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How To Give Makeup Advice To Your Teen

By Amalah

Photo by lenifuzhead

Dear Amy,
I have a situation I hope you can help me out with; actually, it is my daughter’s situation. At the age of 13 she is totally fed up with dark circles under her eyes. Personally I don’t think they are so bad, but I’m an adult so I don’t understand. In my attempts to help her deal with these circles I have mentioned that they are most likely a reflection of her not getting enough sleep, but now that she is 13 I’m done trying to manage her bed time. (okay, not really – she does regularly get between 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night) My analysis of her nutrition didn’t win me any mother of the year awards either. So, prevention hasn’t been a tactic she’s been willing to take.
And we were told that they would grow out of toddlerdum.
Her attempts to deal with these circles on her own has led her down the path of concealers. Results haven’t been good, and in some cases the attempt to conceal looks worse than the dark circles themselves. Which, since you too were once a 13 year old girl, I’m sure you are familiar with the ugly crying that follows and nasty underbreath comments I have been subjected to when trying to gently mention she might want to try again.
Can you & your makeup empire help not only my daughter but keep me out of hot water?

Once upon a time, there was a girl who decided to start bossing people around on the Internet, particularly in the areas of makeup and hair. She did not have any children, though she wanted them desperately. One day, a magical fairy arrived from the land of Internet pregnancy message boards and sprinkled the girl with baby dust and asterisks and whatever the hell this thing –> ~ <--- is supposed to be. And the girl got pregnant! And promptly ran the stupid fairy over with her car. And a lot of people assumed, since the girl was so, well, GIRLY, with the makeup and the hair and the shoes and the handbags, that she would naturally have a girl, who would be pretty and well-coiffed and they'd get manicures together. The girl announced she was having a boy, and then ran THOSE people over with her car. And she had a boy, and another boy, and sometimes she whines about the boring clothes and the short hair, but then one day she read this question and lived happily ever after. Anyway! Yes. Girls and their makeup and their mothers. The best thing for you to remember is that you know *NOTHING* about *ANYTHING*, despite having full decades of makeup usage history on your daughter. Thus, you get other people involved. Consider taking her to a spa (or to M*A*C, or just a department store) for a makeup application. Where the makeup application is actually a makeup application LESSON. If money isn't too tight, you could make it a mother/daughter day with facials, thus decreasing the chance that she'll see right through it and realize you're still on her about doing her concealer wrong, oh my GOD. She might be more willing to listen to a makeup artist or esthetician or even just some 16-year-old at Sephora about how to apply concealer and the impact of sleep and water intake on dark circles. On that note, is she drinking enough water? If you can encourage her to swap soda for water, or at least drink more throughout the day, that can also help with the circles. Buy her one of those really cool eco-friendly water bottles, like a SIGG (she can customize her own bottle here, which is fun). Or maybe a reader who actually has a teenager can suggest a brand/style of bottle/canteen that the Kids These Days seem to like.
You can also buy her an eye cream if you think there’s any chance that she’ll actually remember to use it. The results may be a bit more immediate than the other preventative measures that she’s not willing to take, but it won’t be instant gratification like concealer, so she may lose interest in a couple days. So…don’t spend a fortune, obviously, though it’s never too early to teach your daughter to look at more than just the price tag. Something organic and natural for her still-young, still-not-irrevocably-messed-up-from-years-of-sun-and-abuse skin, like Burt’s Bees or Kiss My Face or a caffeine/green tea sort of thing.
And while this may be something you are totally not comfortable with — I have no idea how I really feel about it, but nyah nyah nyah I have boys and don’t have to think about it — I admit that everything I learned re: proper makeup application, I learned from magazines. Seventeen, YM, Sassy, etc. I haven’t picked up a copy of Seventeen or Teen Vogue (or whatever other offering that hasn’t gone belly up) in years, so I admit I don’t know if they’re still somewhat appropriate for a young teenage girl or absolutely horrifying. But, I did learn a TON from those old rags.
If you’re not keen on getting her a subscription to her own magazine, you could always cut out articles and how-to’s and demos from your own magazines and give them to her — not so much entirely focused on the concealer, but just general make-up and hairstyle things that would be fun for her to play around with on the weekends. Meanwhile, she may (hopefully) slowly absorb the idea that visible makeup isn’t preferable to visible circles or blemishes. (Something me and my teenage acne didn’t learn for QUITE a while, gah.)


