Too Much, Too Soon

She’s five, dancing to Tina Turner in a hot pink outfit, hair flying and having fun.

Lord help me

And I’ve made the decision that tonight, under those stage lights for her dance recital, she won’t be wearing makeup. Not stage makeup, anyway. Call me mean, call me a prude… I don’t really care. I see the ritualistic face-painting not as some way to ‘enhance’ her performance under the lights but to make her look older, more grown-up, and obviously ‘dolled’ up.

…and that creeps me out.

I’ve told her she can paint her nails and toes and wear a little lip gloss. That’s it. Anything else just feels wrong for a five-year old girl having fun in a dance for her family and friends. She doesn’t need to be tarted up to give a good performance or look beautiful up on the stage. She doesn’t need makeup to make her face stand out under the lights or to make sure we see her cheekbones from three rows back. The only reason she would need makeup is to enhance the ‘pretty’- and at five, she’s got ‘pretty’ in spades.

I fully expect half her class to be in sparkly, blue-eyeshadow’d, red rouge, red lipstick regalia. I don’t want her to feel left out or not let her have fun and ‘pretend’ or ‘dress up’ … but there are limits. Limits to what a five-year old on stage can do vs. an eight-year old and so on and so forth. And I’ll deal with each year as it comes and decide what seems appropriate. This isn’t some professional production of a Broadway show…this is a local dance class with parents and grandparents and siblings cheering them on.

As the little girl who just graduated pre-school and is experiencing her first recital, she needs to know she’s beautiful on that stage, she’s comfortable, and she’s FIVE. She’s not a tween, she’s not a teen, she’s not a woman…yet. She’s a little girl having fun hopping around to a classic tune and smiling and dancing her heart out.

The makeup removes a level of innocence. Tarting her up like a pop-star removes a level of innocence and adds a level of sex appeal. And that’s it exactly…there’s letting her play dress up, get in a costume, and then there is letting her think beautiful = dolled up whore.

I’m not letting her start that path at five. She’ll learn it soon enough and it’s all around her already…we’re not adding to that tonight.


  1. THANK YOU. I always used to get so creeped out by the dance performances of one of our local dance schools when they came out to festivals. Heavy makeup, revealing clothes, hip thrusts…on six and seven year olds. It was just weird for me. The world is so ready to sexualize girls that I think trying to pull back is wise.
    .-= Suebob´s last blog ..World Cup Fever! =-.

  2. Well said and as the mom of a 5yo girl myself, I couldn’t agree more. If it were my daughter I’d be making the exact same choice. Good for you!
    .-= Meghan´s last blog ..Today =-.

  3. AMEN! This is why I love you.
    .-= KBO´s last blog ..On the Road Again =-.

  4. We did essentially the same thing for K and she’s 7. Her first recital was last weekend and she wore some sparkly pink lipstick and had painted nails. Other than that, we didn’t follow the make up instructions that were sent home. And she was absolutely beautiful on stage which is all that matters.
    .-= A´s last blog ..One week down. =-.

  5. Oh thank heavens, I’m not crazy. I can’t watch that Toddlers and Tiaras show. There’s just something so fundamentally WRONG about it. My 5 yo loves to do her “makeup” with mommy, which consists of her using my makeup brushes (with no makeup on them) and brushing them where they go. She also puts on her lipstick (lip balm) and we’re good to go.

    Like you said, at 5, she has pretty in spades. We are all beautiful in our own way. Time enough for them to start thinking otherwise.

    Good for you for keeping you 5 yo a 5 yo.

  6. jennydecki says:

    I put my daughter in a difference dance school this cycle so she wouldn’t be in a showcase at all.

    My arbitrary line in the sand includes mini vegas showgirl outfits.

    Not a better line in the sand, just different.

  7. When my oldest was in a recital at age 3, I was the mom who refused to allow the makeup, but now I have an entirely different opinion. I don’t fear that my children will believe that they’re only beautiful with makeup, because they don’t wear makeup on a daily basis and we still tell them that they’re beautiful. There are other dance recital things we don’t normally wear in public, either, like sheer clothing and skin-colored leotards that give the illusion of partial nudity. These days, I try not to make a stink of inconsequential things, and wearing makeup at a dance recital is really inconsequential. These days, we just don’t make an issue of things like this. If your daughter wanted to wear it, would you fight with her about it? There’s no logical reason to assume that she’ll suffer any consequences from wearing it, but a power struggle with mom over her own preferences could have long-reaching impact. So.. props for standing up for your principles, but if your daughter objected to your preference, I hope she finds you a reasonable ally and not a staunch defender of mom-dogma.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Grace Face =-.

