How Much Stage Makeup Should Little Girls Wear?

This week, my 6-yr-old daughter skated in her first ice exhibition.  Usually, she insists on doing her own hair and picking her own clothes, so it was a major victory when she agreed to let me comb down her spiky bangs (the result of giving herself a unique haircut two months ago) and smooth her hair into a bun for the ice show.

As far as her outfit, this time she shied away from the glitzier options in favor of a simple black dress.  She chose this dress because she wanted to honor the memory of 4-yr-old Donna, whose favorite color was black.  She also chose to skate to Firework by Katy Perry, because that is Donna’s momma’s special song.

“Now let’s do my makeup!” she exclaimed, after we wrestled her into her tights and dress. Ahh, yes, the make-up.

Let me preface this by saying that I do understand the reasons for using stage makeup, and I am okay with it.  Wearing makeup so that audience members seated far away from a stage or ice rink can see your features is NOT the same thing as allowing little girls to go to elementary school with daily applications of lipstick, eyeliner, and blush.

Even so, I was reluctant to put heavy make-up on my girl.  I didn’t want her to look like some tot on Toddlers & Tiaras, and we settled on some lip gloss.  I’ll admit that I did think about putting more stuff on her face, but she has a history of eczema outbreaks at the slightest allergen, and I figured it wasn’t worth it to risk an attack of eczema for one show.  As it was, she had a runny nose and seemed to already be coming down with something, so I erred on the side of caution.

We took a few pictures of her in our back yard, and I smiled at how sweet she looked.  The skating dress was very pretty; her hair was neat for possibly the first time all summer, and there were no rips in her tights.

But then we arrived at the skating arena.  Every little girl there had elaborate makeup.  Stage makeup, of course, because I see these kids all the time with unadorned faces.  And the uncomfortable truth is that my little girl looked plain, washed-out even, next to all those bright pink cheeks, red lips, and heavily shaded eyes.  She suddenly looked sallow, almost sickly.  (Some of that may be due to the fact that she began running a fever later that night and was indeed sick).

I felt conflicted.  Should I have given her makeup?  How much stage makeup is the right amount? At what age is it no longer creepy – even for the purpose of stage – for a little girl to be painted?  I do not have the answers to these questions.  Does wearing stage makeup sexualize a girl?

Will my daughter think that — in order to be beautiful– she needs to wear more make-up?  I enjoy wearing lipstick and light eye makeup when I go out, and I was at a loss recently when my 9-yr-old daughter asked me why I wear makeup.  Is there ANY answer that will prevent her from feeling that makeup enhances her value ? (In our society, looks are tied to value).

Hard questions, hard questions.  As I struggle to find the answers, I am grateful for groups like #BraveGirlsWant for asking these same questions and helping me wrangle with the answers.

The parents of every girl at the skate show want the same basic things: for our daughters to feel happy and secure, confident and prepared to do well. What I wonder is, how does wearing makeup factor into the equation?  I’m still trying to solve for x.

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