24 Women Share Their Ideal Ages For Wearing Makeup

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
As a beauty editor, I get asked a lot of questions — and they tend to vary based on the age of the person doing the asking. My mother's friends ask about anti-aging skin care, for example, while my close friends ask about Tom Ford lipstick. But if I'm talking to younger girls — as in, high-school age or younger — I always get the same question: "How old were you when you started wearing makeup?" That's quickly followed by: "At what age do you think girls should start wearing makeup?"

Now, that's a loaded question. There's a lot wrapped up in the concept of young girls wearing makeup — from sexualization to self-expression. So, I decided to speak with some women, to see if they could arrive at any kind of consensus. I asked them when they started wearing makeup, and when they think girls should start experimenting with it. As expected, their responses were varied. Some didn't believe in set rules, others had clear opinions, and many were conflicted. It seems that the only consistent theme was that wearing makeup is a deeply personal experience.

Click through to see all the responses, and let us know where you stand in the comments.
1 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Victoria
Age: 22
When did you start wearing makeup? 10

Tell me about your experience.
I started wearing concealer and foundation because I had really bad skin.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
Whenever the person feels ready!
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2 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Molly
Age: 32
When did you start wearing makeup?
13

Tell me about your experience.
I wound up using concealer as a foundation, which meant I looked like I was wearing a mask. I didn't realize it until I saw a picture of myself, and was horrified by the distinct line between my jaw and neck. I was just trying to cover up teenage zits.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
No. #Acceptance.
3 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Jada
Age: 27
When did you start wearing makeup?
13

Tell me about your experience.
It was a black mascara from Jane Cosmetics. My mom taught me, but only in the context that it was something used to cover your face and, thus, cover your beauty. She still doesn't like me wearing makeup.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
Yes, but I don't know when. It's just whenever the person who is wearing makeup realizes that the reason she's wearing it is for herself and no one else.
4 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Erica
Age: 31
When did you start wearing makeup?
11

Tell me about your experience.
My friend Noems taught me in her mother's bathroom. I wasn't allowed to wear makeup yet, so I had to take it off before going home.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
I think 13 is a good age. According to the Jewish faith, that's the age that you're officially a woman!
5 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Elizabeth
Age: 25
When did you start wearing makeup?
12

Tell me about your experience.
My mom, to this day, has never worn makeup. I figured it out on my own, and she never pressured me either way.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
I think girls should be allowed to experience makeup when they feel ready and interested in it. Looking back, I did not need the black eyeliner, and even received a bit of AIM teasing from a few boys at school. But that is all part of me and my experience growing up. And I'm happy I was allowed the freedom to experience it on my own.
6 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Michaela
Age: 23
When did you start wearing makeup?
15

Tell me about your experience.
It was more of a trial-and-error thing. Though I started watching beauty videos on YouTube when I was 17 or 18, so I got more with the program then.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
Nope! I think that if you want to wear makeup (and you're using products safely), you should be allowed to experiment at whatever age.
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7 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Alex
Age: 25
When did you start wearing makeup?
13

Tell me about your experience.
My mom and older sister gave me some pointers. They always told me less is more, but they let me have fun and experiment.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
Not really. I think most girls are excited to play with it and have a peaked interest. I think you can wear it in small doses when you're an adolescent, but honestly, wearing some makeup isn't hurting anyone.
8 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Milana
Age: 23
When did you start wearing makeup?
13

Tell me about your experience.
I learned on my own, along with some YouTube videos.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
Nope. It's all about self-presentation. The minute you can pick out your own clothes and develop your own style is probably when you can start wearing makeup.
9 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Kelly
Age: 23
When did you start wearing makeup? 15

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
No, I believe anyone can wear makeup at any age if it makes them feel more confident in their appearance. There shouldn't be an "appropriate" age, because everyone's idea of appropriate is different.
10 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Laney
Age: 28
When did you start wearing makeup?
14

Tell me about your experience.
My mom stressed that as a young lady, I didn't need to wear it, and that everyone is beautiful without wearing makeup, but that it was certainly fun for special occasions and dressing up.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
No, however I can see why most teenagers would want to wear makeup. At that age, makeup helped me a lot with self-confidence and covering up any hormonal acne or skin irritation that I was prone to. After working with a dermatologist over time, the focus shifted more around calming my skin instead of covering it up with makeup.
11 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Julie
Age: 24
When did you start wearing makeup?
About 15

Tell me about your experience.
My aunt took me to the Bergdorf Goodman makeup counter and bought me all the staples!

