I admire Lorde and everyone who bares their make-up free face - but I can't seem do the same

Am I sending my daughter the message that it's not okay to leave the house without wearing make-up?


I have a confession to make. During the recent 'no make-up selfie' phenomenon, in which women – and some men – across the country posted snaps of their bare faces online, to raise money for Cancer Research, I donated and joined in with debate over whether the enterprise was a vanity project or an important comment on the unrealistic ideal of female beauty, but there was no way I was showing the world how I looked without eyeliner. You could call it conceit, or you could make assumptions about my self-esteem, but the truth is that the face I present to the world has become integral to my sense of identity – and without it, I just never feel quite like 'me'.

Make-up: wear it or don't wear it, it's something some of us struggle with more than others. And many are vociferous in their battle against images of Photoshopped perfection. Two-time Grammy winner Lorde shared two thought-provoking images of herself on stage this weekend in Santiago on Twitter – one showing evidence of her very normal, acne-pocked, 17-year-old skin; the other altered to hide it. 'I find this curious – two photos from today, one edited so my skin is perfect and one real. Remember flaws are OK,' she told her 1.3m followers. Last month, she also posted a bare-faced snap of herself with the caption: 'In bed in Paris with my acne cream on'.

But sometimes it's difficult to remember those all-important mantras: that it's what's inside that counts; that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have friends who are radiant in nothing but moisturiser, whereas I remember spending hours in the harsh brightness of the school toilet mirrors, slathering on inches of foundation in a futile attempt to hide my typically teenage skin. I started early – at 13, I got hold of my mum’s mascara, and felt terribly grown up. I never knew, however, that you had to take it off; adding a layer a day until teachers commented on my panda eyes, concerned that I wasn't getting enough sleep.

Yet recently, my long-lasting love affair with Audrey Hepburn-style flicks and lashings of kohl has given me pause for thought. For new research has found that young girls are starting to wear make-up sooner than ever – at 11, three years earlier than a decade before.

Online beauty retailer Escentual, who ran the study, put this dramatic drop in age down to peer pressure. Some of the 1,000 women surveyed blamed ‘classroom politics’, while 40 per cent thought it more to do with young girls wanting to feel more 'grown up' – as well as the influence of reality TV shows such as The Only Way Is Essex, famous for its spray tans and cosmetic beauty treatments. An overwhelming proportion (89 per cent) said they would prefer girls to wait until they were 14 before wearing foundation to avoid developing an ‘unhealthy obsession’ with their appearance. The average age most felt appropriate for young girls to wear make-up regularly in public was 15.

And now I have an all-too pressing reason to hold back before reaching for my eyebrow pencil. My daughter is two, with dewy skin, rosy cheeks, hair that sticks up in tufts and eyes that sparkle with mischief. “She's not a girly girl,” I say, often, with pride. Yet despite my conscious efforts to steer her away from the gender-specific social stereotyping of little girls, there's one thing I can't change – her love of sitting on my lap, copying ‘mummy's make-up’. It’s natural, of course, to mimic those we hold up as role models, and 'playing mum' is as much a rite of passage as pretending to cook, type or drive a truck across a messy floor. Yet it pains me to see her stroking blusher across her perfect cheeks, dipping her fingers into eyeshadow palettes, putting what she calls ‘sparkles’ on the backs of her hands.

I think often about what I'll say when she asks me what I'm doing. Is it ‘mummy's toy box’? Something I do as 'play', like dressing up as Batman, Spider-Man or a pirate? Or, in making it part of my daily routine, something I do as naturally and rigorously as taking a shower, am I in fact giving her the message that it's not okay to leave the house without wearing make-up; that it's not 'normal' to bare your face to the world, except when making a concerted attempt to raise money for charity, with its own hashtag, in a move described as 'bold', 'groundbreaking', or, more disturbingly, 'brave'?

Of course, millions of people choose to go ‘au naturel’ every day, I just don't happen to be one of them. But when we have paparazzi shots and headlines screaming about celebrities going 'make-up free', seven-year-olds smothered in lip gloss, teens getting Brazilian bikini waxes and posing in their underwear online, we've got to take so much more care about when and where it starts, and the messages we project.

I can't hide my daily routine from my daughter, nor do I want to give up something that, frankly, I enjoy. But I can tell her, every day, that she's clever, creative and kind, as well as being the most beautiful person I've ever seen. And I can only hope that as she grows up, and faces all of the inevitable pressures to be ‘sexy’, ‘gorgeous’ and ‘thin’, she will believe that there is more to being a woman than having a pretty face.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrator - IT - Fixed Term, Part Time

£17340 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Come and join one of the UK's leading ca...

Recruitment Genius: Property Sales Consultant - Chinese Speaking - OTE £70,000

£18000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity for a Fluent Chines...

Recruitment Genius: AV Installation Engineer

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to business growth, this is...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Refugees try to cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, near Gevgelija, on Wednesday. The town sits on the ‘Balkan corridor’ used by refugees, mostly from Syria, to travel from Turkey to Hungary, the gateway to the EU  

The UK response to the plight of Syrian refugees is a national embarrassment

Kevin Watkins
The provincial capital of Idlib, Syria, which fell to al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra last week  

'I was sure I’d be raped or killed. I was terrified': My life as a gay Syrian refugee who had to flee Isis

Subhi Nahas
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent