Daughter Dolling Up Dilemmas

Posted: August 14, 2011

I read this piece by Sue who in turn had linked up this page. Some days ago R came to me and said Amma, mereko nail paint chaheye (Amma, I want nail paint). At first I thought she was talking about the finger painting kit my cousin D had given her…and I told her, that it’s already finished. So she showed me her nails and said nahi amma nail paint (No Amma, nail paint). 

I must admit I stared open mouthed at her…One, I dont wear nail paint..I have never worn it. Two, I don’t talk about nail paint at home ever to RD (what’s the point!) So I was sure this came in from the daycare. 

RM: But R, who told you about nail paint?

R: S ne bola (S told me), her mom put it for her

RM: But R you are too young to wear nail paint…grow a bit older and I will buy for you. It will get into your food from your hands and that’s not good na?

R: But amma, S is also young na, uski amma ne usko lagaya..woh bhi hand use karti hai na (her mother put it for her, she also uses her hand na)

And RM didn’t have an answer. Trust me, this was one of the very few instances in life where I lacked speech. I don’t use any make up at all except kajal – no powder, no foundation, no eyeliner, no lipstick..heck..not even bindi…and now with R being a girl and all, I was wondering, if I am depriving her of all this make up stuff…

My mom has always used powder and bindi all her life, that’s it. Mom used to use nail paint whenever Appa got one for her. He had this single colour he always bought (Reckless Red) and ma used to put that on once in a while!

I still bite my nails so the whole concept of nail paint is a lost cause as far as I am concerned, but I am wondering, what’s the right age to start letting your child use nail paint and stuff? I recently went to a gynac here in Mumbai for something and she is this really awesome looking lady all decked up and all. We started talking and she said her 12 year old daughter wants to wax her legs because everyone in her school is doing so. The doc, obviously didn’t let the daughter do anything with her body hair and then told her that till she was 18, she wasn’t allowed to do anything. After that, she would be an adult and could do what she wished. 

Which got me wondering, has the media penetrated so deep into our thought process that beauty is always only with make up, that even 3 year olds are getting affected? Have you ever seen an image in a magazine or newspaper where the women are not all decked up, or without lipstick or eyeliner? I don’t recall a single one unless you count the pictures they put up of poor women who need to look desparate and needy or whatever!

Can you imagine parents letting their 12 year olds wax? What kind of body image are they projecting? If you let your 12 year old wax, you are just teaching her that body hair is bad..or women’s body hair is not a good thing. It’s really sad and depressing that parents are letting their children do that!

My mom had this lady in Baroda who used to come home once in a month to put mehendi in her hair; she used to tell me that girls as young as 12 do come to her regularly for eyebrow shaping and waxing..and regularly means once in 15 days! That caught me by surprise…when I was 12, my thoughts were more on how to get that murukku that amma made into my hand and eventually into my mouth, or how to get that stupid maths homework done…I don’t think I even bothered about my looks. Was it because my mom was never bothered?

Does upbringing or surroundings where you have been brought up, have a role to play in this? If my mom used make up all the time, would I have been affected and used it as well? There are a lot of things my mom didn’t do which I am doing…like wear jeans and t-shirts or never wear saree (ma always wears only sarees.. ya ya I am still trying to teach her the advantages of a salwar kameez over saree…but when will she understand!)  or even wear capris and skirts…which obviously means that it’s not ONLY upbringing that matters…

What also matters is the surroundings you live in…I obviously have women in my office who use a lot of make up..but I don’t…and when I think hard, it’s more because I am too lazy…kajal is fine, though again when I think hard is of no use behind my soda bottle glasses, but let’s leave that aside! 

The whole point of my post is this: 

1. What is the right age to allow your daughter to start using nail paint or any other make up…or rather is there a right age at all?
2. What is the right age to allow girls to wax themselves?
3. Am I depriving R of anything, because I personally don’t use make up? (No, I dont feel deprived because my mom didn’t use make up but those were different times and these are different times)

Any answers?

R’s Mom is a working mother in Mumbai trying to balance work, home and

Learn More

5 Women Who Spoke About Being Dark Skinned



  1. Hey R’s Mom!
    I remember that when I was in high school (some 10 yrs bck!), which btw was supposedly a “hep” school a few girls used to do their eyebrows. Then when I went to college, most girls had done their eyebrows and waxed. I started only after beginning to work. For one thing I was too lazy and everyone said that once you start you need to keep it up! Secondly I was too scared of the pain!

