Make-up, Waxing, and Facials for Tweens? Puh-lease.

Thursday in the New York Times, there was an article in the style section about tween girls getting facials, waxings, blow-outs, and professional make-up applications.  And just in case you didn’t know, tweens – in marketing parlance anyway – are 7-12 year olds.

True, the article only talked about twelve year old girls getting driven into Manhattan from Greenwich, Connecticut, to have make-up lessons on the Upper East Side – not 7 or 8 year olds. But twelve is young enough.  Young enough for what, you ask?  Young enough that it’s just plain awful.

I get that tween girls are growing up faster than they were when I was that age.  I mean, when I was that age, the word Tween didn’t even exist.  Now, it doesn’t even set off the spell-check. (Which also didn’t exist when I was that age, just so you know.)  But I also know that twelve year old girls are just as insecure as ever.  That they are figuring out who they are. And as their bodies change – who they will be.

Do we really want them to be so singularly focused on their looks?

What does it say to a twelve year old girl that having great hair and makeup for a Bat Mitzvah party is worth two hours in the car (one there, one back), hundreds of dollars in fees, and the physical pain of an eyebrow wax? What does it mean to a twelve year old girl when a staff of grown women fawn over and serve her for the sake of her looks?

It says that no matter the cost, the time, the classist nature of entitlement it all implies – looks are the most important thing.  Beauty above all else.  And worse, that even at twelve, their own natural beauty isn’t enough. They need professional make up artists and facialists.

I don’t blame the girls.  I don’t even blame the pop culture machine that presents them with impossibly beautiful and perfect role models who are all primped and primed ad nauseum.  I blame the parents.  I blame the mother in this NY Times story who thinks it’s so perfectly OK to treat a twelve-year-old like a 20 year-old that she put her picture, and her first and last name in The New York Times!  I blame the mother, who said that if her daughter was going to put on make up, she could at least learn how.

How about this?  Tell your twelve year old daughter she doesn’t need make up at all because she’s beautiful the way she is.

Because she is.  And because to be willing to imply otherwise by spending exorbitant time and money artificially altering that natural beauty.  Well, you might as well sign her up for a lifetime of feeling insecure.  A lifetime of body image issues.  And a whole world of misery.


  1. says

    There are some really important points in your post. Madison Avenue is making it harder and harder for girls to be girls. Does my kid kvell when she sees the latest Kardashian nail polish? Oh yes she does. Does she know more about plastic surgery, botox etc than I ever did or do? TV takes care of that.

    In addition to girls seeing their beauty for who they are…I’m finding there’s also the ‘boy’ element. Does a girl have to dress provocatively, wear make-up so that boys will like them? Whereas I was much later in my teens when this became prevalent, I’m finding that tween girls are acutely aware of this now. So what do I do about it now?
    Without sounding like Mother Superior, we talk: appropriate vs inappropriate. I can only hope it works.

    • says

      I hope so too. But I have my doubts. There is something SO offensive to me about young girls being 1) serviced by adults in this way and 2) learning that the pursuit of prettiness is all important.
      Thanks for being on my side. I do feel a bit sorry for that mother in the article: I imagine the backlash is HUGE. (though just a bit sorry…not a lot!)

  2. Randi says

    One size does not fit all here. Uni-brow or a dark mustache is unattractive at any age, so why not take care of it earlier rather than later?

    While I’m not fan of “high maintenance beautification,” especially for tweens, I see nothing wrong with a special occasion beauty treatment before a big event like a bar or bat mitzvah. After all, aren’t we more dressed up,make-up and hair better before a big event? Don’t we typically wear a new dress or something that we feel we look good in? How is that any different from aesthetically pleasing grooming?

    An eyebrow or lip wax simply isn’t as painful as your peers commenting negatively. If you start to wax as soon as you get hair and never shave or use depilatory creams, after a few times, the hair disappears entirely and never grows back. Isn’t that better than frequently shaving as an adult? I wish that my mother had this knowledge and foresight. What’s wrong with an occasional facial to clean pores, or make-up lesson to learn good habits?

    Kids themselves are a tough crowd. My 12 year old daughter was asked by a classmate in PE “if she was going for the European look?” after a few stray hairs grew under her arms (3-4 hairs, that’s all 🙂

    Didn’t you enjoy a Bonnie Bell product and/or a Clinique bonus pack back in the day? I know I did, and if memory serves me correctly, I was a tween then, albeit not identified as one by the jargon.

    P.S. I totally agree that the trip from Connecticut is ridiculous, especially since there are many competent local salons right there.

