Why won’t my 13-year-old go out without make-up?
Thousands of young girls are hooked on YouTube tutorials – but do cosmetics really boost confidence, or is this a damaging trend, asks Tanith Carey
Sitting on a bed draped with fairy lights, 14-yearold Sophia Grace is sharing the secrets of her school make-up routine with her 3.1million YouTube fans. A few years ago, anything more than a subtle slick of lip balm would have been out of the question before the start of the school day. But the Essex-born vlogger shows her young followers how to apply no fewer than 10 different cosmetics to her perfectly youthful and blemish-free face.
During the 10-minute clip, this includes primer, two giant triangles of concealer to hide her supposed undereye bags, as well as “contouring”.
Step by step, Sophia draws thick brown stripes over her face to show how it’s possible to carve cheekbones into her softly rounded checks, define her jawline and slim her nose.
After blending this with a sponge, Sophia goes on to apply mascara, lip tint, loose powder and setting spray. She calls this her “natural” look.
The teenager is just one of hundreds of young girls giving make-up tutorials on social media. In one tutorial, a girl no older than six can be seen trying to draw cheekbones on her chubby face with the same concentration another child her age might use to fill in a colouring book.
As some parents point out – presumably the ones who help their little ones upload such videos – little girls have always wanted to look more grown up. However, experts on girls’ body image point out that it’s not just that girls are applying make-up sooner than ever – the average age when girls start to use make-up is now 11, three years younger than it was a decade ago – it’s that they are wearing so much of it.
So what has changed?
One influence is undoubtedly YouTube, where how-to make-up videos are among the most popular clips. Impressionable girls are shown how to redraw every one of their facial features and cover up every pore with primer, shading and setting powders.
Research shows that the knock-on effect is that they soon start to believe that they don’t look good enough without make-up. A survey commissioned by Simple found that more than half of 12 to 14-year-olds wear make-up most days – and 17 per cent refuse to leave the house without it.
One such girl is Macie Baugh, who has just turned 13. Her mother, Gemma, 34, from Derbyshire, says: “The other day we thought she’d broken her arm while she was having an arm-wrestling match with a friend. Before she would go to the hospital to get it X-rayed, Macie insisted on putting on a full face of make-up first. Even though she was applying her make-up in tears, she didn’t want to turn up somewhere where someone might see her make-up free.”
Like Sophia, Macie also has a school make-up routine. She takes 45 minutes to get ready – and often comes home with more make-up than she started with, having applied more in the school loos. Baugh says her daughter then applies another full face to go to the park with her friends.
Baugh, a stayat-home mother, is also full of admiration for her daughter’s skill. “In the past year she’s learnt contouring. When I was her age I didn’t wear make-up, and would have looked like a clown if I’d tried, but Macie’s really good at it.”
It means that almost all of her pocket money is spent on high-end cosmetic products. Whether she needs to use them is another matter. Baugh says: “Macie has fantastic skin but she doesn’t believe it. Even though she has no acne, she uses foundation to even out her skin tone and get rid of the rings under her eyes.
“She still doesn’t think she’s pretty, although I think she’s beautiful. But if she wants to get up early to put her make-up on and give herself a bit of armour, then that’s fine with me.”
But does wearing make-up really improve girls’ confidence? Or is the deeper truth that it makes girls feel as if they are not good enough without it?
A 2013 survey by the Renfrew Center Foundation – a non-profit organisation for preventing eating disorders – found that at least one in five girls between eight and 18 had negative feelings about their looks when they didn’t wear make-up. A fifth felt self-con- scious, and 17 per cent felt unattractive. Furthermore, it seems that devotion to full-face make-up may be standing in the way of our daughters living a healthy lifestyle.
A report for the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation into why teenage girls drop out of sport found that one reason was “they don’t want to get sweaty and ruin their make-up”.
Feminist make-up artist Katy Angelidi, who runs a Facebook group called Beauty, Unfiltered, says that during her 22-year career she has seen a worrying shift in the way that girls talk about their looks.
Angelidi, 40, from Hertfordshire, a mother of two daughters aged seven and two, says: “I hate to hear young girls talking about how they can see their ‘disgusting pores’. These ‘flaws’ that girls talk about aren’t flaws at all – they are part of what it means to have skin. Skin is supposed to have varying tones. Pores are there because skin is porous. We are human beings, not life-size Instagram filters, and we need to teach young women how to tell the difference.”
Educator Sue Palmer is the author of 21st Century Girls: How the Modern World Is Damaging Our Daughters and What We Can Do About It. She suggests that instead of accepting the claims that make-up makes girls feel more “confident”, we need to ask why our young girls feel so bad about their looks in the first place.
“The earlier a girl becomes hooked on make-up, the earlier she starts searching for an identikit image, the more she is deprived at a critical age of developing a fully rounded sense of her own identity.”
Tanith Carey is the author of Girls Uninterrupted: Steps for Building Stronger Girls in a Challenging World, published by Icon, £7.99
FACING THE WORLDA teenage girl putting on make-up, main, and left, Macie Baugh, 13, who won’t leave the house without it