  8. If she wanted to sit here at home and face paint for fun…it’s one thing. It’s the ‘I can’t be pretty unless I have this on me’ idea… and honestly, the way these girls look with the make up on is highly sexual. I don’t care if it means my pictures won’t turn out awesome from the stage, no 5-year old should be looking sexual.

  9. And yeah. We went back and forth over this costume. But it covers her entirely and when the tennis shoes go on with it and the nude tights… well… it was borderline. But after much discussion and input from parents and agreement that it covered them entirely… we were all ok.

  10. Good for you. She can have fun and do great without heavy makeup.

    As far as I’m concerned, the sexing up of (the collective) our daughters is out of control, and that bleeds into other things…I mean have you seen Toddlers & tiaras?! 😉

  11. I 100% agree with you. My friends post pictures of their made up 5 & 6 yo’s on Facebook and it makes me cringe. I have 2 sons, but if I had a daughter I wouldn’t want her made up, looking totally inappropriate.
    Great post!
    .-= drlori71´s last blog ..Oil, Oil, Toil & Trouble =-.

  12. Editdebs says:

    Amen, sister! Let’s let 5 year olds be 5. Life goes by way too quickly (at least for us parents). We need to protect them from all the sexualizing as much as possible–or as much as we have control over.

  13. Mine’s just turned 8 and we have a firm no make-up rule. Not at school, anyway. She’s allowed to have little kid make-up to play with at home, but as a girl that has no interest in Barbies [my own inner 8 year old self doesn’t understand that, but the adult me is so effing proud of her], she doesn’t seem too concerned about any of it. She’ll happily put on a dress as long as she can go climb a tree in it. 😛

    I’m glad there’s people like us raising the new batch of girls <3

  14. Mom2HandR says:

    I already admitted that I let my 4 yr old have pink lips blush and sparky hair at her recital. Her sister had zip until she was 8 and competing. I just find a very little looks like so much more on the littlest ones. My issues with dance are more on costume and age appropriate material. “Tik Tok” is not suitable for my now almost 10 yr old. Nor are exposed bellies. But those are MY arbitrary lines. And I am OK with them.

  15. And that’s why you would never make it on the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Seriously, as a mom of girls, thank you. It only takes a few of us to stop a trend.
    .-= Kate, aka guavalicious´s last blog ..When to push =-.

  16. Brava, Erin! My 4yo girl does ballet, but it is at the YMCA so our recitals are pretty low key. I would come to the same decision you did about the make-up. I grew up doing theater productions, so I do understand the notion of needing stage make-up. But not for a little girls’ dance recital.

    As you said in your post, the make-up removes a level of innocence. When so much of what is marketed to children these days rockets them into a false level of adulthood, it is the little decision like this that protect their right to childhood.

    I hope she dances her heart out! Enjoy the fun milestone!

  17. Thank you for not allowing her to be “tarted” up for her performance. It seems in our society, little girls are oversexualized. While people seem to be repulsed by this, it continues. We need to allow little girls to be little girls. As women (not just as Moms), we need to stop, think about this, and act.

  18. I couldn’t agree more. For her recital, I let my four-year-old wear pink lip gloss and a bit of sparkly sheer eyeshadow that she got in a dress-up compact as a party favor this year. From two feet away, you couldn’t tell she had on either, so it satisfied her desire to “wear eyelash” like the other girls and my desire to keep her face looking like a four-year-old’s face. Even so, I felt a little weird about the fact that she was wearing anything at all on her face, so I treated the whole thing as part of the costume rather than as part of “being pretty.” That way of talking about it with her helped, I think.

    It was china-doll shocking the degree of makeup that the other girls in her class wore. There was nothing remotely sexual about their dance in fluffy cowgirl tutus, thank goodness, but the notion that “being on-stage requires makeup so they don’t look all washed out under the lights” was rampant amongst the mothers. As if their tiny selves on that giant stage weren’t already practically disappearing. It’s a hard fight to fight with our daughters, but an important one, I agree.
    .-= MommyTime´s last blog ..Rest in Peace =-.

