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Should Little Girls Wear Makeup?

Last month, it was my niece’s 9th birthday. The birthday party had some ten kids, all from her class. One girl got everybody’s attention. She wore a LBD with high heels, her waist-length hair open, dangling hoops in her ear, a touch of lipstick, blush on cheeks and an eyeliner. Every now and then she’d flick her head back to toss her hair over her shoulder. She looked smart and confident and was able to carry herself real well even in those high heels.
But something about her made me uncomfortable. Yes, it was her mini adult look. And one thought kept buzzing in my head, ‘could this type of dressing and makeup wait a while longer?

Before, I say anything further, let me be upfront with you: I have a boy. I don’t know anything about raising little girls except for the fact that I was one once. I am a feminist and do not believe in gender stereotyping. And that makeup, hairstyles, and clothing are the grey areas in parenting -there are no hard and fast rules.

Now, over to my dilemma… As a kid, I remember we girls playing pretend games and would dress up, wear sarees with dupattas, put on mom’s sandals and makeup which would make everybody around smile or laugh. And I still see little girls play that way! Dressing up has forever been a part of little girl’s playing process and I am all for that.
Have we taken the pretend game out of our homes now, is my question.

I know times have changed. Today, young girls seem to be growing up at a much faster rate than we did at the same age. Earlier, parents were able to say it with authority that makeup was meant for adults and the dresses had to be simple and age appropriate. Period. Now, the argument becomes much more difficult when there are cosmetics in the stores that are meant for the kids! And as for clothes, well, one can wear anything and everything at any age!

What really worries me is that with all this mature style of dressing and makeup, are we pushing the little girls to grow up faster than they have to? Some may argue that they like the ‘cool look’ of the kid and that it is the growing trend. Or that the tweens and teenagers are just keeping up with the times or the kids are donning this ‘cool look’ on just special occasions, which by the way we all know are way too many.

Psychologists say that makeup often represents an young girl’s eagerness and excitement to become a ‘grown up,’ and explore her attractiveness to peers or wanting to come across as older than she is? It’s about trying to fit in, to be popular.

Another thought that comes to my mind, is it the kid’s desire to go with the mature look or is it we parents who encourage them towards glamour and beauty? Experts say that expecting, or imposing, too much too soon, can affect a child’s psychological, emotional and social development. This can make the child unable to cope healthily with difficulties, stresses and challenges presented upon them. It is beyond their intuitive skills. This causes unnecessary distress to the child.

As parents do we need to rush a child’s growing up process? While it’s OK to wear shoes and accessories that match the colour of clothes, wearing makeup and dresses that are meant for a bit older age can certainly wait. A child looks beautiful without makeup, always! A child has got the rest of her life to play at being a grownup lady, she should remain child-like as long as she can.

What are your thoughts about little girls donning the mature look? Is there a certain age where you think it’s appropriate for girls to wear makeup out of the house? What age is too young?

A former pharmaceutical professional-turned-soft-skills facilitator for corporates and mother of a teenager, Shilpa Garg blogs at