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Ideas For A Healthy Approach To Makeup For Your Child

by Laura Verallo de Bertotto

There is no hard and fast rule for the “right” age to start wearing makeup. I started when I was thirteen because my acne started when I was ten. I seriously thought that not covering it up with concealer and foundation was “rude.” In college, makeup became entirely about getting attention and being told I was attractive. I went through a period where I couldn’t leave my bedroom without makeup. Everyone said I was pretty when I wore it…so I simply thought I wasn’t without it. And because me finding myself pretty was about as foreign as me finding a garden slug sexy, I needed external affirmation. I didn’t develop a healthy relationship with makeup (as self expression instead of camouflage) until my twenties. When, in my first real job, I stopped wearing foundation completely, I remember it being a conscious act of rebellion, freedom and self-claiming; to learn to love myself, as myself. I needed this “naked period” to be able return to makeup with a better attitude. Now, I still leave the house bare-faced for the most part, and when I do put makeup on, it’s sincerely fun…like I’m playing dress-up.

My daughter Madison and son Gavin (the “witch” and Spiderman, below) started playing with makeup when they were toddlers — not for “beauty” but as make-believe and art…basically painting, but on faces. And legs, arms, and tummies. And the walls. And the floors.

My daughter is now ten (seen above with her aunt and the daughter of a good friend) and I’m watching closely because she’s starting to think of makeup as more than just play. I’m watching my son, too, and how he sees what’s “normal” or expected for women in the world. And as one woman wrote on Refinery 29‘s “24 Women Share Their Ideal Ages For Wearing Makeup,” I believe that…

“We need to remove the connection between…sexuality and makeup (which is) only reinforced by prohibiting it and saying, ‘You’re not old enough’…Makeup is…a way to express ourselves…like any other form of dressing up.”

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Our attitudes regarding makeup may differ but we all want our children happy and confident. None of us wants our children to struggle with self esteem. These are some of the things I’m trying with my kids — and I’d appreciate knowing what’s worked for you!

No fashion or beauty mags…

I work in the “beauty industry” (that’s how we’re classified; we think of ourselves as being in the skin health industry) but I don’t keep magazines in the house or allow unsupervised TV or online access. If we watch or read these things together, I can observe what catches my daughter’s attention, answer her questions, and talk about self-acceptance, bullying, that these images aren’t “natural” (a team of professionals and major production are involved), our values (there isn’t one “beauty”; don’t judge anyone by how they look; you’re beautiful, period), and anything else that I think is important.

I never say I’m ugly…

As it is for many women, this is difficult for me, but I make a conscious effort never to say that I’m dieting, I look fat, I don’t like my hair, nose, tummy, or any other feature, or that I need to “put my face on” before I can leave the house.* My kids see me leave for work without makeup as often — or, really, because I’m usually rushing to get out the door after a workout or basic morning frenzy — more often than with makeup on. My hair is almost always wet and pinned up, too (the look is intimidatingly fashionable, I know…it says to the world, “I’m clean, and I am thrilled I managed that much today; you’re welcome.”) When I am in full makeup, it’s usually for something really special (like a big party or event), and I don’t make a big fuss. There’s plenty of time for that giddy, grown-up, “oh-my-god-you-look-amazing-oh-my-god-you-too!” excitement later.

*Side note: since I started committing to not saying anything negative about my looks, it’s helped my own self esteem. Win, win!

Non-beauty compliments…

I’m trying ones like, “wow, what a fun color!” or “peppy outfit!” or “that dress looks like summer.” It’s awkward as hell, but there’s a whole world out there calling her “cute” and “grown up” and (too soon) “sexy” so I figure, why not try other compliments?

Skin focus…

We’re “lucky” in that everyone in our family has allergies or other skin issues. This makes it more natural to think of skin care for health and comfort, not beauty. Which allows me to…

Keep the focus on play and off of “fixing”…

Madison hasn’t tried concealers or foundation yet. When she gets a rash or pimple, we talk about skin care, not makeup. I feel that makeup-to-camouflage, alter, or “improve” is the gateway to makeup-as-I’m-not-pretty-without-it. This will change, but I’m hoping to keep makeup as play, dress-up, and creativity for as long as I can. For now, makeup for her is only for play dates and not worn outside.

When I became a mom, I never wanted to dress my kids up and never thought of makeup as play for kids. But both my kids got into dress-up and makeup anyway…as I learned many kids do. Soon, I had parents asking us to make safer makeup options for their kids as an alternative to the heavily perfumed, preserved stuff that’s wildly popular. Or even just something that their kids could call their own (instead of destroying mom’s stash). I was faced with a dilemma. How could we make makeup that was kid-friendly but that didn’t promote “fixing,” or “beauty” or sexuality; that was still about play but could also be a healthy tool for self expression? I decided, based on what I was trying with my own kids, let’s keep the focus on play, creativity and dreaming. And this is why our You Can Be Anything Makeup Set for kids is designed the way it is. There is no mention of beauty or fashion anywhere, and the set comes in a handmade case that doubles as a keepsake box (which I thought could be used for treasures like “diplomas” or encouraging notes from mom or dad…my daughter has used it for menus for her “restaurant” or patient files for her “veterinary clinic” :). The box cover also has a picture frame. In addition to being inspired by Madison and her best friend who always take photos of their creations, I thought it could be cool to use for annual photos of your child in “what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up” outfits (which is why the gift card says, To: ___, Who Dreams Of Becoming ___).

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My absolute favorite part is the reusable gift pouch: it’s adorned with uplifting messages like, “I heart me!”; “Every child is an artist”; “I will not compare myself to strangers on the internet”; “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”“She believed she could, so she did”; and “Gratitude turns what you have into enough”…messages that a lot of us parents could be reminded of, too. 🙂

My daughter will eventually take her beauty cues from society. Until then, I want to drill down on encouraging her to embrace her beauty, just as she is, as natural as can be. It is, after all, make-UP and not make-ME.


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Laura is the CEO of VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of our founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister and husband (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about learning, literature, art, health, science, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness and goodness.

By Laura

Martini & NewYork(er) Fan; SmittenMom; Good Karma (occasional sass); Skinfatuated, Skintellectual, Skingenious CEO, VMV HYPOALLERGENICS Views mine: Instagram/LauraAtVMV

2 replies on “Ideas For A Healthy Approach To Makeup For Your Child”

Makeup is a form of self expression, character and transformative. This article touches me as a Mom and reminds us to encourage the playful side of revealing, not concealing personal creativity. “Every child is an artist” and needs to be playful and express themselves. At all ages – we can be anything – begins my 2017 outlook!

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