Should you pay for your teen's cosmetics?

Eyeliner, foundation, expensive razors – where do you draw the line when paying for your kids' hygiene and cosmetic products?

By Jeni Marinucci

Should you pay for your teen's cosmetics?
©iStockphoto.com/studiovespa
I'm a low-maintenance gal when it comes to a beauty routine. My bathroom cabinet contains only Pond's cream and a hairbrush, and I don't know one end of a mascara wand from the other.

So when my daughter became interested in beauty products at age 13, I was shocked at the costs associated with her growing collection of lotions and potions. When it comes to teens, cosmetics and hygiene products, where should parents draw the line?

Changing the family budget to include teens' products
Many families have budgets for hygiene products and are willing to supply the basics only, such as shampoo, soap and feminine toiletries. My daughter has sensitive skin, so I wanted her using good-quality products because cheaper ones often caused skin reactions. This meant making adjustments to our budget to account for the increased costs associated with hypoallergenic products. I also bought her a drugstore gift card so that, while she could make her own choices, I maintained monetary control of her purchases.

Brenda, a mother of four in Wisconsin, has a similar outlook: "I'll pay for skin-care products, within reason, until they're adults," she says.

However, she also wanted her teens to understand her feelings about makeup, so she told them that makeup is meant to accent their natural beauty, not to be noticed for its own sake.

Why boys shouldn't be exempt from money discussions about cosmetics
Boys should not be exempt from discussions about beauty and cosmetics, especially considering the growing market of products that are targeted to young men. Most boys start shaving while still living at home, so having a talk about a beauty budget isn't a "girls-only" discussion. (Teaching your growing teen proper grooming methods is very important - have a look at our teen hygiene story and learn what your teen should and should not be doing at this stage in their life.)

According to Laurel Crossley, a teen life coach, parenting educator and the woman behind Opti-Mom, budgeting is a must for teens. "Whether for clothing, entertainment or beauty products, depending on how the household is run, teens may have access to their own funds via allowance or work. Establishing early patterns with money makes it easier as they want more expensive items," she says.

Should you pay for expensive razors?
Sue, a mom from Milton, Ontario, had three teenagers who all shaved at the same time. "The boys were happy with the razors their dad used," she says. "They were easy."

But when her daughter wanted a specialty razor with expensive refills, she put her on a budget. "I allowed my daughter a set amount for shaving products and beyond that she paid herself," says Sue, who believes the budget helped her daughter learn not to waste money – or razors.

An exception: Skin-care products
I'll do anything within reason to make the skin-care process easier for my daughter. Although her acne wasn't severe, it warrant prescription medication and I covered all costs. However, I insisted that she do some research first and I wasn't willing to pay for crazy gadgets or new products every week. (Does your child have acne? Learn how to prevent it in our article about how to treat teen acne.)

Carrie, a stepmother to two teenage girls in Burlington, Ont., has similar thoughts. When one of the girls started getting acne at age 15, she and her husband agreed to pay for services that a dermatologist prescribed which fell out of provincial coverage.

"We didn't want her to live with the scars," she remembers. "Visible or otherwise."

How to subsidize teens' products instead of paying for everything
Some parents buy all of the products that their children require until the kids are able to earn money to subsidize costs. Teens often respect their own money more than they respect funds handed over by their parents, so items they've purchased themselves will likely be used sparingly and last longer.

Deciding which products and costs you'll cover should be discussed as a family. When Brenda refused to buy black nail polish for her daughter she referred back to their previous talk about beauty products. "I don't find black nail polish appropriate for a 13-year-old," she says.

However, when her teen bought her own grey polish, both mom and daughter were comfortable with that. (You and your teen girl can both have a great set of nails and bond at the same time by doing each other's manicure. Read up on our easy 7-step manicure to learn how.)

Talk to your teen and come to a compromise about what is acceptable, suggests Crossley. "Always be open to negotiation with your teen," she says. "It's a life skill that is so important in development. Most importantly, have fun with your teen as you navigate the road to adulthood together!"

Whether or not your teen shows interest in beauty products, be sure to keep the lines of communication open. For us, that meant me teaching my daughter about money and her showing me something called "eyeliner."

Need some makeup tips? Look over our What's your favourite beauty tip? article to nab some nifty tricks to make you look absolutely flawless!

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