It was about five minutes until we had to leave for school. I had apples from breakfast in one hand and a baggie for a sandwich in the other. In the middle of the chaos, my daughter walks in with bright purple streaks running vertically up the middle of her eyelids. It looked like a highlight had exploded on her eyes. I laughed, rolled my eyes, and wiped it off. “This is something we need to talk about,” I told her. “And now is not the time.” But it got me thinking. When is the time?  I’ve shared before in Self-Expression Through Style, that I believe in letting kids express themselves. But makeup seems loaded, like it says more than letting her wear stripes with plaids or leave her hair in her face.

I needed more input on the thought process that went behind other parents’ decisions on when girls would wear make-up. So, I started asking a wide range of women about their own experiences and their plans with their daughters. Not surprisingly, the answers varied vastly. The helpful part was hearing the rationale behind those answers. They considered issues that hadn’t occurred to me. Rather than sum up the responses and tell you what you should do, I wanted to share them with you.

Mom of three girls in elementary school:

“I don’t wear make-up so I don’t expect that they will wear a lot either. But lip gloss is okay. I want them to wear sunscreen, so they’ll probably put powder over that. The big thing for me is hair removal. I was hairy. They’re even hairier. I don’t want them to get teased, so we’ll start that really early.”

Grandmother of a 4th grader:

“Our society is so much about looks and glamour that I wanted to keep my daughter out of that pressure and young as long as possible. I guess junior high would be a good time for a little bit but definitely not too much until she’s like … 35! Or it becomes unrealistic, so maybe around 16. But I remember that my mom wouldn’t let me shave my legs forever and I was so embarrassed I wore tights every day. I wouldn’t want to do that to a kid. I still remember it well!” (This reminded me of the recent article, Are We Killing Ourselves to Be Beautiful?)

Mom of a 2nd grader:

“My mom wore so much make-up that I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. I wish someone had told me early on that I didn’t need to do all that! But, I am all for using cover up and powder as soon as she has skin issues. Middle School is hard enough without worrying about your face, too.”

High School English Teacher:

“I can’t speak for parents, but these girls come in looking ridiculous and I just want to save them from that!  Later in life, they are going to cringe. A lot of them are doing it because they think it will attract a boy but, from what I see, the boys are put off by all that stuff caked on.”

Grandmother of a 1st grader:

“The thing is, if you do it right, it shouldn’t look like you’re wearing a ton of make-up. The key is to teach them how to do it right.”

Mom of a girl in preschool:

“I’ll probably do it the way my mom did it: Seventh grade-blush, a little shadow, and lip gloss, Eighth- mascara, Ninth- whatever she wants. Each year gave me something to look forward to adding and being more grown-up.”

Mom of a daughters in 3rd grade and Kindergarten:

“It hasn’t come up yet. My first inclination is to say middle school, but I don’t really know what’s normal. We already need to get face wash because they have mini breakouts. I would think make-up could make skin issues worse.”

Mom of a 5th grader:

“When it starts coming up a lot, I’ll take her somewhere to learn how to put it on right. That way she’ll know how to do it without looking like a clown and someone else, besides her mom, can tell her the does and don’ts.”

Mom of a Kindergartnerer:

“I love make-up and I want her to feel like she can express herself. Probably she can start in sixth grade. At that point, if I don’t let her, she’ll probably just sneak it anyway. That’s what I did.”

What would you have answered if I’d asked you? How do you think you’ll handle make-up with your girls?