“You’re beautiful just the way you are.”
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A phrase we’ve all heard from our parents, and it’s always true of course! But right now, chances are your child is being exposed online, at their friends’ house or at school to endless products that promote beauty or other kinds of visual transformation.
And let’s face it, even a parent’s sincere compliment can’t always compete with the allure of the steady stream of marketers and influencers pushing gleaming lip-gloss, colorful characters and virtual perfection. (At least that 1980’s bright blue glitter eyeshadow trend is gone and more natural styles are in!)
While interest in makeup begins at a young age and tends to rise in middle school when kids engage in character-play and emulate older children and adults, parents may wonder what age is appropriate to allow their kids to wear makeup. Parents may also wonder how to keep kids safe and healthy once they do decide to allow it.
“The first rule of thumb is to have an open discussion about makeup as soon as your child expresses interest,” says pediatrician Eva Kubiczek-Love, MD. “As with any new activity as your kids grow, parents need to establish expectations, set limits and understand the psychological and health impact of these permissions on them.”
What’s the right way for kids to wear makeup?
While there’s no right or wrong age, the proper way for your kids to wear makeup depends on your family’s perspective and the accepted practice in your child’s community. And making sure you’re okay with these norms ahead of time can help in your decision making. If children are involved in dance or cheer competitions for example, makeup may be more prevalent in their social circles.
“Also it’s always a good idea to ask your kids why they’re interested in makeup, encourage them to have fun, and expect that you may need to tell them when you think too much is too much,” Dr. Kubiczek-Love says.
Regardless of when you allow your kids to use beauty products and cosmetics for special occasions, play or for regular use, there are five tips that apply to any makeup wearer that are especially true for your child’s younger, developing skin.
According to Dr. Kubiczek-Love, parents should help their children:
- Buy safe products. “Many cosmetics, including those labeled ‘natural’ and ‘organic,’ aren’t regulated to the standards parents might expect,” she says. Shop for products with the fewest ingredients, and avoid ingredients you think are harmful. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep® database, where you can search for items by brand name or product category, and choose products based on safety rating.
- Start with less. Ease into wearing makeup. For a preteen, maybe start with lip-gloss. Over time, add powder foundation or other products. Don’t dive in with heavy lipstick and eyeliner.
- Watch for skin irritation. Reaction from cosmetics can be as mild as skin redness or as severe as hives and swelling. Most symptoms appear quickly, says Dr. Kubiczek-Love. If they do, remove the product — and don’t use it again. In case of hives or swelling, give your child an antihistamine and call the doctor. Allergic reactions appearing on your child’s face could spread to his or her airways. If your child is wheezing, has abdominal pain or is vomiting, get medical care immediately.
- Go easy on sensitive or acne-prone skin. Steer away from heavy, oil-based products — especially creams, lotions and foundations — that can aggravate acne, eczema and other sensitive skin. Use an oil-free concealer on acne. And, above all, follow tip No. 5.
- Maintain a healthy skin regimen. Skin care is important for any adolescent, especially those wearing makeup. Teach your child to:
- Wash their face every day with a mild cleanser.
- Avoid antibacterial soap and exfoliating agents. Harsh products can damage young skin and cause acne flare-ups.
- Remove all makeup before going to bed.
- Replace cosmetics every six to 12 months to minimize risk of contamination.
- Avoid sharing cosmetics, which can increase the risk of contamination and infection.
“The most important things is to teach kids that makeup is meant to enhance their appearance, not change or overpower it,” Dr. Kubiczek-Love says.