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
I'm conflicted on this. I do feel like women should feel empowered to experiment however they want, but I also appreciate my dad shielding me from makeup for so long.
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12 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Nikki
Age: 27
When did you start wearing makeup?
3

Tell me about your experience.
I'm not sure what led to my makeup obsession. My mom has always been very simple with her makeup. I'm just a total anomaly. I was just always a very expressive, center-of-attention-loving child and loved to dress up for as long as I can remember.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
No — as long as it's about having fun, self-expression, and being playful, I don't think there's too young an age. It's concerning to see young girls trying to look older with makeup and change their appearance. Makeup is about experimentation and embracing what you've got. I think it's normal for women to go through makeup evolutions from when they start to wear it — and that's okay. It's not permanent, and that's the fun part!
13 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Vanessa
Age: 28
When did you start wearing makeup?
17

Tell me about your experience.
I was the first girl in my family, and that basically means I wasn't allowed to do anything — like wear makeup. In my senior year of high school, I sat next to these two girls who were very good at things like hair and makeup. I casually mentioned that I had no idea how to work makeup, and they taught me the ways of eyeliner and mascara. It was a great bonding experience, but I definitely had to wash it off before I got home. This is why, even now, I don't know how to match my skin tone to foundation or any fancy makeup tips.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
I have so many complex feelings around this, but if I had a kid, I'd probably say they can start at 13. Childhood is so short and fleeting, and I feel the need to insulate it from the anxiety of ANY adult bullshit, including things like whether or not you remember to put on foundation before you walk out the door.
14 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Anna
Age: 26
When did you start wearing makeup?
14

Tell me about your experience.
I think, at that point, I was really into punk music (and maybe metal) and wanted that to reflect in my appearance. So what seemed super-cool to me was having a smudged black mess around my eyes.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
I'm not sure. I will say, though, that my sister is 14 and wears so much makeup. She does the whole contouring thing, and layers on eye makeup like a professional makeup artist. But she's 14, and is so beautiful with zero makeup. Now that I'm older, I think perhaps the best time to start wearing makeup is when your skin and face start to show signs of aging. Cherish that perfect baby skin and not having dark undereye circles until the last minute.
15 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Marshall
Age: 26
When did you start wearing makeup?
11 or 12

Tell me about your experience.
Everything I learned, I learned from makeup-counter ladies. I learned how to do eyeliner at a Bobbi Brown counter, and how to do blush from the Benefit counter. A Sephora employee handed me my first Kitten from Stila and Deep Throat from NARS — both influential parts of my early makeup days.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
Not really, though I do think that girls tend to go too heavy-headed when they're young. So it's less about "appropriateness" and more about appreciating what you've got. My gorgeous 16-year-old cousin (who, miraculously, doesn't appear to have acne) over-lines her eyes and wears too much foundation. She won't be able to get away with having skin looking that dewy-fresh even in her 20s. I wish she'd enjoy it while she still can!
16 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Anne
Age: 32
When did you start wearing makeup?
11

Tell me about your experience.
I sat down at the Clinique counter and had a consultation. It was after having to beg my mother to [let me] go.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
I think the question is: What is a young woman gaining from wearing makeup or experimenting with it? If she's using it as a model of self-expression, I think she should use it as early as she wants to! In short, there is no ideal age in my book, but if your child expresses a creative interest in playing around with it, I see no harm and only positive potential for her to learn more about herself.

