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Oh, It’s Tuesday: When, Say You, Lipstick?

So reading this Jezebel piece about girls wearing make-up at younger and younger ages has me somewhat disturbed. Sample statistic:

Four years ago, a survey by the NPD Group showed that, on average, women began using beauty products at 17. Today, the average is 13-and that’s got to be an overstatement. According to market-research firm Experian, 43 percent of 6- to 9-year-olds are already using lipstick or lip gloss; 38 percent use hairstyling products; and 12 percent use other cosmetics.

littlegirlsbagI myself didn’t start wearing makeup until college, and then only a little. However, I am dark-skinned, and dark-skinned girls today would be shocked by how very little was available to women of our skin tone back in the day. When I got back from a year abroad in Japan after college, MAC cosmetics seemed to be everywhere, but I couldn’t afford to even look at their products during my grad-school and starving artist years. The day I got offered my first full-time writing job, I went to the mall and spent $300 on make-up, just because I finally could.

Nowadays, I wear make-up, mostly because it’s 1) fun and 2) available — these are pretty much the same reasons I got a good education. In any case, I don’t wear make-up on a regular basis, just because it’s a hassle, and unless I’m going somewhere special, I rarely see any reason to spend more that 5 minutes on the non-hygienic part of my morning routine.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I’m MUCH better than my mother, who wore a dab of dark lipstick to work and to parties, and that was it.

According to the article, young girls are taking cues from their mothers, whose feelings towards make-up and cosmetic procedures are shaped by a fashion industry that’s been telling us for quite a while now that we should be trying to achieve overly-thin, airbrushed perfection.

One of the nicer things about living in L.A. is that you see a lot of stars and you soon realize that almost no one looks the way that they do on TV and in magazines in real life. It’s all make-up and airbrushing and lighting. That said, it’s also true that a noticeably larger segment of L.A.’s adult population spends more time on their appearance than just about anything else that they could be doing in their leisure time.

So though I know that Betty won’t pick up early make-up cues from me, I worry that she’ll be unduly influenced by her looks-obsessed peers.

Interestingly enough, if my 8-year-old boy said he wanted to wear guyliner to school, I would probably be like “Go for it. Knock yourself out.” But if Betty tried to walk out the house with a full face of make-up at the same age, I’d have reservations. Also, if she asked for a spa-day-themed birthday party (as reportedly is the new trend among girls) I’d be freaked out — though fairly sure I could make it happen, since we do live in L.A.

However, I do realize that she probably won’t be as austere in her make-up usage as I am. And that’s okay. Like I said, make-up is fun, and there’s nothing wrong with girls taking a little interest in it.

But when does one allow her child to start wearing make-up? Also, how do we teach our girls to tend to their appearance without become obsessed with it, or thinking it’s their most important form of social capital?

. photo credit: David Yamasaki