Helping Your Teen with Blindness or Low Vision Look Good

Many children become concerned about their appearance as they approach their teenage years. Once they’re teenagers, they may be even more conscious of their appearance and want their hair, clothes, and shoes to be just right. Although teenagers with blindness or low vision may not be able to see how others look, they’ll be aware of others’ focus on appearances and know schoolmates will be checking them out as well. It’s an unusual teenager who doesn’t want to fit in with the local teen culture. With your help, your teenager can learn the skills needed to be well-groomed and in style independently.

Organization Is the Key

As with so many other aspects of life for a person who is blind or low vision, organization is essential to help your child create and maintain personal style, whether choosing the outfit they want to wear or finding the right color eye shadow in a makeup bag. By the teen years, your child should have systems to quickly find what is needed.

  • A labeling system to identify clothing
  • A designated place for each type of clothing
  • Baskets or trays to organize small items
  • Tactile or other markers to identify the contents of bottles and jars

Dressing in Style

Keeping up to date on the latest trends in clothing, hairstyles, and makeup requires observation. If your child can’t see what other teenagers are wearing, here are some tips on how you can help your teen dress in style.

  • Describe the kinds of clothes that you see other girls or boys your child’s age wearing. Tell your teen about color combinations and patterns that you think would look good on their skin tone and body type.
  • Pay attention to other teenagers—whether on the street, at the mall, on television, or in magazines. If you’re not sure what’s “in,” talk to other teenagers you know and encourage your child to do so too.
  • When you take your child shopping, suggest a friend be brought along. The friend will be more knowledgeable about style than you will!
  • When your teen gets new clothes, work together to label them so that they can be identified.
  • Consider buying hangers that stack or interlock to make it easy for your teen to keep entire outfits together.
  • Teach your teenager how to iron. Even if your teen can’t see if another person’s clothes are wrinkled, they need to be able to recognize when clothes need ironing. Have your teen determine that by feeling the surface of the fabric, and if uncertain, have your teen ask you or someone else at home.
  • If your child has usable vision, encourage them to check clothes for stains when taking them off. If your teen has no vision, talk about the importance of asking others for help in locating stains.

Hair: A Teenage Focus

You can help your teenager choose a becoming hairstyle by describing how others are styling their hair. Your child may have strong opinions about the style and length they want their hair to be. And, as you probably know, parents and teenagers don’t always agree on such issues. You can tell your child what you think and give candid feedback about their choice’s advantages, disadvantages, and attractiveness, but you might consider letting them make the decision. If it’s the wrong one, their friends are likely to let them know soon enough—and any style will grow out quickly!

Either way, you might want to take your teen to a hairstylist to get a good quality haircut and to find out what products will work best with their hair type. At home, try to help your child learn to care for their chosen style.

  • Give your teen feedback regarding new hair products and styles.
  • If it’s helpful, show your teen how to style his or her hair using a hand-under-hand approach. Work the way a professional hairdresser does—with your “client” sitting and you standing behind her.
  • If your child has usable vision, find out if a magnifying mirror makes it easier for your teen to see what she’s doing. Additional lighting might help too.

Getting Rid of Unwanted Hair

During the teen years, your child may start to grow hair that they might want to remove. Your child may find it easier to use an electric razor than one with a blade. Show your child how to shave using an overlapping pattern of strokes so that each area is covered twice, reducing the chances of missing a spot.

leaning close to the mirror to put on makeup


If your teen wants to wear makeup, consider taking your child to have makeup applied professionally. Encourage your child to ask the makeup professional to show them tactilely how the makeup is applied. Suggest that your teen take notes about the techniques used to apply the makeup properly and in what order to put it on.

  • Your teen may find it easier to apply makeup at home using a magnifying mirror and additional lighting.
  • Try to determine the number of strokes needed to apply the right amount of blush or eye shadow so that they don’t have to rely on vision and doesn’t put on more than needed.
  • Also help locate “landmarks” on the face, such as cheekbones, that can serve as boundaries for applying cosmetics.

Nail Polish

  • If using clear nail polish, they may not have to be as exact in applying it.
  • When using color polish, help practice taking overlapping strokes to make sure each nail is covered completely.
  • Suggest that your child rest their hand on a towel of a contrasting color. This may make it easier for to see the polish as it is applied.
  • If your child has a video magnifier or CCTV, it might help be more accurate when putting on polish. Encourage your child to ask you or someone else to tell them if the polish is applied well or needs to be removed and reapplied.

Try the Blindfold Test

If your child finds a task hard, try doing it blindfolded or with a vision simulator. This lets you experience what your child’s vision is like. You might find a simpler way to do the task or think of a new method. If your teen feels shy about practicing makeup in front of you, offer to help. Remember, sighted teens spend a lot of time in front of the mirror trying different looks and makeup. Your child will need practice too. With your support, your teen can be just as fashionable as their friends.