8 Parents on Letting Little Kids Wear Makeup

Photo: Diana Koenigsberg/Getty Images

Petite ‘n Pretty is a new makeup brand designed to provide “young creatives with the best first beauty experience.” In other words, it’s makeup for four-year-olds (and their older siblings). The products may have made for stellar stocking stuffers this holiday season, but they’ve also caused a not-so-pretty stir. The start-up has sparked both takedowns and superfans, and has clearly opened up the dialogue on the relationship between kids and beauty.

Kim Kardashian has probably been having that conversation all week after North West, 5, wore bright red lipstick to a Christmas party — allegedly to promote an upcoming shade from KKW Beauty. So in the spirit of shade, we asked eight parents for their own takes — positive, negative, conflicted, ambivalent — on kids and makeup.

“I’m a believer in not suppressing what they naturally gravitate to.” —Laura, mother of a 6-year-old daughter

I joke that my daughter is 6 going on 16. I was initially very opposed to makeup because I thought she didn’t need it to feel pretty and I didn’t want her to feel like she did. I wanted her to feel beautiful in her own skin. But my daughter is a total girly girl. She naturally gravitates toward doing hair, makeup, and nails — the total opposite of me. So now I let her have her own makeup and nail polish. She has a vanity and fake hair-dryer, and she loves it.

I’m a believer in not suppressing what they naturally gravitate to. She also gets very proud and confident when she does her nails or has lip gloss. She goes out in fluorescent pink lipstick or blue or purple and thinks she looks, “Amazing!” But I don’t let her wear it to school, and I am careful about only letting her use good stuff because the cheap crap scares me on her young skin.

“It speeds up how fast they grow up.” —Darcy, mother of a 5-year-old daughter

Makeup on kids is the worst! I hate the pretend makeup kits they sell, too. Why would we want them to grow up so quickly? It speeds up how fast they grow up. They want to change their appearance? Not okay. I don’t want my little girl playing in my makeup drawer, and I don’t let her. It only encourages it. Let them be kids! Mothers who let their kids play with makeup are ridiculous and pathetic.

“It’s makeup. Who cares?” —Abigail, mother of a 3-year-old daughter

I couldn’t care less if she wears makeup or not — and I’m a doctor who specializes in women’s health. It’s a fun, creative activity and it’s a million times healthier than watching TV or eating buckets of candy. I look at makeup like I do with most things parenting-related: If I have neurosis around it, so will the kid. So if I get serious and overly analytical about her relationship to makeup — or her relationship to the meaning of beauty — then I’m creating a conflict inside of her; I’m creating a tension.

It’s makeup. Who cares? The important question is: Do I act in a way that gives the message that a woman needs to be beautiful or glamorous to be valued? Never. My actions as a woman and a mother and a human are so much more critical than if my little one has fun dipping her fingers into blue glittery eye-shadow. The whole debate is absurd, if you ask me — and you did!

“I’m all about following her lead.” —Sam, parent of a 4-year-old daughter

I identify as nonbinary but I’m okay with any pronoun. My wife is a performer and spends a lot of time dressing for shows. Our daughter loves to play dress-up in princess costumes and wear makeup and then run around pretending to be a “rock-star princess.” I’m all about following her lead. I mean, if my mom dealt with me being a “little boy,” wearing all boys’ clothes and playing with boys’ toys and digging for worms and then bringing them home, my kid can do what she wants. Our daughter can explain what a transgender person is super well. She just says that people can be whatever they want — but she is and always will be a girl princess!

“I see it as a way of enjoying and embracing our dark, beautiful skin.” —Ebony, mother of a 9-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son

I let my son and daughter play with makeup. It’s all about freedom of expression, as far as I’m concerned. I see it as a way of enjoying and embracing our dark, beautiful skin. I saw that Petite ‘n Pretty brand and I thought the product was very nice, but the name seems problematic to me. It seems not so progressive. That being said, makeup is art, and I say bring it.

“She wanted to ‘play makeup’ like Mommy did.” —Jenna, mother of two daughters, ages 8 and 10

I am a mother of four and have two daughters. My older daughter loved to play in makeup at a young age, like 5 or 6. At that point I was working as a makeup artist for Estée Lauder, so I fully understand her obsession. She wanted to “play makeup” like Mommy did. She could wear the makeup inside the house and it was fine with me. In public, it was a no-go! My younger daughter doesn’t care for makeup and doesn’t even want to play with it. I think messing around at home — and only at home — is an expression of creativity and fun. But the whole Dance Mom thing, with young girls going full-on JonBenet, is weird to me.

“They don’t understand any of it.” —Meghan, mother of a 4-year-old daughter

At young ages, kids just want to be like anyone they love who’s wearing makeup. I feel the same about little boys. It’s not about gender for me. None of that matters when kids are little. They don’t understand any of it. They just want to play and have fun and do it with their friends. They are together and exploring, and that’s what childhood is about.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s highly inappropriate.” —Glenda, mother of 5-year-old twin girls

I was raised strict by immigrant parents. We were not allowed to touch makeup until we were 17. And you know what? Now that I have girls, I completely understand why. I was a very innocent young person. I still have an innocence in my heart and I’m 40 and married and clearly not a virgin. I respect my parents from keeping that stuff away from us and I won’t let my girls mess around with it either. As far as I’m concerned, it’s highly inappropriate.

8 Parents on Letting Little Kids Wear Makeup