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Is Your Tween Ready for Makeup? Wal-Mart Says Yes

By Meredith Carroll |

Tween girl

The creators of Wal-Mart's new makeup line aimed at tween girls must not have tween girls at home

I happily bought my daughter a tutu before she turned two. It was fun to watch her walk around oblivious to the fact that she looked like she was wearing a spray of cotton candy around her little pot belly, especially if she had on jeans underneath.

She’s now two-and-a-half and less than a month ago discovered Cinderella and Snow White. I had purposefully kept princesses from her before then because I figured she’d find out about them eventually. Still, I caved when I decided there’s really not enough damage that can be done at this point and besides, she’s eating them up with pure, innocent delight.

I got a pedicure a few weeks ago, and as she inspected my toes, I asked if she wanted me to paint her nails.

“No,” she said flatly. I didn’t press it, and frankly, I was relieved she showed no interest. It’s just too soon, I realized afterward.

Quite honestly, I’m not sure what the right age is for things like ballerinas, princesses or beauty queens, but I don’t think it’s 8, particularly if it means anything more elaborate than a plain old tutu or other similar dress-up clothes.

Wal-Mart seems to have other ideas, however. They just announced that they are introducing a line of cosmetics specifically for 8- to 12-year-olds. Apparently, since the tween makeup market makes $24 million annually, they want a piece of the underage pie.

The whole idea makes me a little sick to my stomach. A second or third grader with makeup marketed directly to her? (After all, who’s to say this is just for play and that it won’t be used as an everyday accessory?)

Yes, yes and yes again, of course it’s up to parents to help their daughters decide what’s appropriate and not based on their kids’ age and maturity level, among other factors. But we all know that once a seed is planted, it’s awfully hard to unring the bell.

“We are raising another generation of girls who kind of measure their self-worth based on what’s on the outside,” Dr. Logan Levkoff, author of the book “Third Base Ain’t What it Used to Be” said on “Good Morning America.

The new tween makeup line from Walmart, called Geo-Girl, includes lipstick, eye shadow, mascara, a cleanser and an exfoliate (yes, really). Wal-Mart said it will only be marketing the line to parents.

Um, sure. Just like PG-13 movies like “Spider-Man” are regularly advertised during cartoons for 5-year-olds and on cereal brands eaten by toddlers?

I think it’s a bad idea and one I can tell you I won’t be supporting now or in the future. While playing pretend or dress-up is one thing, taking it a step further by letting little girls mark up their bodies and actually, really and truly try to start looking like grown women is another story.

Do you, or would you let your tween wear makeup?

Image: Creative Commons

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About Meredith Carroll


Meredith Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll is an award-winning columnist and writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She can be found regularly on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post. From 2005-2012 her other column, "Meredith Pro Tem" ran in several newspapers, as well as occasionally on The Huffington Post since 2009. Read more about her (or don’t, whatever) at her website. Read bio and latest posts → Read Meredith's latest posts →

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15 thoughts on “Is Your Tween Ready for Makeup? Wal-Mart Says Yes

  1. Amanda says:

    I’m pretty conservative about most things, but I don’t see what the big deal is about a little make-up. I was allowed to wear Bonne Bell Lip Smackers with sparkles and clear mascara starting in about 4th grade. I was wearing regular mascara, blush, and lip gloss by 6th grade. No harm done.

  2. jenny tries too hard says:

    I don’t know if I would put ballerinas and princesses, and their accompanying tutus and tiaras, in the same category as makeup…princess and ballerina stuff (should) be pretty clearly about play. And I do like bonne bell lipsmackers, and tubes of chapstick with Tinkerbell slapped on the outside, because my six-year-old is more inclined to keep her lips from getting chapped if there are pretty colors and scents involved.

    But eye shadow? Mascara? No. Just…no.

  3. anonymous says:

    My sisters kids wear clear mascara, and light, super light, lip gloss. They feel like a part of the crowd, but don’t look like they are trying to be older than what they are.

    Stores will continue to sell items we don’t approve of. Don’t shop there. Don’t buy them. Whatever you do, stop whining about it. Wal-mart sells guns RIGHT next to the kids sports section. Where is the post on that. It is literally two isles over from the toy section. I haven’t seen the blog post that finds this harsh or abrasive. Is there a post that says how unrealistic all nick or disney tween shows are? Is there a series yet that doesn’t feature them wearing makeup, running around town unsupervised, or kissing boys (at the very least, have crushes on them)?

    The bottom line is this – teach your children what matters, what creates a person of substance. Stop trying to assume that all who wear make up (or want to play with make up that is …..*gasp* …..age appropriate), are pushing aside the yearning for intellect and other important qualities. Young ladies should have the option to be a smart, interesting person with an interest in make-up or not.

    I’m annoyed by this post for some reason more than I think I should be. If you oppose this make-up thing then by all means please don’t be the person who has given your tween (aka 12 year old) child an ipod and license to listen to music freely. I mean, cookie-cutter cute Taylor swift and toothache – sickly sweet justin bieber are singing about love and romance and breaking up and revenge, etc and while kids are bopping along to the beats the lyrics talk about subject matter Im sure you are crossing your fingers that your child isn’t interested in.

    “I think it’s a bad idea and one I can tell you I won’t be supporting now or in the future. While playing pretend or dress-up is one thing, taking it a step further by letting little girls mark up their bodies and actually, really and truly try to start looking like grown women is another story.” – is – allowing kids to listen to music plants the seed that you can steal a boyfriend, break someones heart, scratch up a car, drop that ass, shake it, fall in love, etc.

    I know there wasn’t a mention of music here, but who has a 10, 11, 12 year old that hasn’t heard um, popular music before. That too, by your standards, is planting the seed for something well beyond what their maturity level is ready for.