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Laura

    June 4, 2009 at 11:11 am

    I don’t have any advice, but this just reminded me of when, as a teenager, I used to wear this THICK BLACK line of liquid mascara on my upper eyelids. It practically reached my eyebrows, I see now in pictures. I had no idea how to apply it. My mother once gently tried to ask me about it, and I’m sure I blew up at her or something. Now that I have a daughter, 3 weeks old today, I’ll have to keep all this in mind.

  • Brooke

    June 4, 2009 at 11:33 am

    After having a baby, I had to deal with under eye circles. So, if you are interested in a particular product, the under eye concealer by Smashbox from Sephora works really well and is almost impossible to cake on or mess up.

  • heidi

    June 4, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Yo, Cursingmama-
    I too grew up with dark circles. No one told me it was caused by allergies until I was an adult. Does she have allergies? I’d talk to the doctor. As an adult my seasonal allergies have mellowed and the circles have pretty much disappeared. Although, not enough sleep will darken the circles.

  • Jen

    June 4, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    And don’t forget that she should be using sunscreen daily! If she wants to look tan, get her self tanner also. Pale now, less wrinkled later.

  • Stephanie

    June 4, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I have been dealing with ugly circles forever! Well, my 22 years… I’ve tried tons of concealers and am currently using something that is *ok*, but not magical. All the little eye creams I’ve tried have done nothing. I drink mostly water. I do have allergies and slightly olive skin, which I’m sure is where they come from. I just keep telling myself that *I* think they are worse than they actually are. I don’t think they will go away unless I try that $100 eye cream for dark circles or get surgery, both of which aren’t really options. If anyone finds a magical cure or even a concealer that is totally completely AWESOME. Email me. PLEASE.

  • Catherine S

    June 4, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    It could be that nothing is going to be very well received from YOU at all. I know that my mother and one of my cool aunts or cousins could have told me the exact same thing and I would have very different reactions. It sounds like the prevention thing is a lost cause for right now. But if you want to help her find a product that works better for her than what she is currently using and she is not too keen on you helping her, you could enlist someone else that YOU trust to make the situation better and that SHE thinks is cool. Like maybe an aunt or an older sister or a friend of tthe family could take her shopping for the whole facial thing. I know if MY mom had tried to take me to get makeup, I would have intentionally shot down all of her ideas just because GOD MOM. But if it had been someone else, I probably would have been more receptive to idea. Not sure why, just a mother daughter dynamic from hell. Worth a try though.
    Also, are the dark circles under her eyes bothering her or you more? Is she happy with the results of her makeup attempts? If so, I say let her do it and leave well enough alone. Doesn’t seem worth fighting over. I was actually a very sensitive child and when some sort of shortcoming was pointed out, it made me even more self concious. I know there were some things about my face/body that I wasn’t even aware of until my mom pointed them out to me. Your daughter also has many years to worry about things like under eye circles, so if she isn’t bothered by them, should you be? Could be it just shouldn’t matter that much. Unless of course, she is the one bothered by them and in that case, I say enlist some help. Good luck.

  • Jess

    June 4, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    As someone who always had genetic dark circles under my eyes (thanks grandpa) but was never allowed to wear makeup as a preteen I sympathize with your daughter. Mine are BAD.
    I tried everything…eye creams, sleep, water, serums, those yellow concealers which are supposed to hide dark circles (but only make you look jaundice) to foundations to everything.
    The thing that I’ve found that’s the most natural? Bare minerals. Seriously. it’s not perfect or great for everyone, but I don’t used under eye concealer anymore and in photos my skin looks way more even than it did when i was just using under eye concealer. And the key that I found was moisturizing under any kind of eye concealer…otherwise you end up with caking looking eyes by the end of the day.

