How wearing makeup can affect your self esteem

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Yesterday morning, while drinking my coffee and scrolling Facebook I came across a post by a local radio station. It was a message they were posting from one of their followers, talking about how her 8 year old came home from school and asked if she could wear makeup because a classmate did. The mother said  “The makeup may improve my daughter’s low self-esteem. It may also attract unwanted attention from pervs. Is 8 years-old too young for makeup?”

I read through some of the comments and overwhelmingly everyone had negative comments about makeup in general.

Here are a few of the comments that stood out to me the most:

-” If you teach the child to appreciate herself , she won’t need to wear a painted on face , and she will be the [mo]st beautiful of women with natural grace and beauty. Let her wear make up now and the lesson she will learn is that you need artificial accessories to hide behind .”

-“Having the SAME issue with my Ex Husband – his new wife is only 21 and she gave my 2 daughters (9&11) makeup and lessons. My little babies already think they need cosmetics to improve their appearance and that makes me sick … when I confronted him about it of course he was defensive and took a “no big deal” attitude … At Mom’s house – we will re-evaluate this topic before they enter high school … period … 8 is waaaaaaaaaaaaay to young …”

-“Tell her she is beautiful without it – she doesn’t need make-up.”

Now, the common problem with these comments, is the fact that the people who posted them seem to think that TELLING a child that they are beautiful will make them instantly believe it, or that by allowing makeup, they are inherently telling their child that they are NOT beautiful. Both views are WRONG!

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I commented on this post with my own viewpoints:

-“We teach our girls that makeup is like fancy dresses, It’s there to enhance your beauty for special occasions. My daughters are almost 8 and just turned 10. They are allowed to wear it for holidays like Halloween, photoshoots, things like that. As they get older (middle school age) I will teach them how to apply minimal amounts to enhance their natural beauty (this is where most people go wrong… they assume any age is too young and refuse to TEACH their children how to use it properly so when they DO get their hands on it, they look like clowns or hookers!).

Makeup is NOT an evil thing. My 10 year old has always had low self esteem, regardless of our efforts to encourage the opposite, makeup will be a wonderful tool to help her gain confidence. I don’t anticipate my 8 year old will have as much interest, but I will still teach her how to apply it because it’s a good skill to have. There are MANY reasons besides self esteem that one might want or need to wear makeup.

It’s so easy for people to brush it off as something non-essential and label it as BAD. It’s definitely not really for every day wear, especially at that age, but how about some compromises? Clear mascara, tinted gloss…. This allows her to feel like she has some freedom and control over her decisions, while still keeping her within acceptable boundaries.”

Trying to be the voice of reason, however, quickly gathered some sarcastic and snarky comments. For example:

-“10 yrs old? Sorry I don’t think make up at that age will help her self esteem. Buy her new clothes or something instead of making her look ‘trashy’. Could be wrong word but young girls do look trashy….10 yrs old is still a child….omg!!!! So if she wears make up for self esteem then a creep could approach her and say things to make her feel good then poof….she’s gone. I feel make up on young girls, especially before teen years, is sending wrong message.”

Now here’s my big question. What’s the difference in teaching her to apply natural looking, minimal makeup, or buying her a new outfit? Both are cosmetic in nature. You wear both makeup and clothing to enhance how you look. With clothing, you choose styles and cuts that are flattering to your body type, what makes that different than applying makeup to enhance your favorite features or minimize things you aren’t happy with (such as blemishes, uneven skin tones, etc)?

Doesn’t brushing your hair and styling it also fall within these same categories? Yet I bet none of these opinionated women would go to work without doing at least SOMETHING to their hair.

Personally, I think step-mom in the second quote above is spot on with educating the girls on how to apply it properly, I’m sorry that Mom doesn’t agree, but I feel that step-mom teaching them those things is in no way going to make them believe that they HAVE to wear it. Applying makeup properly is not an easy skill to master! Trust me, I’m in my 30’s and still trying to get the hang of it!

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Back in the Summer of 2015, I was contacted by a client that I had photographed twice before. She wanted to book a session for her daughter who was turning 12. She said her daughter was a little insecure and never the one in the spotlight, so she wanted to treat her to a self esteem boosting photoshoot. We had the whole session planned out and she gifted her a voucher for her birthday and told her all the plans, she was so excited!

Being that she was so young, we stuck with light makeup (airbrush foundation, mascara, light lip color and a touch of blush) and Amelia gave her ALL the curls.

I reached out to Lizzie’s mom in response to this subject. I wanted to find out, directly from the source, how this experience has impacted Lizzie in the year and a half since the session.

“She still talks about the shoot making her feel special. I saw her feel very proud of the pictures too. She is not a make up girl at all. In fact she likes that she doesn’t look like she’s wearing a lot of makeup in the pictures. She does like to curl her hair though, usually just here and there… not an everyday thing. I think it helped transition herself in her head from little girl to young lady. I think the pampering aspect of putting it on and getting hair done sends good messages!” – Jenn, Lizzie’s Mom

Call me crazy, but I feel as though a real life example is far more valuable than the opinions of random strangers online. And once again, I’m not saying you HAVE to let your children wear makeup, and I’m not saying you have to discourage it. Wearing makeup is far from the ONLY way to improve your self esteem, however, I really feel as though it shouldn’t be discredited as a fairly inexpensive and easily accessed tool that should absolutely be considered.

And for those of you who need scientific evidence and aren’t satisfied with anecdotal proof, you can read this study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science, this one (sponsored by Loreal but the study was done by a third party), or even this one by the National Center for Biotechnology Information!

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2 Comments

  1. Rachel Booker 1 February, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

    Well said. I have times in my life when I go glam and times when I am au natural. Right now, I’m in the second phase. My hair gets brushed before showering and bundled into a messy bun immediately after, until the next time I shower. Make up is still in its little pots in the bathroom drawer and a t-shirt and jeans is my daily fashion choice. Eventually, I will move out of this phase and start wearing minimal make-up (never much because I don’t like to feel like my face is greasy and my pores an’t breathe), and I’ll get my hair cut and will style it every day again. It’s all–ALL–based on how I feel, not on what anyone else thinks, and that is the way it has always been. Unlike so many other aspects of growing up in our culture, I actually don’t think the desire or use of make-up has started to occur younger. I’m pretty sure folks my age started wanting make-up at around 8 or 10, and so did kids my mother’s age, and probably ones your age, and those the age of your kids. Make-up has been a daily part of human existence for millennia, and I doubt it is going away any time soon. Little girls like to try it and there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as they continue to get the message that make-up is not the only thing that makes them pretty and is only one part of being a grown-up. I like this pictures, in particular, because she still looks like a little girl. Well done.

    • Jessica Wellman 1 February, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

      I completely agree! Makeup has been a wonderful tool for me in my adult life. Any time I struggle with how I’m feeling about myself, or if I feel I’m lacking in motivation, I’ll take some time to pamper myself and do my hair and makeup. That simple act can completely turn me around! And I am the same way… I rarely wear makeup right now, though 15 years ago you wouldn’t even see me getting my mail without my hair and makeup done. When I work, my hair is pulled up in a ponytail or messy bun, no makeup, wearing jeans and a basic top. I love how I look and feel when I dress up and wear makeup and style my hair, but I don’t feel it’s necessary like I used to!

      I hope that by teaching my daughter to use makeup appropriately, she will have the same results I did…. start out by feeling better when she wears it, and then let that develop her confidence and self esteem to the point where she feels that way without it and only wears it when she wants to!