Daughter debates: Should young girls wear make-up out the house?

I was disappointed when Russian model Elena Perminova uploaded a video of her applying lipstick to her daughter

Eve Dugdale
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Since the dawn of time, toddlers have enjoyed mimicking their parents.

Whether it’s playing their part in the supermarket shop or answering the telephone, many mums will also find that their little girls want to “have a turn” with their lipsticks and eyeshadows at a very young age.


It’s something I’ve always been conscious of and have tried hard to keep my daughter away from my make-up bag. That need to change your face before going out into the world each morning is something I really don’t want her to inherit.

So I was disappointed when Russian model Elena Perminova uploaded a video of her applying lipstick to her daughter.

She could have been reading her a book, making her a den or painting a picture with her instead of applying make-up.

But am I being over the top? Is it really so bad or just harmless fun and a chance for mum and daughter to bond over a shared interest?

Rachel Backhouse certainly thinks so.

As a hairdresser, make-up artist and owner of The Complete Fakeover salon, Rachel says make-up is something that brings her great enjoyment so why should she deny her daughter?

She explains: “My seven-year-old has watched me putting my make-up on every day and was always asking if she could have some. I’d tell her no, it’s for adults. But then I questioned myself. There is no age limit on make-up. I’m a makeup artist and my teacher didn’t call me ‘Make-up Queen’ at school for nothing - I learnt early! However, I really questioned why I said no to her and realised it’s because of what others think while she’s wearing it. But I have never been bothered by what others have thought so why am I doing it with my daughter?”

After realising her doubts were centred on other people’s opinions, Rachel then raided her five drawers of old make-up to give to her daughter and even bought her a make-up organiser

She adds: “I taught her a day and night look on a dolly head. It was so much fun and she showed great interaction skills while she learnt. She and her friends do it - they sit for hours. She has talent and everybody comments on how good she is and I praise her for all the effort and learning knowing that it was her own choice just assisted by mummy.”

Rachel is quick to add that make-up hasn’t replaced toys and she doesn’t want her daughter to become a ‘designer doll’ but says that if girls see their parents do it they will mirror what they see.

She adds: “I’ve explained that school rules do not allow makeup nor do some work professions so I wanted to demonstrate her wearing it at appropriate times. We have come to an agreement that she can wear it at parties and on Sundays when mummy is off work.”

For parenting coach and author Andalene Salvesen, it’s not the make-up but the message it’s giving a little girl that’s important.

She explains: “Children love to pretend and copy, it’s an important part of growing up. Dressing up, like a princess for example, is so important for little girls and they never outgrow wanting the approval or recognition of others. However, dress up and make-up are two different things. When mothers feel the need to use make-up to enhance a child’s natural beauty, what does it say about her? Is it to impress others, is it lack of acceptance of her child’s own unique beauty? I believe inner beauty should be celebrated and encouraged. Telling a child that they need make-up to enhance their natural beauty is giving a warped message that could affect the child’s self-esteem. It’s the mother’s job to build a child’s self-confidence through focusing on character not outward appearances.”

Echoing her sentiments is Olga Khokhlova, a Clinical Psychologist at Dubai’s Life Psychological Counselling Centre. She believes when you allow girls to play with make-up the message is clear, and it’s not constructive.

She explains: “Family is a socialisation agent, which means that the culture and its values are transmitted through it from one generation to another. So the main question is what is the message that parents could translate to their children with regard to the importance of wearing make-up? And the answer is pretty simple - it is traditional gender roles and the importance of appearance to the girls. Research has shown that when assessing gender stereotypes among the youngest children, appearance seems to be the most important characteristic for girls. So we, as parents, should ask ourselves – do we really want to teach our children that a girl’s job is being pretty? And if the answer is no maybe we should find other games to play with our kids, for instance, ones that help develop intelligence.”

One mum who would stop her daughter experimenting with make-up is Dubai-based Alya.

She says: “They have their whole lives to feel like they have to improve on what they look like. If we encourage it from such a young age, surely it makes matters worse. Call me old fashioned but I want my children to be playing outside, getting mucky, having fun and not caring about their appearance.”

But on the other hand, mum-of-two Caroline Hansell believes if you educate your children about make-up it’s OK for them to wear it occasionally.

“When it’s show time Emma, who is a dancer, has worn show make up since she was four. I have allowed her to wear lip gloss and the odd bit of sparkly eye shadow for the odd party but other than that I wouldn’t allow anymore. When she asks why I inform her she’s pretty enough without and doesn’t need to worry or be concerned about makeup or anything else until she’s much older.”

Agreeing with Caroline, fellow ‘dance mom’ Laura Prichard is quick to remind her daughter that there’s a time and place for make-up.
She says: “My little girl has her own bag of rubbish make-up that she’s stolen from me over the years. She is now 10 and is still not allowed to wear anything but gloss outside the house - it’s for dress up only, unless it’s Halloween or a dance show. I’ve told her she doesn’t need make-up as she is beautiful just as she is.”

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