  • Amy

    June 4, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    As some ladies have already mentioned or hinted at, sometimes dark circles are simply genetic, an increase of pigmentation under the eyes that nothing – not sleep, vitamins or creams – will ever get rid of. That may be the exact opposite of what she wants to hear, or it may help her to realize that she is NOT the only one in the world with these circles, and that they do not in any way make her ugly. I have circles and puffiness, and I am only (only?) 27, which makes me wonder what I will look like at 57. Ah well.
    I don’t have great advice on concealers, because I haven’t found one that doesn’t just make things worse. What I do to brighten my eyes that seems to work is I use a pale, shimmery eye shadow on the inside corner of my eye very lightly – sort of between the tear ducts and the bridge of my nose. It doesn’t do anything to remove the circles, but it does help to make you look more awake and draw attention upwards to your actual eye and away from circles, bags and or wrinkles.

  • Nope

    June 4, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    1) Enlisting the help of someone else for the make-up conversation is a VERY good idea. You could even enroll her in something like John Robert Powers or do a seminar at the local beauty college. Frankly, even a decent Mary Kay rep will give her some advice and have products on hand to play with. A field trip at Sephora on a weekday when it’s not so crowded might also work. Find someone helpful (they’re not all great) and have that person take her under her wing. You can set a budget for what you’re willing to spend and she can play with products.
    2) No way, no how is that enough sleep for a teenage kid. It’s not enough for most adults. Consider that if you’re not willing to go to bat with her over a bedtime while she’s a mere 13, how much worse it will get for you both over the next 5 years as more serious stuff shows up.
    3) They could be a result of lack of sleep and poor eating, but serious dark circles are also the by-product of all kinds of health problems. Previous commenter mentioned allergies, and that’s how it is for my kid. It’s worth a trip to the pediatrician for a full check-up. The pediatrician can also have the healthy diet conversation with her, saving you the drama.
    4) Bare Minerals works for me too. I use a little paintbrush on my circles or any blemishes, and then do the dusting thing all over. It blends great, it’s easy to fix if I put too much on, I don’t break out from it as much as from other stuff, and it doesn’t make my monthly blemishes worse or dry or cakey looking.
    Good luck to you!

  • pseudostoops

    June 4, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    I second the allergy thing- that was my first thought when reading this. My doctor, when I finally got tested for allergies, said “hoo boy, look at those allergic shiners!” he had a whole special TERM for the dark circles caused by allergies. I had just been caking on the concealer, thinking I was cursed!

  • Rachel

    June 4, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Third on the allergies! Yes, and yes. I strongly suspect it is the result of an allergy — it seems unusual for such a young girl to have dark circles like this. I hope she will get her checked out! In my friend’s case, it was a dairy allergy/intolerance that was the issue — the circles disappeared when she cut dairy way down in her diet. And she was so sad to have lived so long with them! And so happy they were finally gone.

  • NG

    June 4, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Hey CursingMama… I have two little girls and have just been given a glimpse into what life is going to be like for me in about 8 years. So… thanks… for that… I guess.
    I came across this site the other day for some unknown reason and watched a couple of tutorials and thought to myself, “this is perfect for a tween girl just learning to put on makeup and do hair,” not to mention that the girl doing all the videos is supercute.
    I have no idea if there’s anything on concealer in there but it’s kind of a cool resource either way. Also, there is a plethora of tutorials on youtube about applying any kind of makeup you might need to know about… many done by young girls themselves. (Maybe it’s just my prudish ways, but I’d review them first before letting my girls watch just to make sure it’s not a front for a porno.) That might be another hip way for her to learn about makeup application. Before she becomes and adult and eschews the entire process altogether like me.

