My 5-Year-Old Thinks I'm More Beautiful Without Makeup: I Wish I Could Believe Her

little girl makeup mirrorMy 5-year-old daughter is very much a mini-me. She loves to try on my jewelry, decorate herself with bows and clip-on earrings, and wear fancy tutu dresses with sequins to school. But unlike me, she doesn't like makeup. She told me so as I was putting on mascara, "Mama, you don't need makeup to be pretty." My heart sank.


All these times I have sat with her in the bathroom as I basically painted my face, transforming myself from what I think is a tired mom look to a mom with a bit of color on her lips and some cat eyes. As I put on my face powder, black liquid liner, and my tinted lip balm, my daughter was watching me wondering why I was changing myself. Me. The mom who is always talking about loving yourself for who you are.

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"I like you your own way you look like," she said. And hearing that from her -- the person whose opinion of me matters most in this world -- really hit me. She doesn't think I need makeup to be beautiful. This is much different than hearing it from your significant other. (Equally flattering, though.) I'm in my 40s, and I will admit that a little makeup makes me feel good, better. Prettier. There. I said it. But I don't want my daughter to think that makeup is what will make her feel better. Or that she wasn't pretty without it. Here she was, 5 years old, teaching me, opening my eyes in a way my mascara and flip of black liquid liner couldn't.

I asked her why she thought I wore makeup. She said, "Makeup helps your skin, a little bit. But not your lipstick."

Some of these were my words -- she was repeating what I have said to her in the past when she asked why I was using powder on my face. It's a mineral powder, said to prevent pimples. And yes, I am blessed with adult acne, so I buy into this kind of thing and think it helps. When she has asked me why I use that stuff, I have told her that it helps control the oils in my skin. She remembered that.

I asked her why she thought my lipstick didn't help. Her reply: "Because it has germs on it." Again, these were my words to her when she asked if she could wear my lipstick a few months ago. I didn't want her to wear it or get used to the way she looked with it. Even at 5. Especially at 5. I told her that she was beautiful without it, that she didn't need it, and that it has germs and to never share lipstick with anyone. I thought the germ part would resonate most. All my words coming back to me in the form of my sweet 5-year-old's voice.

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I've learned so much from her. Talking about makeup with her was sort of a role reversal. She -- at 5 -- was telling me that I didn't need makeup to be beautiful. That's something I thought I'd tell her when she gets to the makeup wearing age. It's made me really reflect and pay attention to what I say and do and what kind of message I am sending. Even just by wearing makeup.

I have a very perceptive kid, and I want her to have confidence in herself. I have to lead by example. But how in the world can I ditch my makeup? That seems extreme. And as I mentioned, potentially detrimental to my skin. I just have to make sure not to make it seem like I only feel pretty when wearing makeup. Makeup doesn't make me ... me. I can do that. As parents, we have to build our kids' confidence, while simultaneously keeping them humble, and do it by example. Everything we say and do resonates.

There have been times my daughter has wiped off lip balm kisses from me, but she has also been intrigued to wear it. So I asked my mini-me if she liked any makeup at all. She told me, "Lipstick. Because I could look so pretty with it."

I made sure she knew she is pretty just the way she is -- just like she told me. But I also told her that makeup can be fun sometimes, just like dressing up in a costume or wearing a crown. By request, I braided her hair into what we call a crown bun on top. I gave her a kiss, one without any tinted lip balm. "I love you, Mama," she said. She smiled and skipped away to go put on one of her princess dresses. I felt a tear forming in my mascara-framed eyes.

How do you talk to your kids about makeup? Do you ever have moments where you worry that what you do sends a message you don't want to your kids?


Image via Steve Snodgrass/Flickr

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