In the summer of 2004, I was scheduled to take my senior graduation pictures. You know, the high school picture that follows you the rest of your life. This is the picture your friends from college laugh at and your children’s children cherish as an heirloom. Let’s just say the pressure for a good photo op was on.
I come from a family of beauticians who ironically don’t believe in makeup. A bar of soap, some moisturizer, and a tube of lipstick have kept the women in my family beautiful for years. It would be an in-laws inquiry about my photo preparation to change my relationship with makeup forever. Now, 10 years later, my toddler wears lipstick on her eyebrows!
I noticed it once we switched the position of her car seat from rear facing to front view. It’s a challenge to get a family of four, including two babies, ready on time, so I often apply my makeup in the car. Most days, I am not doing a full face, so the passenger side mirror suffices when I apply my eyeliner, brow pencil, mascara and lipstick.
That’s when I saw her, those wide eyes staring me down like a hawk studying its prey. Through the reflection of the mirror, I could see her mesmerized in the back seat by my application process. This didn’t begin here, but this was the moment I knew I had to watch her and makeup. She is 20-months-old now, but when she was about seven-months-old, she could tell the difference between when I had on mascara versus when I did not.
The first time she noticed the mascara, she stared at my face for a really long time. I was confused as to why. Then she took her index finger and began to rub on my eyelashes. That’s when I got it. Up until now, I did not take her passion seriously. But last week, I watched her take my lipstick and my lip pencil out of the makeup drawers in the bathroom. Then she proceeded to dip the lip pencil into the lipstick and rub it all over her face.
First, I’d like to applaud her efforts. I think she thinks she is doing her brows. I’d also like to applaud her color choice, hot pink. Now this lipstick is totally destroyed, but it was for a good cause, her curiosity and imitation of mommy.
But in all seriousness, this raises some questions for me. I did not start wearing makeup until I was 17. My senior pictures found me at the local MAC counter where I bought foundation and mascara for the first time. Prior to this, I had nothing and knew nothing. This is a huge difference from my one-year-old who lives in a house with a personal MAC counter. She knows where the makeup is, and she runs for it any chance she gets. Give her a five minute window where mom and dad are preoccupied with baby sister or taking out the trash, and she morphs into “cover model baby.”
I’ve always dreamed about the day we would pick out makeup together, shop, have girl chat, but not at one-year-old.
I was recently at the nail salon where a mom and daughter duo joined the scene. The little girl was three-years-old and she was getting a pedicure. Now, I don’t recall getting my first pedicure at the salon until about 13 or 14 years of age. But this mom told me her daughter experienced her first mani/pedi for her second birthday – that’s just four months older than my daughter!
I’m all for being beautiful and confident, but what age is really appropriate for all this stuff. On a reflective note, I think about the 1996 JonBenet Ramsey story. This was a child beauty queen found brutally murdered in her basement one morning after being missing for eight hours. The case remains unsolved.
Lots of speculation around JonBenet’s murder involved her parents presenting her to the public as a symbol of beauty and sex too early. She was six and wore full-face makeup and gowns quite often.
I know this comparison may sound extreme, but I have to contrast my young daughter’s love for beauty against the reality of perverts and mentally ill people who prey on the innocent.
I’m definitely not going to start putting makeup on my child anytime soon. I will continue to take cute pictures of her with smeared lipstick across her face, but I wonder, what age is appropriate to let your kids wear makeup?
Clarissa Joan is a spiritual life coach and editor-in-chief of The Clarissa Joan Experience. She resides in Philadelphia, Pa with her Husband, their two girls, and a yorkie named Ace. Clarissa is also an expert in impact investing. She is the Communications Associate at Impact America Fund.