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Weigh the Pros & Cons

The debate about allowing a young girl to play with or wear makeup is heated. Some parents are dead set against it and others think it’s no big deal. As a parent, you’ll have to decide for yourself what’s ok and what’s not, such as whether or not you’ll let your little one play dress up with makeup and if your tween or teen should wear it all. As the mom of a very “boyish” boy, I don’t have a kid begging me for makeup, but my best friend’s little girl wants as much makeup, nail polish and pink glitter as she can get her little hands on. This drives my best friend, the ultimate tomboy, crazy, but I totally get it. As a kid I’d beg my mom for makeup kits, nail polish, body glitter, shiny lip gloss and more. In fact, one of my favorite toys was this huge plastic Barbie head that you could apply makeup to. According to the box, you could even share Barbie’s makeup! And share I did. I spent half my childhood covering my face, body and nails with all kinds of goop that was probably smack full of chemicals and fake unsafe colors. Still, toxic or not, I had a ton of fun with that gross old makeup, so I understand the allure.

There are pros and cons to most everything you let your kid do, but in my opinion, there are FAR more pressing issues to worry about than your child asking for some makeup. Sure, promoting excessive beauty obsessions isn’t cool, but we’re not talking about that. Lots of kids love playing dress up and painting their face  or nails simply for the fun of it – girls and boys alike. Just because your little one loves pink, or makeup or dressing up, doesn’t mean you can’t value those choices and still raise a strong, smart and capable human. From personal experience I can absolutely say that while I played with makeup a ton as a little girl, and actually I still like shiny pink stuff, and I’ve never been a swooning mess, waiting for a “prince rescue.” Your child’s play and fashion choices don’t dictate deeper values.

If you decide it’s OK for your child to experiment with makeup, keep reading to learn how to choose safer cosmetics. If you’re not on board with play makeup or real makeup for your child, you could be in for a rebellion and might want to suggest some alternatives, such as…

  • A doll your young child can pretend to put makeup on.
  • Allow play makeup on special occasions like Halloween or a birthday.
  • Compromise, by allowing safe nail polish or a bit of shiny lip gloss, but no other face makeup.

+ When should I let my daughter wear makeup?

+ The Makeup Debate

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Avoid the Big Bad Chemicals

According to Skin Deep, “More than 500 products sold in the U.S. contain ingredients banned in cosmetics in Japan, Canada or the European Union.” That’s unacceptable but you can avoid some of the worst chemicals and additives if you know what to look for on product labels. When shopping for cosmetics be sure to avoid products that contain the following:

  • DMDM hydantoin and Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Fragrance and dyes
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone
  • Parabens or “-paraben”
  • Formaldehyde
  • “PEG” and “-eth”
  • Sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate
  • Phthalates
  • Triclosan and triclocarban
  • Triethanolamine (TEA)

If you see the above on a product label, it’s best to skip it. It’s also a very big deal to start teaching your daughter about these ingredients. This info is tough for an adult to wade through, so imagine how hard it is for a tween or teen without assistance. If a product label or product website does not disclose what exactly is in their products, don’t buy it, even if it looks pretty safe. For example, Mini-Play Makeup looks great for kids, but on their website they refuse to say what they put in their play makeup, so skip it! Consumers deserve to know what they’re buying at all times. If it’s tough for you to remember harmful ingredient names, simply print out Skin Deep’s wallet guide to safer cosmetics and carry it with you to the store.

+ Ten Synthetic Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid

+ Top tips for safer cosmetic and body care products

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Be Careful With Natural & Organic Products

Just because a product is “Natural” or “Organic” doesn’t mean it’s safe. In fact, few cosmetic companies are truly organic, they just use the term to sell more products. The only way you can be sure that a cosmetic product is really organic is if you see the official USDA organic seal on the package – not just a statement that says something like, “Organically fresh.” The term “Natural” on cosmetics is even worse as it means nothing at all – i.e. there is no standard for “natural.” Beyond the issue of organic and natural not meaning much when it comes to cosmetics, these products, if they truly are organic and/or natural, often contain essential oils, flowers and herbs that may cause a poor reaction in someone, just like chemicals can. Before using a lot of a plant-based, natural cosmetics, the wearer should always do a dab test, meaning, rub a bit of the product on your inner arm (or your child’s). Cover the dab with a bandage and if the skin becomes red, burns, itches or gets painful, you may be allergic or sensitive to the product and shouldn’t use it.

+ Are “Natural” and “Organic” Cosmetics Necessarily Better for You?

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“Green” Does Not Equal Safe

It’s wise to look for greener cosmetics, but know up front, that “eco-friendly” doesn’t equal “non-toxic” or “safe.” Eco-friendly may mean cosmetics packaged in recycled and recyclable containers. Or maybe the company is paperless, carbon-free or plants trees for products sold. All of this is excellent – for the planet. However, “eco” doesn’t always mean a safer product. For example, Organic Wear, part of the Physician’s Formula family of cosmetic products, looks really eco-friendly, and in fact the product packaging does use less plastic, more recycled paper and it’s easily recycled. But, look them up on Skin Deep and you’ll see that while many of their products are safely made, some of their products constitute concern due to irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs) and organ system toxicity. When you see terms like, “Green” or “Eco-friendly” on makeup, it’s still important to read your labels.

Along the lines above, the following terms also do not necessarily mean “safe” for every human body:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free
  • “Safe”
  • Fresh
  • Handmade
  • “Bio” anything
  • Non-GMO
  • Pure
  • Healthy
  • And so on…

No matter what sort of amazing statements you see on the front of a cosmetic package and no matter how pretty the packaging, don’t blindly trust that what you see is what you get. Always read product labels to find out what ingredients are actually in the product.

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Discuss Safe Use

The absolute best way for your child, tween or teen to learn about safer makeup is to get her involved in the shopping and use process. Don’t just say, “Yes” to makeup then leave your child on her own to figure it out. You can easily teach even younger kids about safer cosmetics by setting a good example. With older tweens and teens, it’s important to go over how to actually use makeup and discuss why less is often more. Here are some key tips for helping your tween or teen learn more about safe makeup.

  • Have your adolescent reduce the number of products she buys. Help her choose fewer, but higher quality products.
  • Teach your teen to view marketing claims with skepticism.
  • Teach her to be her own best advocate for safe cosmetics.
  • Read labels with your child, pointing out the good and bad ingredients.
  • Show your tween or teen how to use her makeup correctly.
  • Give her a book about eco-safe beauty like Ecoholic or EcoBeauty.
  • Send her to a website about how to reevaluate her makeup bag.
  • Teach your child about the basics, such as washing her face each night and replacing her cosmetics after one year.

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Photo – Honeybee Gardens offers safer, affordable makeup for everyone

Safe Cosmetic Companies for Kids and Teens

If you need some help locating safer cosmetics, both play makeup and regular makeup for your little ones or older kids, plus some extra resources, check out the links below.