Choose the best starter makeup for tweens and teens (2023)

It seems impossible to me that my sweet baby girl, who not long ago was playing princess dress up, is now interested in wearing makeup. For real this time! Not the “let’s dress up and pretend” kind of makeup, but the actual LEAVE THE HOUSE wearing it kind of thing. It has now come time to look intofinding the beststarter makeup for tweens.

Now, to me thisseemed like another version of “dress up”. It’s a little hard to see your daughter go from “child” to “teen” with one sweep ofa mascara wand.

So that is where it starts. First it’s mascara. Then it’s the lip gloss. Before you know it they’ve moved on to eye shadow and a self imposed need to cover every perceived complexion flaw with concealer. It’s a runaway train that picks up speed at an alarming rate.

Despite the initial shock, I also admit that this has the potential to be fun! I’ve always loved makeup, but boy oh boy, when I first started wearing it,it was a disaster! My mom always took a minimalistic approach to cosmetics, so I didn’t get much coaching or advice on application. The result was over applied EVERYTHING! Heavy purple eye shadow, eyeliner that came in only one color (black) and tragically mismatched foundation.

With these embarrassing memories stillfresh in my head, I decided that I am going to take as much control over my daughter’s new frontier as possible. My top consideration was how much money was I willing to invest in this adventure. It’s tempting to want to go high end, thinking that they’ll yield the best visual results. But as I’m sure a lot of you already know…expensive does NOT equal better. I’ve found that many drugstore products offer great quality without the investment. Which I think is all the more important now since this tween makeup thing is still in it’s experimental stage!


So the first item that I looked for was mascara. Since I’ve heard that sharing makeup, especially mascara, can invite contamination, I wanted her to have her own. I wasn’t terribly crazy about the jet black mascara look. Especially on my daughter whose skin tone is quite fair, along with blonde hair. Nor did I want anything too amplifying or anything with the word “extreme” in it!

Now, my first recommendation is to start with clear mascara likeMaybelline Great Lash Clear MascaraChoose the best starter makeup for tweens and teens (3) and clear, flavored lip balm. The clear mascara gave her lashes a little “oomph” and darkened them ever so slightly. That seemed to satisfy the initial interest in makeup, and my daughter was quite happy For a while.

As far a mascara with color, we got asubtle, natural look by moving on to a brown/black color, which isn’t as stark as a true black. The winner in this category isCoverGirl Lashexact MascaraChoose the best starter makeup for tweens and teens (4).

The brush on this one concentrates on bringing out the lashes, without that spidery effect, This one is almost impossible to over do. Plus, it wears really well.

BONUS, it’s a cinch totake off too!. Mydaughter uses the damp cotton pad with olive oil methodI wrote about here. Works every time!


The next category was lip gloss. I preferredshe stay away from an actual lipstick that might have too much color pay off, so a sheer pinkish/nude color was what I thought most appropriate for pale skin tones such as hers. Nobody wants a tween/teen girl with loudly colored “look at me!” lips, am I right?

This is probably the area where the options are vast and quite fun. Our winners in this category are NYX Cosmetics Butter Lip Gloss Creme BruleeChoose the best starter makeup for tweens and teens (7), or foroptions that are more sheer my favorites are alsoMaybelline Baby Lips in Pink Quartz,and Benefit POSIEBALM Lip Tint

Yes, the Benefit lip balm israther spendy, but it’s such lovely color that I have one for myself which I love to keep in my handbag, especially during the summer months! Here is a closer look at these colors for an idea of shade and sheerness.Also keep in mind that Maybelline’s Baby Lips do come in other shades that look beautiful on deeper skin tones,

So mascara and lip gloss were my starting line up, and did just fine for a while…..until……she felt ready to take things up a notch. Here is where I started to get nervous.


So yes, eyeshadow was next on the list of her “must haves”. Remembering what a disaster that had been for me, I didn’t bring my daughter with me to look for shadows. I thought a slightly shimmery taupe satisfy the need for shadow without looking too obvious. This works well for lighter skin tones, and for deeper skin tones it reads as a lovely, sublte shimmer.

Maybelline Expert Wear Eyeshadow in Tastefully TaupeChoose the best starter makeup for tweens and teens (11) fits the bill. This one doesn’t crease or travel around the lids. It has that slight shimmer which looks great on the younger set, For deeper skin tones, check out Maybelline Expert Wear Eyeshadow Quads in Sunlit BronzeChoose the best starter makeup for tweens and teens (12).

BONUS TIP::This shadow (or any shadow, really) can be used as a subtle eyeliner too. You won’t get the harsh line you’d get with a liquid or pencil, there’s no tugging on the lid, and lasts surprisingly well. Keep reading for details on “how to”.


This next one is the one I was most reluctant to incorporate into her collection. For a tween, she does have blemishes with some persistence, along with ocassional blotchiness and dry patches brought on by spot acne treatments.

She tells me about girls she sees at school who are sporting that tell tale makeup line that stops along their jawline, which I was determined to avoid at all costs.I’m happy to report that I did find a product that acts like a foundation that isn’t obvious at all. It’sCoverGirl Smoothers BB Cream Choose the best starter makeup for tweens and teens (13)

Color matching is critical in this category, no matter what cover product you use. This is my favorite because it’s sheer, but covers well enough to reduce the look of blemishes, and evens things out all over. Since it would fall under the category of “tinted moisturizer”, it hydrates any dry patches too. Bonus points for the SPF 21.

Another consideration if you have oily skin are powder foundations. They are more heavily pigmented than a finishing powder, and it makes it easier to blend into the jawline thana liquid foundation.


Finally, we have eyeliner. Now, this one can be quite extreme and again, I insisted on a lot of input on this. The solution for this that I’ve mentioned above is to dampen an eyeliner brush or lip brush with water, gently run it through the eye shadow, and slowly apply it along the upper lash line. NOT ON THE BOTTOM LASH LINE. The result? a natural outline that doesn’t look too obvious, doesn’t require a skilled hand, and doesn’t tug on the eyelids.

So this is where her makeup collection all started, and I imagine it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t yet ventured into the area of blush, bronzer, powder etc, but I’ll be sure to post a ‘Phase II” when we get there! in the meantime, I hope you found this post inspiring enough to know that, although it’s a big transition if your child decides they want to wear makeup, it doesn’t have to be extreme or weird. Just yet another sign that our little ones don’t stay little for long, and it’s all good.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on and purchase the linked product, then I will receive a small percentage of the sale amount.

cover photo credit Yingyo from


2 Comments on Best Starter Makeup for Tweens

  1. Thank you for posting this! I completely forgot about clear mascara. My neice is 12 and her mom says she can have makeup for Christmas but she is really fair skinned and platinum blonde so I didn’t want it to be overkill with dark colors. She would play in my makeup when I “babysat” her haha and I was so nervous her mom would be like what are you doing!! But she needs that guidance because her mom doesn’t wear makeup and being in middle school she is eager to wear it. I just don’t want it to be dramatic so thanks for the info!!

    • You’re right to be nervous about the risk of overkill. I cringe when I think back about how I made those very mistakes! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

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