Pretty on the Outside: Talking to Our Daughters About Makeup

Our society puts a lot of pressure and worth on physical appearance. How attractive we are to others can affect our success in life – our place among friends, all levels of schooling, mate selection, even our jobs. There is no getting around this societal norm – it has to be faced one way or the other, particularly for women and girls in my opinion. It’s likely something we have all encountered before, and for me it drives home in a major way when I think about my child and how physical appearance already affects her young life.

I have always been comfortable in my own bare skin even before I became a mom. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going glam for special occasions or nights out. In fact, I’m actually pretty good at the craft; I’ve even been asked over the years to do makeup for many brides and for various formal occasions or photo shoots. My point is I’m not anti-makeup nor do I judge you if you wear it daily or sport the smoky eye to hit up CVS at 10am, but I do feel a twinge of sadness for women who feel as if they cannot leave their house without full makeup or hair or whatever physical enhancement they feel is needed in order to be an acceptable member of society. There seems to be so little freedom in that, at least from my t-shirt wearing, fell asleep before I could take a bath last night point-of-view. So where do these feelings come from? Why am I comfortable and confident without a stitch of makeup, and why do other women think I am nuts for parading around in such a way? It’s not because I’m any great beauty, rather, I think it’s because of who my mother is and what she taught me.

And now I am a mother of a 2-year-old little girl. She is curious and inquisitive about everything, as most toddlers are. Like I said, I rarely wear makeup but when I do, she watches me intently. She desperately wants to do what I am doing. She thinks I hung the moon for goodness sake. She will climb up onto the countertop, grab a makeup brush and rub it all over her face while watching herself in the mirror.

“What’s the harm in playing in mom’s makeup?” some of you may be asking. I don’t think there is harm, at least for the time being. But I do know that there will be a time in the not-so-distant future (as in a year or less I predict) where she will verbalize that she wants to wear makeup like mommy. And I will quickly say something to the effect of, “Baby you don’t need makeup, you are beautiful just the way you are.” This will be true. And when she considers this and responds thoughtfully (because I know how darn smart she is), “But Mommy, why aren’t you beautiful just the way YOU are?” I need to be prepared.

I certainly struggle with vanity at times and even bouts of low self-esteem. But those are my issues, and I want something better for my daughter, as every mama does. And so I envision my response to my 3- or 4-year-old to be something like, “Mommy IS beautiful just the way she is. She does not need to or have to wear makeup. Ever. But sometimes she feels like getting a little fancy. And this is something you can do too if you want to, when you’re older. Much older. But it’s never anything you have to do. Ok?” She’ll have probably run off to some other toy or project during my monologue, but I hope she will hear the gist of what I am telling her. Because it’s so, so important. And I know that conversations like this will only get more complex and gritty as she gets older, and I have to be ready and available to have those conversations, as well as lead by example.

Too many of my friends who have older daughters are dealing with body image woes and low self-esteem. I’m talking 7- and 8-year-olds. Too young. This hurts me deeply, and makes me yearn for time to stand still in my little girl’s life. But this is reality, and I have to face it.

I can’t protect her from all that our image-obsessed society will project onto her throughout her life, but I can arm her with the tools she needs to face the world with confidence and pride in the beautiful, extraordinary person she is. With, but especially without, makeup.

Have you had conversations with your daughter about wearing makeup or some other aspect of physical appearance? Please share your experience!

Fleur (which rhymes with ‘blur’ and is French for “flower,” in case you were wondering) is a former media relations and marketing professional happily turned mommy to two daughters, a spunky, sweet toddler and a roly-poly infant that is pure sunshine. She always assumed she would return to work full-time after maternity leave, but the role of Mother grabbed her by the soul, and she has been lucky to remain at home while still having an outlet as a freelance writer and the managing editor here at Red Stick Moms. A wandering heart to the core, Fleur and her husband of 10 years have traveled and lived in many places, but are happy to have returned home to Baton Rouge shortly after the birth of their first child. Based on her choices when it comes to motherhood and parenting, Fleur would likely be dubbed a “crunchy” mama, but her husband would just call it making things more complicated than they have to be…for the good of their daughters, he would TOTALLY add {wink wink}. Fleur loves Jesus, coffee, languages and words, hilarity that comes with honest conversations about this crazy little thing called life (solidarity, Sisters), photography, and the idea of sleeping through the night. She'd really love to sleep through the night.


  1. As a father and grandfather of beautiful girls I have always been careful not to over emphasize the “look how beautiful you are” comments! Generally, the last couple of generations have seen girls bombarded with the supposed importance of beauty and style to such a degree that, for many people, nothing else matters. As a result, young girls and teens are inundated with so much marketing about the importance of beauty, weight and style that the fashion industry has turned it into a cultural phenomenon and a multi-billion dollar industry. Advertising campaigns promoting brands that cater to children’s identity and self-image have changed the way children socialize with each other, interact with adults and view themselves and the world to such a degree as to be almost insidious!!

    That’s why it is so important that children and teens know of their worth in the family and with their Creator. It’s not about simply telling them that they don’t need make-up, but about affirming how beautiful their spirit, mind, thoughtfulness, creativity or even their prayer life is. Daughters (and sons, too) are all special and unique people! They’re special to their families – and to God – and they all need to believe from an early age that their looks are really one of the least important aspect of who they really are!

  2. This is a normal thing for little girls to do, God made us to watch and learn and to touch and learn and in the bible it tells you to look nice and don’t quoit me on things in the bible I have a terrible memory for exact wording, and men are to keep care and treat us better then rubies, but girls are made to play dress up and play mommy, it is built in to most of us, I also don’t wear well I wear my lip stick and that is all.

  3. I have had this same conversation with my 5 year old, and the basic gist I go with is that mommy is playing dress up when I do wear makeup, and that sometimes on special occasions mommy likes to look a little fancier, and that it’s inappropriate for little kids to go out with makeup on. I also live 95% of my time with nothing on.


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