make worse by having her not "fit in" even more. Well, since then I have become a grown-up (that's right- I'm now a 46-year-old grownup :) ) and would never do that again. So my 12-year-old is pretty unhappy about that, as you can imagine.

But quite honestly, I think these beautiful children wearing makeup look like teenage runaway hookers. I totally wear makeup, and love all of that glam stuff -my mother was a model, so I'm not against it. It would be great if all of us parents could come together and say, "ok- this is the age for this, and this is the age for that, and let's all stick to those guidelines so we don't make it difficult for our kids and each other." But the world doesn't work that way, and everybody has a different opinion and parenting style.

I would say that you should go with your gut instinct. Be clear about the "why" of your decision and really talk to your daughter about it. You may have to have the same conversation 20 times, but you're the parent. My daughter loves the "everyone else is" argument. But I can assure you, everyone else isn't!

Just FYI, in 6th grade I stood by my no-makeup except for lip gloss rule for the 12-year-old. Yes, I did catch her leaving the house (!) in makeup once and the friend she was with had to leave and my daughter was not allowed to see friends for a week. She has not done that again (that I know of - I'm not totally naïve :) ). This year, in 7th grade she can wear mascara and lip
gloss. In 8th grade it will be a bit more. We talk a lot. About everything.  And I think that's really important, no matter what.

Good luck- I hope we all make it through middle school with only makeup application to worry about!"


"My oldest is in 5th grade and only 9 years old so I am probably a few years away from having to consider the makeup conundrum.

I agree that when the time is right, it's probably best to make it an event and go together to buy one or two items and learn some application techniques at a counter (Bobbi Brown or Trish McEvoy are both known for more natural looks so if you can afford it , it might be a place to start.)

I personally LOVE makeup, hair care, and beauty products and have since i was very young. Even if I don't permit my girls to wear makeup until a certain age (yet to be determined), I know I will be the mom who teaches her adolescent girls how to expertly conceal pimples should they be bothered by them no matter what the age. Even though mine wasn't that bad, I have clear memories of going to school with acne and not having a clue what to do about it. I am looking forward to being the mom who pulls out her arsenal like a first aid kit to soften the blows of puberty.


"In my experience it's not that girls start wearing make up in middle school and stop in high school, but that the kind of look they sport changes.  Often when girls start wearing make up they put on a lot and want everyone to notice they are wearing makeup so they use strident colors, etc.  By high school they are often trying for a more natural look that enhances their appearance rather than changing it dramatically.  And they also get more skilled at applying make up and can do it more subtly.

In middle school they are trying for this:
Miley Cyrus

and in high school for this:
Rashida Jones

And although Jones is supposedly "naked" of makeup in the picture, if you look closely you'll see she is definitely wearing eyeliner and lipstick, and likely other makeup as well.  But she has a very natural look.  On the original question, I let my girls wear makeup when they wanted to.  I talked to them about makeup and offered feminist critique and I didn't buy them makeup, but I totally think it should be the child's decision."


"I work at a private school and notice that slot if the middle school girls around seventh grade start wearing make up. However, by the time they reach the high school I see there are less girls wearing make up. Actually, a lot of the girls don't wear any. I don't remember seeing any of my high school girls wearing any makeup but maybe some lip gloss.

I think they are just too busy with school and activities to bother with slapping on some make up every morning.

I remember a middle schooler wearing making all through 7 and 8 grade. When she got to the high school she was a totally different kid. No make up and more relax.

Like the previous poster mentioned I think middle there is more peer pressure than high school."


My daughter is still [sic] so its not yet an issue for us but I have an opinion on this one anyway.  I don't think its age as much as physical development that matters here. And the answer as to when she is ready should be left to her. I think hairy legs is quite a different issue then makeup.

