Is Forbidding Your Kid To Wear Makeup Really A Bad Idea?

I thought it was, but now I'm not so sure.
Publish date:
March 30, 2015
teenagers, self esteem, Lupita Nyong'o, high school, makeup rules, parents

I started an interesting discussion about the idea of not letting my future kid wear makeup in the comment section of Trista's article on taking a break from makeup, and I've been thinking about it ever since.

It's actually not something I'd given a lot of thought to, since I'm not planning for children (at least not for a long time). I simply happened to read a quote from Lupita Nyong'o in Lucky magazine, about how her mother didn't let her wear makeup until she was almost 18.

“Honestly, my mother’s outlook was hard for me to take when I was a teenager and I wanted to experiment. But in the end I appreciated it, because today I can look in a mirror with no makeup on and love myself.”

This resonated with me. I wasn't forbidden to wear makeup growing up, but my parents definitely discouraged it. My mother never wore it and I didn't have any older sisters, so there was barely any makeup in our house.

I was such a tomboy that this was fine with me for a long time. I didn't even like nail polish until after high school.

However, I distinctly remember feeling uncomfortable with my skin. I had redness from the rosacea I inherited from my mom, plus the typical teenage acne. Wearing makeup didn't really register as an option to me, except for that time I convinced my grandmother to buy me some CoverGirl foundation that looked caked-on and awful.

The few times I did try makeup, I didn't have anyone to tell me what to buy or how to apply it. For prom, my mom had a hairdresser put my hair up in an elaborate updo, but I was on my own for makeup. I smeared on some drugstore lipstick and despaired about my acne showing up in pictures.

Would I want that for my daughter? All I can think is that maybe if someone had given me some nice concealer and shown me how to apply it I would have felt more at ease in my own skin.

So when I first read that quote from Lupita I thought, Oh that's nice. She didn't wear makeup as a teen and now she's comfortable with her looks. But later I realized I was being naive; it's not that simple.

I wear a lot of makeup now--partly because I write about makeup and partly because I enjoy it and I like how it looks.

I've definitely noticed that the more I cover up my skin, the more unsatisfied I am when I wipe the makeup off. I get used to the glamorous, flawless version of myself very quickly. That's why I do think that it's important to take breaks from makeup, no matter how old you are. We need to feel comfortable with our bare faces.

So the question of whether to allow your child to wear makeup or not is more complicated than a yes or no answer.

I'm just relieved I'm not a parent yet. Instead, I paint my 10-year-old sister's nails on weekends and help my 15-year-old sister apply blush and lip gloss for school dances. It's not just about makeup; it feels good to be able to do for them what I wish someone had done for me at that age.

  • Did your parents have restrictions on makeup when you were growing up?
  • At what age do you think makeup is OK, and to what degree?
  • Do you think not wearing makeup helps or hurts a teen's self-esteem?

Last photo by Josh Kirby