  • Marieke

    June 4, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    I have awful dark circles and have been in your daughter’s situation – sometimes it’s just the pigment of the skin under the eye and there is nothing you can do but address it with makeup.
    There are a few makeup products I HIGHLY recommend – even for teenagers as they are gentle and natural looking – I don’t go outside without something on.
    My favorite of the moment is a Carmindy (from What Not to Wear) product for Sally Hansen: The All Over Brightener Concealer. It’s a pinkish color but it does miracles when well-blended under the eye. Incidentally, Carmindy’s book, “Get Positively Beautiful” (I may have a slight obsession with Carmindy) has a section on makeup for teenagers that’s really great – It would be a great primer for your daughter as she’s learning about how to wear makeup.
    Another one I like is Benefit’s High Beam. This is another luminizer that reflects the light back at you and does a great job at hiding circles. I also like to mix a little with my moisturizer for a dewy look – this would be a really fun product for a teenager – I sure wish it were around when I was 13.
    Bottom line – look for light reflecting, pink toned stuff and have fun!

  • Ashlea

    June 4, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Being 19, I know about those circles. But I am also old enough to reliase that I need sleep and water to get rid of them.
    My mum never gave me make-up lessons, or even told me how to wear make up. I never use a lot, but I had to find my info other places.
    If she wants to continue with concealer instead of sleep, heres what I would do (If I was a mother to a teen)
    1. Give each other make-overs. This is good (Apart from the mother-daughter time) becuase you can put the concealer on her properly, and she will then see how much better it looks properly applied.
    The flip-side, is that she gets to apply your make up. It could be great, or well… not so great.
    2. As amy said, take her to a department store where the make-up chich might be able to talk some sense into her.
    3. For all my make-up tips I looked online. You-tube is great, and there are LOTS of websites dedicated to makeup for teens.
    4. Let her sleep in more on the weekends. At that age I remember sleeping in way past lunchtime every weekend day (Or school holidays) I felt so much better after the catch up!

  • Amy

    June 5, 2009 at 1:37 am

    Bobbi Brown has a couple of good beauty books, and one is specifically for Teens. I wish I’d had it in place of all the Seventeen issues I pored over.

  • G.G.R

    June 6, 2009 at 2:15 am

    It could also be an iron deficiency! That’s why I had circles under my eyes.

  • Monica

    June 6, 2009 at 4:53 am

    I would just like to second (third?) the recommendation to have any advice come through a third party. A cool aunt is perfect, or an older cousin etc. Basically you’re giving her all the right info it’s just coming from Mom and this is her time in life to ignore you. Don’t worry, I’ve been there and it ends!

  • Kirstie

    June 6, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Well, I don’t have a lot more to say about the actual question, because it’s been covered really, really well. However, I did want to comment because being the GIANT nerd that I am, I just wanted to let you know that “~” is actually called a tilde, since you were wondering. =]

  • stacy

    June 6, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Have her see an allergist. i have bad undereye circles and have been told on more than one occasion by doctors that it is caused by allergies. I am too scared to see an allergist for fear it is caffeine or wheat, two of my favorite things. sigh.

  • Kim

    June 7, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Recommended reading for every girl, age 10 to 100 – The Girls’ Book of Glamour: A Guide to Being a Goddess (from the Dangerous Book for Boys series). Tips on everything from makeup application (including several on dark circles and eye brightening) to “How to exit a limo gracefully”. These are things I would like my daughter to know, but that I know she wouldn’t listen to coming from me. If only I had had this book growing up… Maybe high school wouldn’t have been quite so embarrassing!

  • Pristine

    June 8, 2009 at 4:04 am

    Yeah, it’s a tilde. But…does anyone know what it’s supposed to mean when used online?

  • Lindsey

    June 8, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Concealers have never worked for me. They start out fine, but end up cakey and yellow-ey looking after a couple hours, and my circles look worse.
    Try Smashbox under eye brightener – it’s sleep in a bottle. I swear.

  • Heather

    June 10, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    I’ll second/third Bare Minerals! The starter kit is only $60 and comes with the brushes she needs (this kit lasted me almost two years). She will learn the proper technique to apply make-up without looking too made up for her age. They take appointments, and it could be a mother/daughter outing or throw in some friends. The technician will do half of her face and your daughter will do the other. If you get your make-up done too and maybe go for lunch it would be less of a lesson for her and more of a fun girly day. Also, another shout-out to the Bobbi Brown books. I got them from the library and poured over them. LOVED them.