      • says

        Love that phrase: everything is beautiful but beautiful isn’t everything. Totally stealing that! And I do get the facial (and other) hair removal thing. But it’s the whole aura of privilege this story evoked. And also – yes, I do want to look my best for event. But my vest as a forty-something really does need help. A 12 year old using bonne bell or a freebie lipstick is one thing – paying $150 for a professional look feels like overkill. That being said – I’m not deep into Bar Mitzvah season and you are. So who knows where I’ll end up.
        Thanks for the point of view.

  3. says

    Maybe the best way to help one’s daughter is to be a good example. It’s not easy because even as an adult I battle with body image. I find myself biting my tongue when I want to ask my husband if I look fat. When an outfit that once fit perfectly is suddenly too tight. When I realize that mascara and lipstick really do make me look better. I need to show my daughter that I’m confident however I look. My daughter is ten and definitely has a hint of a dark mustache on her upper lip. A friend’s son pointed it out once and she said nothing. Then her best friend also mentioned it and said, “hey did you know you have a mustache?” I was eavesdropping and waiting to hear what happened next. My daughter said nothing and her friend continued with, “I have one too you know and mine’s darker than yours.” Then they forgot all about it and proceeded to make a video together. But what do I do when she asks to get rid of it? And will she? It’s kind of a minefield out there. Thanks for the post!

    • says

      Just to be clear: it’s not that I think that hair removal is bad. Losing a mustache that might get you teased isn’t a bad thing. I just object to the means: do it in your bathroom with her. Don’t send her out to a professional stylist. But like Randi, who commented before you, I do think that hair-removal is kind of its own category. Nobody wants a mustache!

      • says

        Totally agree with you, Nancy. Especially since I remove my own mustache! It’s finding the right time to do it and like you said in the privacy of our own bathroom with me there with her – I hope! I personally just stole my father’s razor and as you can imagine that was not a pretty sight! Emphasizing only the “pursuit of prettiness” by taking her to adult professionals is not where I want to go with her at all. A former babysitter took her to get her nails done and the manicurist told her she had too much hair on her arms! Can you imagine? That took some long conversations to get over. Now if we do nails, it’s here at home – sloppy but certainly more fun. Thanks again.

  4. says

    I am of two minds on this. As a mother of a teenager, I have been through the party year, and the majority of girls did have professional services on their bat mitzvah day. We didn’t but only because I was too busy making candy torahs to schedule it (why I had to have my martha stewart moment that month I will never know, but they were really cute and the older grown ups loved them). I spent 9 months, however, dealing with complaints about body hair and requests for services. Hair removal being an art, I capitulated midway on facial hair, but as for legs, I taught her how to take care of it, and offered to match her allowance savings if she wanted to go the waxing route and invited her to watch me have mine done. Problem solved, temporarily. I have broken down periodically and paid for the student special at better salons, because her hair is incredibly thick and most of her inexpensive cuts have looked lopsided. But a stint at the make-up bar? No way. Department stores have cosmetics counters for a reason, and its a rite of passage to take your child there a few times and for them to go with their friends a few times (under your eye) – hell, they even charge for the full thing, but you can get enough tips trying out products. Home makeovers are part of growing up – I’ve had a few myself (its just like painting!), mostly by my son. But actually driving in? There is no magic in Manhattan that requires someone from Greenwich to commute for a party face. I thought Greenwich was value village in this regard, so I’m a little surprised; it not like they’re stuck with Fantastic Sams. Another sign of that pressure to hurry up and be blase about everything. I refuse it, except for the facial hair, because if you don’t handle that, it will undermine everything else.

    • says

      I think you sound perfectly balanced on this topic. You’re not laying down some dictum: “Thou shalt be hairy and look like crap” But neither are you letting her just do…whatever. As for a child’s own Bat Mitzvah…well, even I might have given in a that one.

  5. says

    I think it’s important to remember the context here. When my daughter complained of her hairy legs – yes, I let her shave. I mean, hairy legs are hairy legs. And no matter how libertated you are, I think it’s pretty gross.
    For me, it’s how you put these services into perspective. In most cases, I look at it as a treat, not a necessity. Not integral to who my daughter is on the inside.

  6. says

    You are completely right, and don’t let anyone tell you different! It’s shameful the culture we are raising our daughters in, and while I agree it’s the parents who do or allow these things, our society has increasingly up the age at which girls and maybe boys are to be grown up or act as mini adults. It’s not just a few nut jobs from Greenwich. It’s everywhere from miniature adult outfits to rock concerts for kids who are 9 or 10 to salon services for babies. It’s unhealthy and robs kids of their own childhood. And, now for something a little more lighthearted, my feelings on salon services for toddlers:

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