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

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  • Parul

    I am not a parent so not sure what parents must be thinking about this. As a female and one who thinks too much on such things – I believe 14 is the new 18 but at the same time 9 is not a 14. Makeup does bring in that element of maturity. But what would you say of shaving legs at 9? When we were growing up, long skirts were okay. Now with girls wearing short dresses or tank tops, I guess the age for that move have also moved. Sometimes, for children it’s peer pressure or parents being open to changing world. Children want to look cool and parents don’t want to force children.

    • shilpagarg

      I know what you mean, Parul. It’s the changing times actually and there’s immense peer pressure and societal influence is pretty high too and it might be tough for the parents to combat these trends. Whatever said and done, tweens are still kids and I believe, they should stay that way! 🙂

  • Totally with you. I think kids looks beautiful even without makeup. We as parents should not rush up the growing process.

    • shilpagarg

      Amen to that, Ruchi 🙂

  • I have often discussed this with my friends… but then I don’t have kids so really don’t know what goes in the minds of the parents. In my opinion 9 is still too young to be dressed up like an adult. Parents should never force their kids to be mini adults.

    Although, I have seen kids grow up faster as soon as they become teenager. They are more independent and confident than what we were during our time, which I feel is a good thing.

    • shilpagarg

      Oh, there’s no doubting that! Kids today are way too smarter and confident than we were at the same age. I believe it is both ways… kids want to have that look and parents have some aspirations too. As parents, the responsibility lies with us and it is we who have to strike a balance between setting limits and allowing them to be independent thinking individuals. Tough job… but we have to do it 🙂

  • usha menon

    Shilpa,I very much agree with you that nine years is too early to wear ‘adult’ clothes. Actually I feel that the mothers have a great role in the dresses the daughters wear.I have two grand daughters.They wear all type of which we have no say. But we have fixed a limit beyond which they are not allowed.

    • shilpagarg

      Today parents have a tough role to play, they have to be somewhere between being authoritative and being permissive. As parents have to follow the middle ground and that’s setting limits, which you are doing with your grand kids. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Ma’am!

  • Aashima Mankoo Choudhary

    It is a crazy world we live in. Boys sporting spikes and fancy haircut at 9 will probably be cute and if dressed like an adult will be a “little man” not so with a girl though!
    What say?

    • shilpagarg

      Totally with you, Aashima! Liked the example you shared and ironically, that’s the world we live in!

  • Latha

    I am scared I will ending up writing a post comment for this one. I have a little girl who is always interested in putting on make up and the so on…Being a tom boy myself, I don’t use any kind of make up except for lipstick. Even then, I don’t know how she inculcated the interest. My sis is into all the fancy stuff and my girl loves to hang out with her. Sis adorns her with some make up for occasions and the husband threw a fit about it. MIL send her a pair of fancy little heels from India and the girl always loves to wear them all the time. How much ever I avoid it, she watches some you tube videos …There is some or the other way she knows about them even if I make her not to watch all those. For a person like me, even if you are 18 or 21, I would still think make up is not necessary. I know I belong to the old school.

    • shilpagarg

      Aah! I can understand your concern, Latha. With the information that’s available to the kids both online and through peers, it’s tough for the kids not to get influenced at such a young age. Our role as a parent is getting tougher by the day. Here’s hoping that explaining the pros and cons of makeup at a young age and setting boundaries (special occasions, only lip gloss/nail paint) should allay your worries!

  • Anindita Guha

    Hi! I totally agree with you. My daughter is six and my son is three. Frankly speaking I sparingly use make-up. I think, before we draw rules for our children we should follow rules ourselves, whatso it be. Children learn from the environment around them. I always take care while selecting dresses for my kids. I want them to look cute, sweet, fairy but not as beautiful or grown up. We as parents should help them live and enjoy their childhood. We mostly neglect the dressing part, but it does impact them psychologically and shows up in later years.