Tea Parties and Eye Shadow — Should Little Girls Play with Makeup?

My four year old daughter, Olivia, is a riot. She loves to laugh and finds fun in every little nook and cranny of life. She is tough enough to take on her ten year old brother in a light saber battle and tender enough for tea parties and princess dresses.


Yes, my sweet girl loves all things pink and sparkly. And that includes lip gloss and eye shadow.

Olivia loves to play with my makeup and has lots of “play makeup” too. Whether she is making up Mommy, her cousins, or herself, applying makeup is one of her favorite forms of play. I have even kept her busy giving her little make-overs while we spend long hours at the hockey rink for her brother. Not much makes my very active little girl sit still for long like the soft brush of glittery shadow on her eyelid.

For me, I am okay with Olivia playing with makeup. I see it as part of her role playing as a “Mommy” just like when she puts on heels, or ties an apron around her waist, or holds a bottle for her baby dolls.

This isn’t Toddlers and Tiaras. I am not applying coats of makeup and fake hair to make my daughter look like a miniature (over made-up) adult.

But I wondered what other parents do about their little girls playing with makeup. What do they think?

So, I asked my good friend Ciaran Blumenfeld, aka Momfluential, how she handled makeup with her girls. (Her oldest is now fifteen.)

Me: What do you think about little girls playing with makeup?.

Ciaran: I think it’s totally normal and fun for them – just like trying on mommy’s clothes and heels..

Me: How do you transition between the four year old playing with makeup and the older child who isn’t quite old enough to actually wear makeup?

Ciaran: Playtime is playtime – kids don’t wear princess costumes to school. It’s usually not an issue if the makeup has been experimented with as a part of dress up & playtime and not as “what we wear to go out in public.”

Me: So how old were your daughters when they started wearing makeup as makeup?

Ciaran: My girls started to use tinted lip balm at 11 or so. By 12 they asked to wear mascara for a photo or special occasion. My policy was to let them, as long as they were applying the makeup tastefully, as a subtle enhancement and not trying to look older. By 15 the eyeliner got a little thicker than I was comfortable with but we’re still negotiating about that. I don’t feel like I can dictate as much now that my oldest is in highschool. I’ll make her take it off if it is offensive to me, but fortunately she’s learned to not offend me!

What About You?

What do you think? Do you let your little girls play with makeup?

At what age do you let them start wearing makeup as makeup?

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Written by Janice Croze, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom.

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  1. says

    My little girls love to do makeovers on any willing person. I kind of draw the line though when they want to wear blue eyeshadow smeared across their own forehead to the store, but they can wear their princess dress and heels out :) Other than that pretend play, whimsy and all of those wonderful things only last for a short while. Let them have fun and be little girls.

  2. says

    I am all for my daughter playing with make up at home. She won’t wear it out, except maybe for a little lip gloss here and there. My husband and I haven’t really talked about what age she can start really wearing it. I think I was 13 when I was allowed to leave the house with make up. I’d be inclined to let that be her age, but only if she wants to. I think it’s one of those things we will end up playing by ear. :)

  3. says

    I think it’s awesome to let them play with makeup – it takes a lot of play time and practice to get over the infatuation with saturated color and glitter everywhere, and to learn how to apply it artfully. If they’re allowed to play and practice before they start wearing it in public, they’re less likely to look like clowns when they want to be taken seriously.

  4. says

    I think it’s fine for a little girl to play with makeup as you described. I loved doing it when I was little, and it didn’t do me any harm at all. I have fond memories of my late Mom letting me ‘borrow’ a spritz of her perfume!

  5. says

    my Olivia plays with makeup- she had to ask for some for Christmas though because I don’t wear makeup and didn’t have any for her to borrow! So yes, I let her. But no, she doesn’t wear it out or to school or anything. She has lip balm that has some sparkles in it that she calls lipstick that she can wear when she wants to dress “fancy” to go out somewhere :)

  6. says

    At first as a parent I was a no make-up mom. However when my daughter started dance classes make-up was required for competing. We had to lay it on fairly think so their little faces didn’t look white on stage. I also allowed her to wear it at home and try new ways of applying it. I’ve learned from this that possibly no make-up leads to that teen experimentation where the kids draw black lines around their eyes. Instead my daughter learned light tactful beauty. Now the daughter I talk about is 20 and she does the barely there look and its lovely. My 15 year old seems to have no desire to learn the art. Perhaps that will change in the furture. Experimentation leads to lessons learned. :)


  7. says

    My mom gave me her old make-up to play with, which became everything from my dress up tools to the way I created bloody bandages for my brother’s G.I. Joes. But the make-up play time that I loved the most was sitting in the car on the way to the roller rink on Sunday afternoons when my aunt would turn me into her own personal doll and make me glam before I’d clip my feathers into my hair and skate to Michael Jackson all afternoon. I love those memories and agree that it’s all just harmless fun and a natural part of play.

  8. says

    My daughter doesn’t have access to it. We had a battle of sorts when she was five because the girls in her dance class were going to wear makeup for a recital, and daddy had said no makeup. It was an African dance performance, and we both thought full face makeup was a little much – if not ridiculous. We told her that makeup was more appropriate for her spring ballet recital. As a compromise, I put some clear lip gloss in her bag, and since she was dancing barefooted, I told her we’d polish her toenails is her favorite pink. She was fine with that until one of the girls told her backstage that she could not BE beautiful without makeup, and proceeded to tell her that she couldn’t be with her little circle of friends without wearing makeup.

