Is Make-Up Just For Girls?

make-upOften, when I’m getting ready to go out, my 3-year-old boy will sit with me. Despite my mom slobbery, I do make some attempts to look nice. This includes applying cosmetics.

“Are you putting on make-up?” He asks me.


“I want some, too.”

The first time this happened, I paused for a moment. This could go many ways, I thought. I want it to be positive. If I tell him that make-up is for ladies, I think he will feel let down and confused. Plus, I’m not sure it’s the truth.  Is make-up just for girls, or women?

Plenty of moms of girls let their daughters experiment with make-up. Many of them grow up not to wear any at all. Should it make a difference if I let my 3 year-old play with make-up?

I really don’t think this is a gender-related issue, but more like an exploration of the senses: Mommy has sparkly eyes. He wants sparkly eyes. Mommy puts a soft brush on her face, he wants a soft brush on his face. Mommy’s lips smell like a lollipop, he wants to smell like a lollipop.

Obviously, the one thing I need him to understand is that make-up is for grown-ups, so it’s not something he can wear outside the house or play with by himself. Thus far he hasn’t tried to apply any on his own, despite the fact that it’s easily accessible to him. If it was locked in a closet, I’m sure he’d find a way to get to it, if he wanted it.

He’s also asked me why I use make-up. This was also a difficult question to answer. I wear make-up to look pretty, that is, to enhance my looks. That is the truth, right? Why else would I wear it?  This answer begs another “Why?”

Why don’t I already look pretty? Good question, Shnook. Good question. Those 3-year-old brains work and work and work.

Of course, he told me that I always look pretty (melt).

In a world where Girl Scouts lets transgenders be members (despite some intolerant opponents), are we moving into territory where we can change the way we talk about make-up and why we use it? If my son wanted to wear a dress –he has yet to express interest in doing so– I think I would let him.  He once said he wanted a skirt like mine, but then didn’t bring it up again, so I never pursued it. There is  a dress-up center at school, but he says he doesn’t like to play there because everything is too itchy or too small. That makes sense, considering the items are mostly discarded Halloween costumes made of harsh fabrics.

Who knew such a simple question could become so complicated.

What do you tell your toddlers and preschoolers about make-up?

Read more of my posts on Toddler Times.
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Photo by Maria Morri on Flickr

More by Naomi:
10 Toddler Obsessions
Oh Yeah, I’m Still Breastfeeding
10 Reasons I Love My 3 Year-Old

Article Posted 5 years Ago

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