The solution was clear mascara. No, I’m not talking about Chemistry here. But I am talking Psychology. 12-year-old girl psychology – my psychology. I wanted to wear make-up. “Absolutely not!” my mother responded. I kept pressing, which was very unusual for me. I was into grades and school – not make-up and hair. I was also  an obedient child. But I wanted those lashes.
Yeah, those lashes.

But was I unknowingly wobbling into the world of criticism that plagues young women about their bodies? About their appearances? Was this my initiation?

It could’ve been. This is why you need to talk with your daughter about make-up. If she’s old enough to ask for her own make-up, she’s old enough for at least one of her parents to discuss the place of make-up, body image, and appearance in an adolescent’s life.

Make-up should be explained to a child as a tool – that it’s along the same vein as a strong handshake or eye contact. However, the intricacies of make-up and its inextricable entanglement in body image also need to be touched upon. For this, I offer two issues to emphasize:

  1.  That make-up can be used properly to make a person look presentable (i.e. it is mostly likely used well on a day-to-day basis conservatively, to accentuate natural features). Make-up is analogous to getting a manicure or pedicure (at that age I was allowed to paint my nails clear or pink colors). Your nails look a bit better with the manicure or pedicure, but they also work just fine without. It’s probably best to get a manicure and/or pedicure for special occasions, but it should be taught that how you feel about wearing one day to day is up to you.
  2.  She chooses what she puts or doesn’t put on her body. It’s completely fine to take into consideration suggestions from others, but the decision is hers and what she feels comfortable with when it comes to make-up.

I don’t think that a request for make-up in a 12 year-old’s case should be automatically dismissed. Instead, that request should be turned into a discussion that you can use as a parent to springboard into other topics of socialization and self-identity. This is especially important in young girls as they grow into young women; the additional parental support will most likely make the paths through tough times more navigable.

Clear mascara and an honest discussion was the solution to my make-up request, what do you think will work for you and your child?


A pre-med student from Gainesville, FL.