    I thought this was a little early for peer pressure – these girls were five – but there it was, and my daughter was in tears. The teacher (who was also performing) came to her and whispered, “Look, I don’t have makeup on either – Love your nail polish!” Tears dried up almost instantly.

    Come spring recital, she was happy that she got her makeup (red lip gloss and eyeshadow), and under the blazing lights, it was appropriate, but she didn’t feel like she NEEDED it.

    She sees me put it on, but on her dressing table, she has lot of perfumes, clear lip gloss in various flavors, and her “piggy paint” nail polish. She doesn’t have playing in my makeup as an option… we do have plenty of girly time though!

  9. says

    Being a professional industry makeup artist and a mother of a 20yr old I think it’s ok. When my daughter was young and had her tea parties with her friends she would style her hair with my accessories. They would polish their nails, and explore my closet. Now, she is a natural girl. She’a not a fashionista or a makeup junkie. I allowed her to be a child and not force hair, fashion, and makeup on her. The only thing I shared with her about makeup was that if she want to wear makeup that she has to be responsible in wash her face morning & night. She made the decision that she wasn’t ready.

  10. says

    I think it’s totally normal for little girls to want to play with makeup. However, I am a mom of all boys :)) I know my friends that have girls let them start to wear a little make up in middle school but not before. Plus, wearing make up as make up too early can not be good for their skin.

  11. says

    I have some amazing pictures of my girl after putting on makeup at 3 or 4. They are hilarious to look at. What girl doesn’t like to pretend they are grown up mommies, with makeup, babies and pretty clothes. Now my girl is 11 and whenever her cousins come over (12, 14) they love to practice makeup with her. She also loves makeup for dance performances and we let her practice here at home. However, outside the house she has to at least look natural. light makeup is fine (brown shadow, maybe light blush). She is too young to go all out with eyeliner unless she is in a performance or dance pics. Thankfully, she has practiced enough to actually be able to do her own makeup for performance. I love that she is growing up. My niece was allowed to start wearing makeup to school in middle school. Sounds fine to me but since we homeschool, that isn’t really an issue.

  12. says

    My 3 and 6 year old play with make-up ALL the time. Most of it is play make-up meant for kids. They are allowed to wear it around the house but not out in public. I will let them wear lightly tinted lip gloss out in public on occasion.

  13. says

    Mia played with my make-up all the time and grew up just fine, she wears very little make-up now (well, she did do two years in a boot camp school, so maybe I shoulda’ just kept my Lancome locked up all those years.)

  14. Carrie says

    When I was little I know I got in all kinds of trouble for the many times I got in my mama’s makeup, my aunt’s makeup and my grandmother’s makeup. I had play makeup of my own and also barrettes, headbands, ribbons, perm rods, clips, and my favorite was those foam rubber curlers you made tight curls with. Every time someone would sit still they were playing “mommy”. Even my daddy oh yes he did. Wish my mama had taken pics of that! Tried to do khat brother’s hair but for some reason he didn’t like it. I had one of those heads they use in cosmetology school except mine was a toy. Found that thing and the hair which I’m sure I was the one who did it must have had 15-20 of those rollers wrapped up and half clipped in that head full of plastic hair! I could still see traces of my last makeup masterpiece which appeared to be some bright sunny day blue sky eyeshadow, hot electric neon pink blush, and the brightest red hot lipstick! It’s a wonder it wasn’t radioactive. I never was one to wear heavy makeup except when like one of you mentioned performing, yes I too was a “ghost” back then and still am! I’ve done pageants but nothing other than to help raise money for my class. Not the big ones like state pageants with official titles other than our school name and definitely nothing anywhere near the caliber of Toddlers and Tiaras. I will keep my opinion about that show to myself since I was raised that if you can’t say something nice not to say anything at all. Other than that the only other time I’ve really worn makeup was when I was married. If I could have gotten away with not wearing a white dress and my mama and daddy not disowning me I sure would have! Wearing ivory didn’t help much. Neither did the gallon of shellac they put on my face with a putty knife. Y’all I couldn’t get that stuff off! Had to wash and scrub my face 3x! Can’t imagine what that does to people who wear it everyday like that! I just turned 39, and yes I am still tooky about my hair looking a certain way but I don’t wear a drop of makeup at all! I think it’s MORE THAN OK to let the child play like you described. Then when she is a preteen you can revisit the subject again and have boundaries and privileges to getting to wear it. Forgot which one said it but the mother that said her daughter was wearing more than she would like in high school. You’ve done a fine job in other areas I’m sure. Don’t beat yourself up, like they say pick your battles because this is just a phase. All of you are correct though in starting when your daughters are young to set boundaries of what is and isn’t appropriate for her age. By the time she’s older it’s too late. Of course you want to try but your daughter’s practically grown now. Rules, discipline and self respect are all things that you have to get in those precious short years while they’re young…. and still will talk to you lol. Don’t worry. That’s just a phase too. Just give them a couple of years until college and then they will realize you know EVERYTHING again! :)

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