How young is too young to start wearing makeup? That’s the question being asked in the beauty world after John Lewis and Mac cosmetics cancelled a “back-to-school mini masterclass” on makeup for children as young as 12, after attracting criticism. “I get asked this question all the time,” says the beauty writer Sali Hughes, who let her sons play with makeup from 18 months. “To me, that’s the wrong question. It’s about how you are framing makeup.”
Lucy Rycroft-Smith, a teacher and author of The Equal Classroom, has argued that secondary schools should lift makeup bans, but would not have taken her daughters, aged 10 and 13, to the Mac event. “One hundred per cent not,” she says. “If you want to get ready for school, do some learning.”
Rycroft-Smith started wearing makeup at 12 or 13. She has always allowed her daughters to play with her makeup (“a function of it being cheap”). “But I have told them from a young age that makeup is bound up with patriarchal power,” she says. When her daughter puts on lipstick to go out and asks how she looks: “There is always a discussion about how people react to you and how do you want them to react. What is it you want them to see?”
Hani Sidow, 23, author of the beauty guide Insta-glam, is against makeup for primary-school children. At 12, she put Vaseline on her lips and lashes. By 14 she progressed to mascara “and one dot of foundation” under her eyes. Then came pencil and liquid liners, concealer, foundation and, finally, three years ago, face powder. “Even when you’re 12, I think there’s nothing wrong with it. If someone feels they are ready to express themselves, there shouldn’t be a problem with it,” she says.
Makeup influencer Romanie-Jade Tulloch, from Nottingham, creates spectacularly surreal faces with makeup. At 20, she is closer to Mac and John Lewis’s target audience, but firm about the need to specify age limits. She didn’t wear makeup until she was 14, abiding by her mother’s rules (apart from when she sneaked into her room to practise with eyeliner). “I’ve turned my face into anything with makeup,” she says. “It’s such a cool thing to do. But I didn’t feel I had to wear makeup. The way I was brought up taught me I didn’t have to change myself.”