Learn about beginner makeup tutorials and which products should be front and center
We get it: You feel like you just brought your newborn home from the hospital, and now they’re asking for eyeliner. At what age is makeup for kids appropriate anyway? Are there things you need to consider when your kid wants to start wearing makeup? From what questions to ask your tween to finding the best makeup tutorials on YouTube, we’ve got all the info you need below, plus extra guidance from experts. (It’s also important to note that while many of the following quotes reference girls, any kid may look to makeup as a form of fun, creative expression.)
What Is the 'Right' Age to Start Wearing Makeup
At the end of the day, parents make the rules. But it's good to know the average age range before making up your mind. (Pun 100% intended.) "Most kids typically start wearing makeup between the ages of 12-15, but often they'll start experimenting in the house earlier and during playdates with friends," says clinical psychologist Dr. Jo-Ann Finkelstein.
You may find that you (or your child's other parent) have unexpectedly strong feelings about your not-so-little-one wearing makeup. If your child's request comes as a surprise, it's okay to say, "I need some time to gather my thoughts. I don't want to just say no. Let's talk about this again in a week." Take time to think through your family's values. Some parents use their own personal history with makeup as a guide. Others want to break away from the negative messages they heard growing up about what wearing makeup says about a tween's character.
Bottom line: Don't shoot from the hip with a 'yes' or 'no' answer. Once you pick the age your crew can start wearing makeup, let them know. This is especially important if they can't wear makeup now—they'll know how long they have to wait.
Questions to Ask Your T(w)een about Makeup
"My approach both as a scientist and a mom is grounded in relationships and resilience. I always think, what do I say or do to keep my daughter close and connected to me, and to help her be ready to face what comes in the world," says Dr. Angela Low, a researcher at Child Health BC.
Strengthen your connection with your teen by asking questions before handing out guidelines around makeup for kids. "I'm less concerned with appropriate age (I think that's a personal decision for parents) and more about what it means to them," Finkelstein says. "Are they doing it because it helps them feel grown-up? Because that's what they think all grown-up women do? Because they don't feel pretty? Because they want to change something about themselves? Because it's fun and creative?"
Bottom line: Your teen might need a discussion about the pressures society places on people to look a certain way, instead of lipstick. But you'll never know unless you ask. Pick a time when you and your teen are relaxed if you want honest answers to your questions.
How to Pick an Appropriate Amount of Makeup for Kids
No parent wants their 12-year-old to look 24. Certified makeup artist Stacy Schilling advocates for a less-is-more approach when thinking about makeup for 12-year-olds or younger teens. "I truly feel that lip gloss is the only appropriate item for a young girl. However, if they're going to a school dance, such as a daddy-daughter dance, then a little eyeshadow that complements their dress is appropriate, along with a small amount of blush to brighten their cheeks."
Older teens might wear eye makeup, blush, and lipgloss or lipstick. Schilling suggests sticking to neutral or lighter colors appropriate for daytime. "However, if they want to wear makeup regularly, they need to prove that they can take care of their skin first before wearing it."
Brandi Gregge, CEO and founder of Mint & Needle medical aesthetics boutique agrees. "They should always wash off their makeup." And while she doesn't advocate that teens wear foundation, if they choose to do so, they should "ensure their skin is adequately hydrated (hyaluronic acid) prior to applying the foundation, and double-cleanse their skin in the evening. If they have open or "popped" pimples, do not apply foundation over that as it will make it worse."
Bottom line: The younger the kid, the less makeup they should wear. And they need to practice a consistent cleansing routine before they start using makeup.
Walk the Line Between Caution and Shaming
Kids push boundaries, and at some point, your tween might put on more makeup than you think is appropriate. You might also be worried that they're sexualizing themselves. At that point, as Finkelstein points out, things can get tricky. "We're responsible for keeping our kids safe and guiding them to a healthy sense of themselves, but we have to do that in a way that doesn't disrupt the process of figuring out who they are and how they want to embrace their sexuality," she says.
"We have to do it without shaming them. As they get older, we need to find ways to help girls understand the world they're walking into. We don't want to unfairly color the way they see the world, but not knowing what to expect could be worse."
Bottom line: Talk to your teen about protecting their skin from the consequences of makeup. Also, discuss how some people will try to objectify them once they wear makeup. As Low says about her teenage daughter, "Neither of us can control what might happen, but we can build the assets to face them... and feel good about ourselves in the process."
Buying Makeup for Kids
No matter what you think about makeup for kids, this is an opportunity to connect with your tween. Let them take the lead in exploring different products to see what looks good and what doesn't—though you might want to start by bringing home options for your mini to try instead of turning them loose in Sephora. Your wallet will thank you. And you'll avoid conflict in the eyeshadow aisle.
Then let them play with what you give them. "I will be honest and tell [my daughter] if something looks bad or if it isn't appropriate, but I check and regulate myself, a lot," Low says. "It's tough. But I think she learns from her own mistakes."
You are their first and best ally. "We talk about what she can think or do if people make mean comments (and also to not make mean comments about others)," she says.
Bottom line: Talk to your tweens about the types of makeup they like. Then bring back a selection of parent-approved products they can play with. Other people will have opinions about your kid's makeup. Be prepared to tell them, "This is how we do things in our family."
Basic Makeup Tutorials for Kids
Rome wasn't built in a day and neither are makeup application skills. The good news is that you can find a ton of free tutorials on the internet; YouTube and TikTok are the more popular sites. There's a good chance that your kid already has some faves. But if you're looking for some cute makeup looks for beginners, we have some suggestions to get you started.
On YouTube, Haley Kim's channel, Less is More, has dozens of tutorials for beginners. Her minimalist, positive approach can help your tween or teen start off on the right foot. Jaime Page from Canada has tutorials that cover everything from a fresh-faced look to ultra-glam. And Kaiser Coby has great content for those with darker skin. On TikTok, SlaybyJess has a very natural-looking style and dozens of videos covering everything from how to put on eyeliner to easy ten-minute makeup routines for absolute beginners.
Bottom line: Wearing makeup is an exciting milestone for many teens. Take a thoughtful approach and treat this as an opportunity to connect. You will help your kid wear an appropriate amount of makeup for all the right reasons.