Should I Let My Preteen Wear Makeup?
By Sylvia Cochran
So J. Crew(1) stirred up a hornet’s nest when it depicted a little boy wearing pink nail polish (neon, no less). For most parents, this experience is a rare one. Far more common is the little girl, who just yesterday was in pigtails and today demands a well-stocked makeup kit.
With no zit to cover up and a gorgeous natural complexion that adults would kill for, it is clear that this sudden need for makeup in the preteen population is one of the first visible signs that peer pressure is beginning to mount. Even if this peer pressure is not coming from friends, it is perpetuated by ads in print media and of course TV. Cases in point are the well-advertised availability of risqué French maid Halloween outfits in preteen sizes, and also the Abercrombie & Fitch’s thong underwear for this age group.
So what is the Christian parent (and the non-Christian one, too!) to do? The answers are as simple today as they were when we were kids:
- Control the purse strings. Preteens generally do not have independent sources of income. Allowance, birthday money, savings and the occasional funds that grandparents slip the youngster make up their economy. If you do not want to see your preteen stock a makeup kit that would make movie studios proud, do not give her money for this purpose. Sure, an eyeliner costs just a couple of bucks, but if you make sure that she puts some money toward savings, some toward charity and some toward supporting the family pet, she won’t want to spend her remaining funds too frivolously.
- Redirect her focus. If your girl is too focused on her physical appearance, she has too much time on her hands. Get her into sports, after-school activities, chess club, debate team, music lessons, swimming, golf or volunteer work. A child with a reasonably full schedule, which allows her to focus outward on working with other kids, helping people, doing well in a sport or learning a new skill, is less likely to spend too much time prancing in front of a mirror.
- Monitor the TV and computer. You know better than to have satellite or cable in your daughter’s room, right? And you also remember to have her do work (or play) on the computer in the family room not in her room with the door closed? If this is the case, you have won half the battle. For those who let this ship sail, consider revamping your setup. From there, nix programs and websites that shamelessly market to young girls in search of a body image.
- Change her magazine subscription. Two words: American Girl. The magazine is non-religious (for you non-Christians) and thoroughly enjoyable. Do not let her buy, borrow or read teen rags or those smelly fashion magazines.
- Compromise. Yes, you heard me right. There is a time and a place when a preteen should be given a bit of a break. Slightly tinted lip balm, clear nail polish and good-smelling lotion are fine. If she is in love with neon pink nail polish, compromise to either only wear it on weekends but take it off before Monday morning, or have her only do her toe nails (in winter, when she wears socks).
If you are still unsure whether you should let your preteen wear makeup or not, take a look at the American Psychological Association’s report on the sexualization of girls(2). It’s enough to turn any parent’s hair gray, especially one who espouses the Christian values of modesty in dress and appearance.