    So what should we do – put children into a bubble and not let them be exposed to all of the things geared toward them? I think not. it doesnt mean you have to agree with it or consume the various things offered.

    I started high school at 13 years old by the way. Im glad that I was allowed to wear a slight amount of light makeup in my jr high years. Im also glad that I was allowed to express myself in the manner I wanted to during my tween years. Im a creative, intelligent and well rounded person because of it.

  4. Meredith Carroll says:

    @Jennie + @ Amanda — I wouldn’t put glorified Chapstick in the same category as mascara and exfoliant . . .

    @Anonymous — I’m talking about 8-year-olds, not 12-year-olds.

  5. Angela says:

    hmm. At a very young age my mom gave me some of her old make up to play with and I don’t think it encouraged me to grow up too soon or harmed my self-esteem. I can understand why you might not want your daughter to play with make-up but I can also see why for other parents it may not be a big deal.

    It is really hard when you have strong beliefs about how you want to raise your child but your kid regularly sees other kids who’s parents are more permissive. I have this issue in regards to food. I’m not a fanatic by any means but I do believe in clean, healthy eating. Unfortunately most of the parents around us seem to believe that fruit snacks and french fries are healthy foods for toddlers (they do have some fruits and vegetables in them after all). I wish these other parents thought more like me, but ultimately it’s up to them to decide what’s best for their kids.

  6. Marj says:

    It’s funny how different things are regarded now. I’m pretty sure my mother was wearing makeup in Jr. High. Why? Because she looked just like Annette Funicello. Also, when I cautiously asked if I could wear mascara when I was about12, she was so excited that I was interested in something girly, that she immediately began talking about blush, lipstick and foundation. I was so freaked out about it, I didn’t wear makeup until about my Junior year in high school.

  7. Linda, the original one says:

    These posts just makes me glad my daughter has better taste in music than the average young teen. :/

  8. Gretchen Powers says:

    How about thirTEEN? I guess I’m kind of old-fashioned, but I think a little tasteful makeup for fun on a “teen” ager is fine. 8 year old? No. Lipgloss is fine. No foundation or face-covering crap—ever! That shit ruined my skin when I was young. I think the mom has to set the example and the tone. I don’t wear much makeup at all and don’t focus on those girly kind of things. Also, you don’t want to make it too “taboo” because she will want it more. In Jr. High, I think I put on makeup once I got to school because my parents (mostly my dad) were very critical of it if I had it on when I left the house. And children don’t need to exfoliate, as an aside.

  9. Micky says:

    I think that marketing a bigger issue than the question of make-up. Eight years arguably an appropriate age to begin “playing” at grown up activities like make-up, but is WAY TOO young to actually seriously apply a cosmetic regime, which is what these products are aimed at, make no mistake. These are not toys. They are actual cosmetics, and even twelve is borderline for that activity. The idea that marketing to kids is okay as long as their parents intervene is annoying and offensive to me. Wal-mart is trying to capture market share, which will happen whether or not you are a good parent and set good limits (how many people Just Say No to MacDonald’s, but battle the allure golden arches with their kids anyway–that’s a marketing tool called the nag factor). Adverstising to kids is about establishing habit, creating emotionally-based false needs, and instilling brand loyalty. Regardless of whether you buy this crap for your daughter, the marketing campaign is normalizing the idea that she should already/always be conscious of her appearance and that buying make-up (particularly this brand, available exclusively at Wal-Mart) will make her feel better about herself.

    Equally offensive is the idea that commercials and music are somehow functionally equivalent. The latter is a form of artistic and cultural expression that has the collateral effect of influencing kids’ behavior through exposure to and modeling of new ideas. The latter is EXCLUSIVELY targeted at convincing people they need to buy the subject item. There are certainly mediums that blur this line deliberately (like the Disney channel), but is the marketing side of the equation that is harmful, not the expression. Either way you should be conscious about what your kid is exposed to things. But marketing, unlike music, literature, and art, is meant to be an end-run around your parenting.

  10. JEssica says:

    I think grown women use makeup too much and it is funny to me that people that believe in “clean eating” then apply unknown chemicals onto their skin. So yes I think marketing makeup to children is wrong.

  11. Micky says:

    P.S. I had a typo. I meant to say the *former* (meaning marketin), “is EXCLUSIVELY targeted at convincing people they need to buy the subject item.”

  12. Lisa says:

    Sephora is selling hello kitty makeup kits now complete with rhinestones.

    Who is that targeting?

  13. Meredith Carroll says:

    @Lisa – Presumably tweens, I would think. What do you think?

  14. Mandy says:

    I am not bothered by this… it is nothing new. Daughters will play dress-up and I see make-up as part of that. Would I let my daughter wear full face covering makeup to school? No. But when she wants to experiment with makeup I let her. Who am I to say no, when she is just trying to be like mom? And, I would much rather her have her own makeup than to destroy mine. But will I buy this line from Wal-Mart? No, probably not. I will opt for something with all-natural ingredients. The only thing that I think takes it too far is the exfoliant.

  15. Andrea says:

    I’m a semi-high maintenance Mom – I wear makeup, get regular pedis, color my hair…but children are so beautiful the way they are! I don’t want my eleven year old feeling she needs to wear makeup when she has her whole life to do so. Kids don’t usually get these ideas in a vacuum; it’s usually because of marketing, parents caving into it, allowing their kids, which in turn puts pressure on their friends. I can’t imagine why moms would want them wearing makeup (in public, mind you) so early in life! If she chooses to, high school will be our daughter’s right of passage to wear makeup, and even then, only a minimal amount. Why are we in such a rush to make our children grow up???

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