We need to remove the connection between maturity/provocation/sexuality and makeup, which is a connection that's only reinforced by prohibiting it and saying, "You're not old enough to wear makeup." Wearing makeup is really a way to express ourselves, just like any other form of dressing up or creating or reinventing ourselves.
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17 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Maia
Age: 27
When did you start wearing makeup?
17

Tell me about your experience.
My mom and I used to play [with] makeup together when I was a kid, and I'd put on her bronzer and lipstick. But she always encouraged me not to "grow up too fast," and I never really felt the need to wear it since I was a major tomboy. The only thing she drilled into me was to wear sunscreen, since I grew up in Hawaii, and was constantly in the sun.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
I think that girls should feel comfortable with how they look in their own skin always, but I don't think that there should be a specific age when girls are "allowed" to start wearing makeup. They should just do whatever makes them feel empowered!
18 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Laura
Age: 29
When did you start wearing makeup?
15

Tell me about your experience.
I watched an older girl in the hallway apply mascara to her lashes, and it made her eyes pop! As she went to the other eye, I meticulously studied the product in her hand. I purchased the same tube that afternoon after school with my babysitting money — Maybelline Great Lash Mascara.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
The appropriate makeup age is different for everyone. Makeup was a way for me to discover my identity at 15. But for some, it's a way to change up their look at 20. But if I had to give an age, it would be the age when you purchase your own makeup for yourself so that you can form your own opinions and look.
19 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Amelia
Age: 27
When did you start wearing makeup?
11 or 12

Tell me about your experience.
Once I started breaking into my older sister's makeup (and coming home from the mall with all those lip glosses), my mom made my big sister sit me down and explain the basics of makeup. And she was so not into it.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
I really don't. I think that a mom putting makeup on a 5-year-old, before she even has the concept of what makeup is, is a bad idea. But if the kid is showing interest in it, no matter what age, then they should be allowed to play! For me, makeup was never about looking good for other people. It was always just about me and self-expression.
20 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Alyssa
Age: 27
When did you start wearing makeup?
19

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
I think makeup is fine for dress-up and playtime at a young age, but I believe young women should be encouraged to embrace their beauty before feeling the need to search outward to society for beauty cues. There will be plenty of time for that!
21 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Carolyn
Age: 25
When did you start wearing makeup?
15

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
I'd probably get flak for saying this, but I think the older the better — high school, ideally. But I know kids are wearing it as young as elementary school now. I totally support letting kids express their self-identity freely at any age — and I think makeup can be fun, creative, and artistic for young women to explore. But I just wish girls would be able to get 100% comfortable with their natural beauty — imperfections and all — before feeling the pressure to alter or "improve" at an early age.
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22 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Morgan
Age: 23
When did you start wearing makeup?
13

Tell me about your experience.
My mom gave me parental guidance, as in, "Your face cannot be a different color than your neck — it's time to learn how to blend." But my friends and I would be the ones experimenting with different looks.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
Seventh grade — whatever age that is. Braces and acne suck. Makeup eases the pain.
23 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Venus
Age: 23
When did you start wearing makeup?
15

Tell me about your experience.
I am a self-starter — my mum doesn't even wear makeup!

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
The "appropriate" age is when you feel like you're ready to take on the responsibility of looking presentable on a regular basis.
24 of 25
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Name: Maria
Age: 26
When did you start wearing makeup? 12

Tell me about your experience.
I wore makeup from the time I was about three, because I took dance classes and we had to be made up for recitals. But the first time I ever wore it on my own volition was in seventh grade. It was a black CoverGirl eyeliner. My friend put it on me in the back of the school bus, but she only applied it to my lower waterline. When I got to school and went to the bathroom, I was so shocked by how I looked that I immediately tried to scrub it off. When I got home and explained to my mother why I looked like a raccoon, she laughed and then took me to CVS to buy some makeup.

Do you think there is a "right" age for girls to start wearing makeup?
I truly don't think there is a “right” and “wrong” age for girls to wear makeup. Makeup is such an important part of my life. It makes me feel my most confident, and it was especially helpful during those teenage years when I was trying to hammer out my identity.

[Ed. note: The quotes on this slide are from the author of this story.]
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