Third Eye

How young is too young for make-up 

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022 04:55 | By

Many women will tell tales of how they come home to find their children having smeared their faces with lipstick, eye pencil and powder, and the contents of the make-up kit scattered on the floor. This is something Dorice Ochieng knows too well. Her seven-year-old daughter has always desired to put on make-up. 

“The desire was birthed from the fact that she sees me with make-up. She always wanted to try, but I kept on saying ‘no’,” she narrates. 

Building self-worth

 However, on her sixth birthday, Dorice opted to give in to her daughter’s demands. She let her do make-up and took her to have pedicure and manicure. The results amazed her. 

“She was so excited and made sure everyone saw and noticed her. I thought that since we were having a party, like it had been the norm during her birthdays, I could maybe, do something that was personal to her.  I thought through what was affordable at that moment that didn’t involve a lot of money and I remembered that she always wanted  to have make-up done,” she continues. 

She shares how this decision was further pushed by the fact that her daughter kept on comparing herself to other people. 

“I’m not sure where she got the idea that anyone who has light skin or make-up is better than anyone else. I guess it’s from her peers or school— she went to a school that had white children and saw how much attention they got. But I made sure to sit down with her and assured her that she is beautiful, no matter her complexion,” she says. 

Nowadays, she doesn’t ask to apply make-up. Dorice has ensured that she gives her  daily affirmations to build her self-confidence. “I remind her that she’s different and that’s just how everyone was  created— everyone is unique. I remind her that she is loved. I use practical examples—for instance, recently, I made the same meal for three consecutive days and she complained. I told her it’s the same case in life. The world can be boring if we all looked and acted the same,” she narrates. 

While interest in make-up begins at a young age and tends to rise when children get to pre-teen and teenagehood, parents may wonder what age is appropriate to allow their little-ones to wear make-up. Parents may also wonder how to keep children safe and healthy once they do decide to allow it. 

Make-up artist, Tabitha Anyango of TabbyTabz MakeOver, says the first rule of thumb is to have an open discussion with your daughter as soon as you notice that they have interest in make-up. 

“Parents shouldn’t discourage their children. They should not take a firm ‘yes’ or ‘no’ stance when it comes to children wearing make-up, but rather to find a happy medium that allows them to wear a certain amount of make-up in a controlled environment. Let them use a little make-up such as a clear gloss. But it is good to let the children know that make-up can be harsh for their growing and sensitive skin. Let them be curious and practice applying make-up on an adult’s face . You never know she might just grow up to be a make-up guru,” she explains. 

While it can be challenging to control your children at this stage, it is vital to understand that many manufacturers do not make products with children’s skin in mind. Most products are harmful and that could be a major concern if children use the products. 

Due to their faster metabolism, studies indicate that the absorption rate in children is at least 10 per cent higher compared to adults. As such, they can react even when small amounts of an irritant is applied

“So, for example if they apply lipstick, their skin will immediately absorb it. Simply put, applying make-up products on the skin of your children will make them vulnerable to toxic substances,” adds Tabitha. Some tosic chemicals include formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, mercury, which can damage the kidneys and nervous system, among others.

Dr Jackline Githinji, a dermatologist says letting your growing daughter wear make-up may set her up for teenage acne, when the incomplete removal of products, coupled with unhygienic practices (such as sharing make-up with friends), can clog pores and transmit bacteria.

Negative effects

“If you think a little lip gloss or blusher is harmless, think again. Make-up can lead to dermatitis of the skin and lips, causing redness, itch and flaking. Watch for skin irritation. Reaction from cosmetics can be as mild as skin redness or as severe as hives and swelling,” she says.

Compared to adults, children also have a thinner skin and have lower barrier function than adults. “The role of the skin barrier is to assist in retaining the moisture while keeping harmful materials out. Studies indicate that children’s skin is less equipped to defend itself against irritants,” says Tabitha. 

She advises parents to let their children attain at least the age of 13 years before they  use make-up. “But if they are insistent, they can use sunblock as their ‘foundation,’ clear gloss as their ‘lipstick’ and have them use clear eyebrow gel to groom their brows,” she adds. 

However, she says that parents should first understand why a child may want to use make-up before reprimanding her.  

“Make up actually isn’t a big deal, but a parent needs to know the reason the child desires make-up, especially if they bring it up all of a sudden. Often times, wearing make-up is used as a way to enhance one’s appeal and perhaps further objectify oneself so as to increase magnetism and power over others. This should not be your child’s concern because, a child shouldn’t be worrying about their sex appeal. But knowing the reason behind your child’s insistence to use make-up can help you know how to guide her,” she says. 

She also warns parents against comparing their children with others. “Don’t ever compare your child with another child, but instead, build their self-esteem, especially starting at a young age because you won’t always be there to fight the bullies who come in form of peers, teachers, nannies,” she says in ending. 

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