    My mom too is pretty traditional and never wears anything other than saris no matter how much I bug her. She never wears any kinda makeup whether to work or to any functions. I wear all kinds of outfits and also some makeup-not too much because I simply don’t know how to apply all the different powders & gels & pastes & what not!

    Having said that I started wearing nail paint when I was quite small-but only during the holidays as it wasn’t allowed in school. I was allowed to wear it only on my left hand fingernails so that I won’t eat it!

    I’m not yet a mom but I too am seeing my little cousins and their friends all dolling up and visiting beauty salons quite frequently. Personally I think it is a waste of time, energy and money. Why anyone wants to start subjecting themselves to unnecessary pain so early beats me!

    Thinking about how I might handle the situation, I think I would go your gynaec’s way – nothing doing till 18! But of course, it is easy for me to say that now-who knows what will happen when I have a child nagging the life out of me for a lipstick! Hard to say!

  2. welcome aboard. i have two daughters 10 and 6 and they can sometimes drive me up the wall. i donot let them apply nailpaints except for their annual functions in school.make up again is restricted only for that day!waxing? i have seen a cousin auntinlaw of mine have her 9 year old’s limbs waxed (the girl now is 19 so i am talking about almost 10 years back!)i think waxing can wait till they are 15. putting 18 as the threshold could be a little harsh. i started regular waxing only after my marriage (23 years)and yes today’s world is very different from the one we were brought up in. as for upbringing my mom never used makeup i do occasionally now. but my friend’s mom always used make up and my friend rarely uses make up!
    today’s world gives huge importance to looks and grooming, but we need to make the kids understand that all that is only skin deep. what is inside is what matters.

  3. I remember my sister begging my mom to wax when we entered her teens so must have been 13-14 and she wasn’t allowed to immediately. But eventually she was – I think she may have been 15ish. I was allowed to earlier 😉

    I don’t think it’s directly the media but more like peer pressure. If a lot of girls in your school wax then you start feeling funny (or get teased) being the ‘hairy one’. And that’s also the age when girls start getting interested in boys, so you become more conscious of your appearance.

    I don’t think what our mothers did had any impact. If anything, we’d want to look as unlike our mothers as possible.

    What age is appropriate – that’s a tough one. So much is cultural. Like in India, it’s common to get girls ears pierced young… in other countries this is seen as both unnecessary and akin to letting girls wax.

    • you are right about the cultural aspect. ear and nose piercing is a huge issue between parents and kids in the western countries. and for us it is something that is done without thinking about it. 🙂

  4. Growing up in a middle-class family, make-up was synonymous with being girlie (strick no-no, wonder why), lack of ambition and quite simply a diversion to be avoided in order to make ‘something of yourself’. Despite great interest in creative arts, fashion and (I shudder to say) glamour, I was too busy proving that I could be as badass as boys around me. So I chose to do math and business instead – yeah, came from not getting distracted with painting nails I guess.
    Funny thing, as I stepped into the working world, I was shocked to see women who looked oh so good (wow, where did you get 30 minutes this morning to do that to yourself) every day and then being even better at their work. Clearly, nobody had told them looking good was type-casting them (hah, realized quite quickly it wasn’t!).
    Moved to the US a few years later and love the fact that so many of those women at the top can rock 5inch heels.

    I have 2 daughters so what do I teach them – balance. Yes, looking good is important (that message doesn’t get anywhere because they’d rather go to school with uncombed hair) but it has no correlation with the many other things I teach them. When it comes to painting nails – I allowed them to paint their nails when they were 8. The excitement of going to school with painted nails lasted precisely 2 weeks. Now, it happens when they have friends over and they all want to play crazy – they’ll paint nails, put make-up on each other and by the end of the day all of it will be washed off. I occasionally take the girls with me for my little indulgence – a pedicure. they kind of like feeling ‘adult’ and getting feet scrubbed but it is usually a reward for something they did well.
    When can they wax – whenever they feel ready for it. The last thing I want my daughters to feel is be embarrassed about their body. they wear tank tops, shorts etc all the time – I don’t want them to feel conscious about these things. They already will be facing enough pressure in their teens to conform. (I’d rather put my foot down for many other things).

Share your thoughts! [Be civil. No personal attacks. Longer comment policy in our footer!]

NOVEMBER's Best New Books by Women Authors!

Get our weekly mailer and never miss out on the best reads by and about women!

Women In Corporate Awards