Parents, This Is How to Introduce Your Tween to Makeup—Safely

Makeup kits for tweens are often sold at teen-oriented boutiques, and even toy stores. With their colorful, shiny hues and pretty carrying cases, oftentimes, certain cosmetics can be enticing to youngsters. But, are they safe for tweens? Dermatologists weigh in.

A little dusting of sparkly powder or glitter nail polish mani may seem like a fun way to introduce your kids to makeup. But there may be a dark side. Recently, cosmetics sold at a popular retail store, Justice, was recalled for containing potentially unsafe ingredients. Does that mean all makeup should be off limits for the younger set?

Not quite. “Most of the more well-known cosmetic brands conduct numerous safety tests on their products,” says Lauren Ploch, MD, an Augusta, Georgia-based dermatologist. “But you should avoid buying cheap, no-name palettes and makeup kits, such those that you may find near the checkout counter at the store for tweens.”

Dr. Ploch tells all of her patients with allergic tendencies to spot-test new products before using all over the face—and your tween should do the same. “A spot test consists of daily application to a small area under the jawline for one week. Also, read the ingredients in products before purchasing and avoid anything that’s caused problems for you or your child in the past.”

How-to-Introduce-Your-Tween-to-Makeup—SafelySubbotina Anna/shutterstock

Chances are your tween won’t bother reading the ingredients on their makeup, or remotely understand the terminology. So, ask to see their makeup before they use. “I recommend complete avoidance of formaldehyde releasers, including DMDM hydantoin, Quaternium-15, Imidazolidinyl urea, and Diazolidinyl urea,” says Dr. Ploch. “The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a great database for researching different chemicals.”

Consider making your own beauty products

Even in adult women, makeup can be the source of acne, eczema, irritation, and infection, warns Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Danbury, Connecticut. She suggests tweens seek out food-grade lipsticks/pencils/tints. (Look into brands such as 100% Pure and RMS Beauty.) “With kids and teens, start slow. A little lipstick or rouge is usually OK, nail polish is a go, too,” she says. “Avoid mascara, and glittery eye shadow. Although they are fun and exciting, they can cause inflammation around the eye.”

According to Dr. Gohara, teens should also avoid cosmetics with fragrances. “They are a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis. Also, consider using food such as berries, to create color on the face. It’s how ancient Egyptians applied makeup, and it can give a vibrant color. Plus, it’s fun to make!” (Just be sure your tween’s not allergic to the food-based makeup if they have a specific food allergy! Spot test first.)

Avoid dark shades

Tweens should also stick with lighter makeup colors. As funky as they are, deep reds and blues, says Dr. Gohara, are a more common source of allergic reactions. “Definitely steer clear of fake eyelashes and nails because the glue weakens the natural structure, and the earlier you start, the worse it is. Also, I would not introduce glitter to young kids. The tiny, sharp shards can make acne worse in tweens, and can also cause little micro-tears in the skin, making inflammation a lot more likely.” Skip the glitter altogether or encourage your tween to wait until they’re older.

Safe removal is also important

For makeup removal, tweens should use a cleansing bar such as the Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar to wash off the products. “It’s hydrating, and it helps keep the skin barrier intact in the cleansing process,” says Dr. Gohara. “It’s great for any skin type, especially the delicate skin of young ones!”

Overall, says Dr. Gohara, always research the beauty brands your tweens are drawn to, or call the company for more info about the brand’s ingredients. “You can also visit the FDA website to proactively gain a better understanding of ingredients.”

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Rachel Sokol
Rachel Sokol is a longtime contributor to Reader's Digest, tackling mostly cleaning and health round-ups. A journalism graduate of Emerson College, she's a former education writer, beauty editor, and entertainment columnist.