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Parenting : Cosmetic Concerns: Too Much Too Soon? : Question of makeup and young girls truly is a family balancing act. But good grooming is the bottom line.

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; <i> Cindy LaFavre Yorks writes regularly about fashion for The Times. </i>

How young is too young for a girl to wear makeup? Parents and kids tend to disagree on the subject. Advertisements and MTV might dazzle girls with the magic of cosmetics, but few moms and dads want their daughters rushed prematurely into womanhood.

Where the line gets fuzzy is with kiddie makeup kits that appeal to girls as young as 4. At that age, experimentation seems harmless, especially when it’s part of dress-up games and make-believe. But makeup artist Jocelyn Zayco points out that a 4-year-old’s playful interest can become an obsession a few years later.

According to Zayco, senior makeup artist at the Centre Salon in Woodland Hills’ Sebastian International Headquarters: “You’d be surprised how much a 9-year-old knows about makeup. Nine-year-olds--if they could--would wear lipstick and even eye makeup.”

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Not in my back yard, says Peter di Caula, who counsels adolescents in his Northridge psychology practice. Though he allowed his own 10-year-old to wear some cosmetics for a dance recital a couple of years ago, he says that except on similar special occasions he probably won’t again until she’s in high school.

His professional view is that permission to wear makeup should be granted to girls on a case-by-case basis and that moderation is important. The reason? Appearances can be misconstrued by peers and adults.

“Conceivably, wearing makeup at an early age could be a manifestation of a more serious problem,” he says. He cites some teen-age girls who aim to attract and date older boys and move within social circles beyond their years.

Di Caula concedes that interest in cosmetics is as natural for girls as playing with trucks is for boys. Regardless of how a parent feels about it, most girls want to wear makeup.

Twelve-year-old Lauren Hoover of Calabasas says that more than half her female classmates wear some, and a couple of fellow seventh-graders lay it on pretty thickly. Hoover uses lip gloss and mascara, though her parents never actually gave her permission. But Lauren isn’t sneaky with cosmetics. She says her look is so natural it hasn’t bothered her family.

Zayco, who sees teen-agers flock to the cosmetic area at the Centre Salon, strives for a balance between the interest of girls and the wishes of parents. Sometimes, she counsels, the easiest way to discourage extreme looks is to teach girls basic grooming.

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“Parents can often appease girls too young to wear makeup by teaching them how to care for their skin,” Zayco says. She adds that confidence in good grooming can build all-important self-esteem. Young ones, she recommends, should start with mild cleanser, tinted moisturizer (less obvious than foundation, more visible than a color-free product) and nude-colored lipstick. Though some girls prefer darker lipstick, Zayco persuades them to tone it down by showing them pictures of famous models in more subdued shades.

Subtle colors offer grown-ups and kids a compromise in the battle over makeup. Arin Tuchman of Calabasas enjoys complete freedom with cosmetics. On her 13th birthday, she graduated from blush to foundation, eye shadow and mascara. The key to gaining that freedom, explains her mother, Sheri Tuchman, was going the natural route.

“You wouldn’t even notice it if you looked at her, and if it makes her feel good, and she doesn’t overdo it, I don’t see a problem with it,” Sheri says.

She points out that initially, rather than letting Arin “go crazy at Sav-on,” she took her to Jus Judy’s, a Woodland Hills makeup-artist emporium, for professional training and products.

Consulting a professional can make a world of difference, agrees Wendy Doyle, a Van Nuys makeup artist. In her opinion, “a little mascara and some lip color” are fine for 14-year-olds, but she suggests they skip eye shadow and eyeliner. Doyle, whose work takes her from the Valley to Santa Monica and beyond, laments that some Valley teen-agers tend to overdo it. “I definitely see more makeup in the Valley than I do at the beaches,” she says.

A session with a makeup artist, she suggests, can steer teen-agers toward flattering colors and successful application techniques. Also helpful are certain cosmetic lines that encourage girls to try products at home. Origins, for example, provides onetime-use applicators so users can test makeup in or out of a store without buying it.

Fortunately for some parents, not all girls are clamoring for cosmetics. Lauren Hoover’s 9-year-old sister Erin could care less about painting her face. “I don’t really like makeup,” she says, though her mother has put a little on her from time to time for special occasions.

“She’s in a real tomboy stage now,” confirms mother Becca. “But I’m not sure how long that will last.”


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