Dear Rachel,

I am the mother of a beautiful thirteen-year-old girl who always seemed to be quite confident and happy with herself. Recently, however, she has been spending so much time worried about her clothes and how she looks. I realize this is a normal part of being a teenager, but she seems to be going a bit overboard. Now she is trying to go out all the time now wearing makeup. Her father and I feel she is way too young to be wearing eyeshadow, mascara and lipstick and want her to wait until she is fifteen before wearing makeup. Are we being too overprotective or is she too young to wear makeup?


Los Angeles, CA

Dear L.J.,

Her motivation is what should be really looked intoAs a mother of a preteen myself, I can definitely commiserate that young girls seem to be growing up at a much faster rate than we did at the same age. The same way that fifty seems to be the new thirty, so too, unfortunately, all too often thirteen seems to be the new sixteen. So where do we draw the line between freedom and restriction as our daughters develop into young women?

The challenge is one that is constant and that will involve many different aspects of her life. Regarding wearing makeup, I do not necessarily know if there is an exact age where one can say that it is suddenly appropriate. Like many things our kids do, we decide on a case by case basis what is appropriate and when, based on our child.

I think the important thing to keep in mind here is why she wants to wear makeup. Her motivation is what should be really looked into. Is she doing this because all of her friends are and she wants to fit in? Are the other girls her age also wearing makeup to school? Is she doing this to fit in, to be popular? Or is she the one starting the trend? Is she feeling insecure about how she looks? Is she giving into peer pressure? Is she trying to be attractive or does she want to come across as older than she is?

The answers to probably all of these questions will be based on her social circle—who her friends are and who she is spending her time with. These are the girls she confides in and shares with, and are the ones who are going to have the biggest influence in her life and decisions. If you can trust her friends and feel that they have their heads on straight, then it will help to trust the direction your daughter is heading in as well. And if you can't trust her friends or don't like how they behave and act, then you really have a much larger issue than her makeup to deal with. If her friends are a bad influences, then the makeup is merely a symptom, it is not the real problem.

Have you tried speaking to the mothers of her friends? Do they feel makeup is appropriate? It will be a lot easier if you choose to not allow her to wear any makeup if her friends are also being told that it is not allowed. Make an effort to have her friends at your home. Invite her and her friends to a trip to the mall or a lunch. Spend time with them and try to create a feeling of open communication so that your daughter and her friends will feel they can speak and share with you as well.

Now is also a good time to examine your relationship with your looksAnd speak to your daughter about the importance of loving herself and recognizing that her true beauty comes from within and is not painted on the outside. Make the effort to tell her how much you love her and how attractive she is, while also complimenting her many talents and abilities that have nothing to do with her looks. At the same time, recognize how important looks are at this age (and in many ways from this age on) and take her shopping and let her get something that she loves (and that you approve) that makes her feel good about herself.

Now is also a good time to examine your relationship with your looks. If you complain to her about how bad you look without makeup or how you are unhappy with your physical appearance, you might be reinforcing her fear that without makeup she is ugly or that she needs makeup to look attractive. I am not saying there is anything wrong with an adult wearing makeup, but I do feel that we need to be aware of how our daughters learn from what they see. If we constantly talk about needing to lose weight, dieting, makeup, etc. then we can't be surprised when our daughters start speaking the same way. We owe it to them and to ourselves to recognize that while looking attractive is important, we are not defined or limited to our looks.

Regarding the makeup itself, see if you can work with her by either limiting the amount she is allowed to put on or the colors you will allow her to wear. And try to get her to understand that makeup is for special occasions and not for everyday. Maybe let her get some great lip gloss or light makeup if she wants to wear some to school and then for an evening event, allow her to wear a little more. The more you can find compromise, the easier things will be with her.

Another point and area I would work on is changing or at least expanding her influences. It is so unfortunate how young girls today have their role models be the Hollywood starts who are often suffering themselves from eating disorders, drug addiction and a variety of other ailments. The more you can find compromise, the easier things will be with herEncourage your daughter to discover her beauty and power as a young Jewish woman and try to introduce wonderful role models into her life, including great women from her past. The more women she can identify with and be affected by in a positive way, the less she will look to negative role models to emulate.

Judaism teaches that true beauty emanates from within. And the Jewish woman is the crown, the concept of true royalty. I hope your daughter is able to learn and recognize her value as a person, and not just as a pretty face. And I wish you much luck in imparting this lesson and dealing with these growing pains!