Lipgloss Wars: How to Diffuse the “Mom/Daughter-Makeup” Battle

By Arden Edelcup (aka: The Beauty Babe)

“I like laugh lines. It means you’ve had a good life.”

— Aerin Lauder/Cosmetics Mogul

Last week, while I was working at my store’s cosmetics counter, one of my favorite customers came marching in with her visibly “irritated” 13-year-old daughter. Although I am actually far too mature to eavesdrop, I could tell by the familiar “whisper bickering” exactly what was brewing. I tried to play nonchalant as they began to tip-toe tentatively toward me and my vast array of colorful eyeliners, rosy blushes, and glistening lipglosses. I painted on my most sincere smile and braced myself for the turbulent storm of emotions that were stomping my way.

Understanding my delicate position in this monumental mother-daughter moment, I spoke with a forced cheerfulness, “Hi Girls. Can I help you with anything?”

Mom quite succinctly enunciated the following instructions, “She is going to her first junior high dance and wants to wear MAKE-UP. I have agreed to a clear lipgloss.”

I glanced warmly at the adorable girl who conveyed her displeasure at the word “clear” with a series of eye rolls. I took a gamble and suggested that MAYBE we could find her the most natural, “barely-there-pink-that-is-ALMOST-clear-lipgloss”.

I plastered on that forced smile that tried to simultaneously convey to the Mom that I commiserated with her angst, while still “going to bat” for the daughter.

Then I held my breath and waited for the reply. Within a few moments, the Mom’s resolve melted and she replied wearily, “Okay, only if it is very SUBTLE.” I finally exhaled and peered over toward the now grinning daughter who eagerly began to peruse the delectable selection of pink glossy treats. She pulled out each wand of color and smoothed the potential selection on her lips, then smiled proudly at Mom who responded either with nods of approval or rigorous head shakes of mock disgust.

It was truly magical to witness mother and daughter begin their complicated journey through the murky teenage waters.

As the mother of two daughters, I winked in quiet solidarity at the Mom who was just beginning to learn the ferocious push and pull on our hearts of teenage daughters.

Coincidentally, that same night a friend called to vent about her teenage daughter’s insistence on wearing a pumpkin orange-hued bronzer to school. Through her exasperated words, I detected something much deeper than irritation at her stubborn teen. After a few minutes, she finally blurted out her fearful emotions:

“She told me she hates her face because some Idiot Boy at school teased her on Facebook. Now she is covering her gorgeous face in shame because of a supposed, invisible pimple that I cannot see.”

Like any good friend, I enthusiastically agreed with every scathing adjective she used to describe this heartless, brainless, and clearly sight-impaired teenaged boy. Yet as we continued to talk, our conversation shifted quickly to how she felt helpless in preventing the tidal wave of insecurities that were quickly overwhelming her daughter.

We began to reflect on the complicated emotions that are intertwined between mothers and daughters and cosmetics. I was reminded of my own gawky, pimply teenage years, and my mother’s birthday gift of a Merle Norman Cosmetics gift certificate for a makeup lesson. I vividly recall the cosmetic lady’s gentle suggestion to re-think the shimmery neon blue shadow and frosty white lipstick.

In hindsight, I believe my mother wisely knew that she was NOT the person to criticize the already delicate and turbulent emotions of her awkward teen. I also seem to recall that the cosmetics lady gave my Mom a little wink as we left the store.

Many years later, my own 4-year-old daughter cheerfully globbed on bright red lipstick every single day before she left for pre-school. At the time, I giggled as my chubby, cherubic-faced toddler “pretended” to act like a “grown-lady person”. I didn’t grasp then what I learned a decade later when that same daughter tentatively applied mascara and eyeliner for her very first date while obsessively checking herself in the mirror at every conceivable angle. Before she walked out the door, she flashed me a nervous smile with a mouth full of braces and glossy pink lips.

And in those singular moments, we mothers all realize the monumental truth about what that eyeliner really signifies to our daughters — experimenting with cosmetics is entangled with each girl’s first clumsy attempt to be desired.

