A Dad’s Letter to His Daughter: Written From the Make-Up Aisle

play make-up

Dr. Kelly Flanagan’s heart sank as he considered what would someday happen to his daughter in the make-up aisle. 

Dear Little One,

As I write this, I’m sitting in the makeup aisle of our local Target store. A friend recently texted me from a different makeup aisle and told me it felt like one of the most oppressive places in the world. I wanted to find out what he meant. And now that I’m sitting here, I’m beginning to agree with him. Words have power, and the words on display in this aisle have a deep power. Words and phrases like:

Affordably gorgeous,


Flawless finish,

Brilliant strength,

Liquid power,

Go nude,


Instant age rewind,

Choose your dream,

Nearly naked, and

Natural beauty.

When you have a daughter, you start to realize she’s just as strong as everyone else in the house — a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire with the same life and gifts and passions as any man. But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence.


But words do have power and maybe, just maybe, the words of a father can begin to compete with the words of the world. Maybe a father’s words can deliver his daughter through this gauntlet of institutionalized shame and into a deep, unshakeable sense of her own worthiness and beauty.

Maybe a father’s words can deliver his daughter through this gauntlet of institutionalized shame.

A father’s words aren’t different words, but they are words with a radically different meaning:

Brilliant strength. May your strength be not in your fingernails but in your heart. May you discern in your center who you are, and then may you fearfully but tenaciously live it out in the world.

Choose your dream. But not from a department store shelf. Find the still-quiet place within you. A real dream has been planted there. Discover what you want to do in the world. And when you have chosen, may you faithfully pursue it, with integrity and with hope.

Naked. The world wants you to take your clothes off. Please keep them on. But take your gloves off. Pull no punches. Say what is in your heart. Be vulnerable. Embrace risk. Love a world that barely knows what it means to love itself. Do so nakedly. Openly. With abandon.

Infallible. May you be constantly, infallibly aware that infallibility doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion created by people interested in your wallet. If you choose to seek perfection, may it be in an infallible grace — for yourself, and for everyone around you.

Age-defying. Your skin will wrinkle and your youth will fade, but your soul is ageless. It will always know how to play and how to enjoy and how to revel in this one-chance life. May you always defiantly resist the aging of your spirit.

Flawless finish. Your finish has nothing to do with how your face looks today and everything to do with how your life looks on your last day. May your years be a preparation for that day. May you be aged by grace, may you grow in wisdom and may your love become big enough to embrace all people. May your flawless finish be a peaceful embrace of the end and the unknown that follows, and may it thus be a gift to everyone who cherishes you.

Little One, you love everything pink and frilly and I will surely understand if someday makeup is important to you. But I pray three words will remain more important to you — the last three words you say every night, when I ask the question: “Where are you the most beautiful?” Three words so bright no concealer can cover them.

Where are you the most beautiful?

On the inside.

From my heart to yours,



Like the last letter I wrote to my daughter, I wrote this first for her and the day I’ll eventually read it to her. But I also wrote it for every woman who needs to hear the words of a father. Women, no one else can define your beauty for you. But they’ll try.

My daughter is 4 years old now. If her awakening to the makeup aisle comes at the typical age, I figure we have about five years to radically alter the arc of history and the subjugation-by-image of the female gender. We’ve got a lot of work to do. And it begins in the heart of each and every woman.

bottom of post widget GMP community logo (1)

Do you want to be part of ending sexism, racism, and homophobia?


This post originally appeared on DrKellyFlanagan.com

Lead Photo: Flickr/clappstar

About Kelly Flanagan

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in Wheaton, IL. He writes and blogs regularly about life, love, and community at his blog, UnTangled. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, and Google+.


  1. Jennifer says:

    Am I the only woman that is totally offended by this?

    “But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence.”

    This assumes that “most people” are men, and are sexist. Not at all my experience in the 38 years I’ve lived on the planet. I have not for a second felt like the victim this article paints women as.

  2. …as a feminist, a lady-ish person, and someone who worked as a makeup artist, I love makeup. I will admit I hate the way it’s marketed. I’m not trying to hide my flaws or make myself prettier, I’m trying to make myself look like “me” (which means bright blue eyeshadow and gigantic false eyelashes, because I’m freaky)


    I use makeup as a form of self expression, putting my inside on the outside for the world to see (and fear)

  3. Powerful! Loved it.

  4. This is very sweet. 🙂 I think my husband has a lot of the same thoughts about our daughter.

  5. Very beautiful!! Good job Daddy!!! Each and every one of us parents would be honored to be the author of the fine letter!!!

  6. This is awesome, what a lovely letter. I hope she takes it to heart as she becomes a young lady (and an older lady).

  7. Great stuff here. I wish that dads could see just how much influence (both positive and negative) that we have on our daughters. When we become passive, we abdicate that influence to others. Even as adults, I can see that my daughters crave that powerful affirmation that comes from dad.

  8. Great perspective Kelly.

    We fathers are meant to love, guide, protect, empower and encourage our kids. If we don’t raise them the world will….and it doesn’t have their best interests at heart.

  9. Joanna Schroeder says:

    This is SO good, and so important. We need to explode the beauty myth from the inside, and you have set some TNT right there!


  1. […] your eyes in HR sexual harassment training, think of your fellow protective man and daughter-haver! A Good Men Project writer had the good sense to direct his open letter to his “little one” and his little one […]

  2. […] On this Valentines Day my heart goes out to my wife and the gift she has been to me, she helped save me! My heart also goes out to our girls, Gretchen, Stephanie, Natasha and all women. I, like you love our children with all my heart. I love children period. That is one of the things the Lord showed me as he put me here at FGGAM, to stand in the gap for His children. The sanctity of life. The world we live in is so different from when Sharon and I were growing up. Sharon found this article that delivers a solid message for us all. Dr. Kelly Flanagan’s heart sank as he considered what someday would happen to his daughter in the make up asile.http://goodmenproject.com/families/dads-letter-daughter-written-make-aisle-hesaid/ […]

Speak Your Mind