I would definitely allow my daughter to shave when she feels ready. Not to could really open her up to teasing and embarrassment. Its a shame, but that is the culture we live in.  I developed quite young and remember being teased about the hair on my legs. I snuck off w my moms razor to remedy the problem, and ending up a nicked and bloody mess.  Would have been better off if I had been given a bit of guidance instead of arbitrary "age" rules. At this stage of life kids can be the same age and in entirely different stages of physical development. I bet you can think of eleven year old you know who looks thirteen and another who looks nine."


"I have 2 daughters (8th and 5th grade) and think about this a lot. I don't wear any makeup most of the time (and just a little bit for special occasions). I also instinctively don't like young adolescents doing/wearing "grown up" things--eg., lots of makeup, piercings anywhere but ears, revealing clothes, etc. But I worry that sometimes my knee-jerk reaction is to say no to something my daughter's asking for simply because it's not my personal taste--and not because there's anything actually detrimental about it.

So when my older daughter asks for something, I've been trying to ask myself WHY I don't want her doing it. (Because inevitably, it's something I don't want her to do. :) Is it because I don't think it's appropriate for someone her age or it somehow goes against our "family values"--or is it simply because I don't think it's all that attractive?

I think too much makeup looks bad (on anyone), and I think 12- and 13-yo girls wearing tons of eye makeup look pretty silly and not all that different than a 5-yo girl wearing a too-big princess gown (eg., like they're playing dress-up and not wearing their 'real' clothes). But I've decided to let her go ahead and do it. My theory is that make-up is fun, as long as it’s not taken too seriously.

As far as shaving, I think it’s fine—and not a big deal at all. My daughter did ask recently about waxing though, and I said no. My rationale is that once you start spending a lot of time/money on something, the value of it goes up. At this age I don’t want her to place much/any value on something like this.

The issue we're struggling with is piercings. I've said yes to a nose piercing--and no to a belly piercing. (The nose seems like a style/fashion statement, which is fine with me. The belly seems like it's trying too hard to be sexy.) My daughter is frustrated by that--and tells me there are "places on St Marks" that will do piercings without a parent's consent. That actually made me laugh. (And I know it's true.)."


"Especially for the blondes out there, the best shaving advice my mother ever gave me was (insert Italian accent): Valeria, never shave above your knees because it will grow back like Fred Flintstone's beard.  I have no idea of the veracity of the science behind it, but it seemed fair warning. I never did and at 45, my thighs are much more Wilma than Fred. And think of all the hours I've saved cutting my shaving time in half!"


"That's so funny! I was told the same thing- and I have never shaved my thighs. I'm pretty sure it's an old-wives tale, but it's a good memory :).

I'm fine with the shaving thing. They do get embarrassed about hairy legs fairly early these days, but I don't see it as growing up too fast or even as trying to be sexy. The American culture is not so keen on body hair.

Here's another many of you out there have teenagers who have to have Victoria's Secret underwear? And have you asked your daughters why they want such sexy underwear? I would be curious to know what they say. I just asked my 17-year old who started asking for it in 6th grade (!) (my now 12-year-old isn't interested yet). Her reply was: Mom, I had monkeys on my underwear and only one other person wore underwear like that and she was weird.

Anyone else?"


"Can I just throw in the question of LONG FINGERNAILS as well?  My mom took me to Merle Norman (does that even still exist?) in 11th grade to buy me “real” makeup. It made me feel special and I knew the colors were right for me.  My girls (7th and 4th grade) have been playing makeup at home for years and on occasion they were it out for fun, but definitely not to school, but there are definitely 7th graders at her school who do."


"When I grew up, MS started in 7th grade, makes a big difference to me. I don't think they should wear makeup in 6th. But, she'll hide it and put it on later if she really wants to wear it. I always want to know the motivation behind things. And I'd discuss that wearing makeup makes you look older and then she might start getting attention from guys she doesn't know, and is she ready for that. And that kind of statement usually leads to a discussion of feminism and rape culture (not with the kid, with the population on the internet), etc. etc., which I am NOT trying to start here.