When our daughters ask for a lipgloss, she is revealing to us that she is aware of her own burgeoning sexuality and raging self-doubt. The same daughter who only a few seemingly short months ago refused to take a shower on any regular basis, is now dousing herself with a headache inducing amount of Victoria Secret’s Sexy Dream Angel perfume. It all seems to happen in the proverbial blink of an eye.

As mothers, we stand helpless with the knowledge that we cannot truly protect our daughters’ hearts like we did when they were little girls, yet hopeful that they too will figure it all out just as we did.

In order to help Moms figure out a Makeup Timeline, I collaborated with talented makeup artist Diane Steinmetz to create “Beauty Babe’s Teen Guidelines” that will help navigate various beauty milestones with your teens:

1. The First Step — When to Say YES

By seventh grade girls can look appropriate, yet feel more beautiful at special events with this simple beauty arsenal of THREE items — Mascara, Lip Gloss, & Light Eyeshadow. At this age SIMPLICITY is key.

The biggest mistake that pre-teens make is “eyeliner abuse.”

Through her years of professional experience with junior high dances, Diane advises: “Skip the eyeliner completely and encourage your daughter to use lengthening mascara and a light shimmer shadow with a touch of light glossy lips.” Unfortunately, this is also the age of the hormonal skin conditions which can torment a teen. For these girls, we suggest a miraculous invention of concealer and acne treatment rolled into one. Our tried and true fave is Murad Acne Concealer and Judith August Erase-Zit.

Beauty Babe’s Final Verdict: Seventh grade girls can start with the cosmetic basics. By high school, they can begin to incorporate eye pencils, blush, powder foundation. Treating them to a makeup lesson with a professional is a win-win. They feel special while properly learning the tricks of the trade.

2. To Dye or Not to Dye — That is THE Question:

We all know Ombre Hair (top half is dark and bottom half is light) is the Hollywood rage, but “permament” bleaching and coloring means permanent.

Live and “dye” by this simple mantra: “I will never allow my teen to buy boxed color at the drugstore to experiment.”

I promise you that it IS a prescription for hair disaster. Always see a professional and never ever color your hair at home. Salon color services begin at a steep $55 for a single color process and highlighting starts at $75. Once your daughter can pay for it herself (hmm — when they have a job) as well as the 4-6 week salon touch-ups, it should be open for a mature discussion. Of course, girls of all ages should be allowed to add little strips of washable colors to support a favorite charity.

Beauty Babe’s Final Verdict: Sixteen year olds who understand both the costly financial commitment and the time involved in maintaining that color should be allowed to cautiously experiment.

3. Double Ear Piercing and More …

While most girls have a single pierced ear by the pre-teen years, they often develop an insatiable quest for “more holes” which can mean cartilage (ouch) or the trendy double-pierced ear. It seems that this trend is here to stay and my team of wise professionals unanimously agree that you must actually have your daughter explain in Mom-Language where EXACTLY the hole is going on her body. Is it somewhere on the ear or in the nose? Those are clearly two different discussions. It also appears that there is a teen piercing lingo (what is a gauge piercing?) — so we need to get clarification on what type of hole is being requested. It is vital that your teen be vigilant in taking care of all first-aid and cleansing routines required and only go to a qualified facility or doctor’s office.

Beauty Babe’s Final Verdict: High-school aged teens can experiment with a double piercing in the ear. All other body part piercings shouldn’t be discussed until college.

A part of us yearns for those simple days when our perfect little beauties ran through the house with nothing on but a face filled with smushed Oreos and a giant smile of innocence and glee. We fiercely want to shield them from the storms of rejection and heartbreak that they all inevitably face on this bumpy road toward womanhood. Yet while we know that we can’t protect them on this familiar journey, we will be waiting at the door to tell them for the millionth time how beautiful they are, even when they sob through mascara-stained cheeks.

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare:  Arden Edelcup is a Mom of three “Indiana Hoosiers” and owner, with her hubby Earl Edelcup, of Ross’s in Highland Park, Illinois. 

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