  19. Wow, wow and wow… I have to say I am in shock. It never even dawned on me that people would put make up on a 5y old for a dance recital! Let alone a lot of makeup.

    If my almost 5y old wanted to wear something for her recital for fun I’d let her wear the lipgloss she got as a party favor. I’d want her to feel she has some control over how she looks and some input.

    However I’d never sit her down and apply heavy adult makeup even if she asked. Especially not if that was the instructions sent home for the event. In fact I’d probably have a pretty stern talk with who ever wrote the instructions in the first place. A 5y old should never feel like she has to have make up. I mean a 25 year old shouldn’t either but lets let them be innocent for a little longer!!! (Not to mention all the nasty chemicals that are doubly not good for little kids.)
    .-= Rose´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

  20. Good for you. Heavy makeup on young children creeps me out, too. I don’t find it cute at all — definitely not as cute as their precious little unadorned faces.
    .-= Donna´s last blog ..Around the World? Try Around the Block… =-.

  21. I’m dealing with the same issue with my 6YO this weekend. I’m allowing a little blush and mascara and lip gloss. That’s pretty much it.

    As much as I’ve loved most of her dance teachers and I’m proud of her accomplishments in her three years at dance school, their tendency to make children into geishas with tap shoes has reached such a level that I’m not enrolling her next year. She’ll be shaking her pom poms with the local university’s kids’ cheer program. More fun, less stress, minimal makeup and more performances.

    Good for you Erin. She’s a gem!

  22. Good for you for taking a stand. For the last 5 years, my daughter’s studio has been recognized at various competitions for age appropriate choreography and costumes. It’s one of the main reasons we stay at this school – and one I hope all parents take into consideration when choosing a studio.

    That said, I still have had to find a way to deal with the Performing Company requirements about wearing stage makeup. After much debate we ended up agreeing to wear the makeup – albeit much simplified from the requirements. The key for me though, was how we described it. Wearing stage makeup when you are a dancer is part of your uniform. It’s not to make you more pretty, it’s to make the group look more united. (It helps that she HATES the makeup…I’ve got that going for another few years.)

    I think it’s critically important that parents remember that they have some say in the dance costumes and makeup. You are choosing to have your child participate in this experience, and you need to give the studio guidance on what you feel is appropriate for your child.
    .-= GretchenA´s last blog ..Book Review: The Midwife =-.

  23. Amen Sistah!

    And as the mom of a 10 yr old, it doesn’t get any easier when they are tweens. I consented to lipgloss and mascara for the show choir recital, but some of those girls were over-the-top tarted up. Doesn’t help that the Target by me only sells padded (read fake-boob-filled) bras for budding tweens! Several of her friends’ parents let their girls wear makeup to school – every day – in 4th grade! So sad!!

  24. You are nicer than me… I only let mine wear Chapstick. LOL

    I was a ballerina from toddlerhood through my late teen years. Stage make-up is fine for older girls and even then it should be used appropriately for the performance. Blue eyeshadow and fuchsia lips are never appropriate. ever.
    .-= Crystal D´s last blog ..School’s Out! =-.

  25. Good for you. Your daughter will have a wonderful time and won’t even remember she didn’t get to go through the agony of mom putting mascara on her tiny eyelashes.
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..Hey Meth Heads? =-.

  26. They’ve pressured my daughter about putting stage make-up on since she started dancing. “They” being the older girls and, at the former studio, the owners. (It’s the “former studio” because I ended up outraged at the first recital my daughter was in. One of the dances by the instructors included, no kidding, whips, handcuffs, tying up, etc. So, yeah, we needed to find a different studio.)

    I consented to the rouge and lipstick (gloss, really) when she turned 10.
    .-= patois´s last blog ..Teacher Turmoil =-.

  27. She is gorgeous. And you are so right.

  28. There’s a reason why I still call makeup “war paint” 🙂 Anyway she doesn’t need any makeup 🙂
    .-= Tanya´s last blog ..nerdette: @jasmined @disgrasian link doesn’t seem to be workin =-.

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