And maybe the quantity of makeup matters? Like eyeshadow ok, but more not?

I'm rambling, sorry."


"I have a daughter in 6th grade who asked to shave her legs this past summer. I thought she was so young for that, so my first response was no. Then she started middle school and asked again. She said that she didn't feel comfortable at gym with her hairy legs. The hair on her legs is very blond and hardly noticeable to me, but I realized in her mind, it was making her feel self-conscious. Why was I denying her something pretty harmless that may make her feel a little less anxious, especially since starting middle school alone is anxiety-inducing enough. More than anything I was probably projecting my worries about her growing up too fast...thinking about the slippery slope: first shaving her legs, then make-up then mini-skirts/heels then...I decided to stop projecting and take one thing at a time. We sat on the side of the tub together and shaved our legs--up to the knee. She is happier and I got to bond with her over something.

Everyone needs to do what is right for them and their daughter to be able to navigate this wild ride into the tween/teen years, but I'm taking deep breaths, trying to take one thing at a time and not link it to scary stuff in the future. So far, so good..."


"I've tried to teach my 8th grader that less is more. If she's going to use eyeliner perhaps she can skip that desired bright pink lip. Ugh.

We took her to a make up counter for her 13th birthday as a special treat. The woman showed her how to apply it properly and sparingly. I think it was better for her to hear it from someone else (she just thought I was being a drag.) She really listened and I have to say she's way better at make up application than I was at 13."


"My 7th grade daughter has no interest in wearing make-up, but seems very interested in other people wearing make-up (which has me wondering if she really wants to wear it, too?!)  Yesterday she told me, "Don't tell anyone, but Sarah is wearing black eye make-up to school, but she's not allowed to."

Maybe ramp up, by allowing a bit of make-up, now, and, if she wants, adding to it later.

Personally, I find the heavy make-up on tweens off-putting (I've seen a few with full eyeliner, shadow, mascara, etc.)  If/when my daughter wants to wear a bit of make-up, I'd allow it with the understanding it be subtle and washed off every night."


"I have a very vivid memory of summer camp when I was going into 8th grade where one of the 9th graders showed me how to shave my legs. The piece I remember was her saying, "whatever you do, don't tell your mother!" So indeed I didn't tell and proceeded to shave my legs with my father's razor(the kind that opens up and uses a real razor blade) until I didn't close it properly and sliced two inches of skin off my leg-- for which I still have a scar more than 30 years later!

That said, this conversation was helpful because when my 7th grade daughter just asked me about shaving her legs, I jumped at her that she was too young! Clearly my issue and as an earlier poster said, maybe i don't want to accept she IS actually old enough.

Didn't my scar teach me anything! I think I will now reapproach the topic and tell her my story."


"I agree with the middle school kids trying to be more grown up than the high school kids. My 17 year-old doesn't wear makeup very much anymore either. In fact, most of her friends don't. And she had told me at one point that one of the moms commented on how pretty she was without makeup and she should do that more often. I, of course, have always said that to her- but it really takes someone outside of the mom-daughter relationship to make it hit home. Maybe that's something to think about as well..."


"I disagree about the shaving versus waxing thing. I shaved for years ... and then went "natural" for years ... before waxing. If you start out waxing, the hair will never be as thick as if you shave. Long term ... they will save money and time. That said - I am trying to get my 7th grader to wait as long as possible."


"My 7th grader has been interested in make-up, nail polish, etc. for as long as I can remember, so we've had to compromise for school. She is allowed occasional lip gloss and that's it, since I figure it'll fade by 2nd period anyway. She did buy herself an eyelash curler, which I ok'd since it isn't actually make-up. The other point of contention is wearing heels - she has a pair but is not allowed to wear them outside (and I deliberately bought them one size up). I feel for her, since she's genuinely interested in fashion, but she's just too young to be diving into the deep end."


And more related reading on Park Slope Parents:

When should my Tween shave her legs?