I Let My 8-Year-Old Give Me A Makeover. Here's How It Went.

"Why do you think people wear makeup?" I asked her. I was both surprised and heartened by her response.

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I’m never quite sure how I feel about letting my eight-year-old daughter play around with makeup.

Part of me thinks it’s entirely harmless, a normal stage of child development to want to copy our parents, peers or siblings. I remember getting hold of an eyeshadow palette from my mum’s dressing table at around the same age, and going wild with a bright blue shade.

Then, when I got to high school, I used to “borrow” my mum’s mascara – though I didn’t know you were supposed to take it off until a teacher took me aside, concerned I was “tired” because of the black circles under my eyes.

Toying with cosmetics feels like an entirely harmless rite of passage – and one that most kids go through. My three-year-old son was on his first, socially-distanced playdate recently, and his friend’s mum asked him if he was allergic to anything, before she gave out any snacks. My son paused before saying, gravely, “I’m really, really allergic to one thing: blusher.”

Make-up station
Victoria Richards
Make-up station

I wear makeup every day, simply because it brings me pleasure. My kids see me applying dramatic eyeliner and a bright red lip, and I couldn’t criticise them for wanting to copy that and try it out for themselves.

Yet I’m still conflicted every time I hear my little girl ask if she can “put lipstick on”, or “do a beauty salon” with friends. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about the messages coming through via activities like ‘makeovers’ and ‘pamper parties’ for pre-teens, particularly after reading research by Be Real showing that girls as young as five are worried about their size and the way they look.

However, I have no problem with the creative and experimental nature of playing with makeup – as long as they keep it off the carpet. It can even be artistic, and lets them practise their fine motor skills, too. Plus, kids enjoy modelling what their parents do – and, as Clare Caro of Nature Play told HuffPost UK recently: “Imagination starts developing through experience. Children cannot role-play what they haven’t experienced. They’ve downloaded information and they’re recreating. Storytelling. Role-play is imagination.”

So, when my daughter recently asked, enthusiastically, if she could give me a makeover, I agreed.

Activity: Makeover session

Salon location: My house

Inside the makeup bag: Blusher, powder, navy eyeshadow, purple glitter body gel, purple glitter lipstick, black kohl pencil, a purple bow hairband.

As I watched my daughter get out her carefully put-together set of hair bands, nail varnishes and cosmetics, while I sat in a chair in front of her, I pondered whether playing around with makeup could exacerbate the trend for kids wanting to take pouting selfies and post them for ‘likes’ on social media. As a parent, that’s the last thing I would want.

I asked her directly. “Why do you think people wear makeup?” She paused, as she carefully got out the butterfly-shaped make-up palette she was given by a relative for Christmas. “Because it’s... fun,” she said. “Like dressing up. You get to make your lips all different colours. You don’t have to wear makeup. You’re just as beautiful without it. But, it’s fun to play with. Isn’t it?”

When I heard her put it like that, I stopped worrying. After all, she’s right – it is fun. It’s not much different from dressing up and pretending to be superheroes.

So, with some trepidation, we carried on. I closed my eyes.

“I like doing this because it makes you look shiny,” she said, as she carefully applied purple glitter to my cheekbones, “to match your purple hair” (another of her suggestions).

Next was the eyeshadow. A subtle navy, she told me. “Let me rub that in with my fingers,” she murmured, her tongue between her lips with concentration.

“You want powder? I thought it was blusher!” she said next, applying both. “Mascara makes your eyelashes look longer,” she recited, learning on the job. And then she added – achingly sweetly – “thanks for teaching me about all this stuff”.

Throughout it all, she was very gentle, other than the moment she tried to apply black kohl eyeliner to the upper creases of my eyelids. It had been sharpened to a point – and it hurt. “Ow!” I exclaimed. “Sorry, Mummy,” she said calmly. “I used my pencil sharpener.” Figures. I wondered whether to tell her eyeliner is supposed to be applied along the fine line of your eyelashes, then thought better of it. “Let’s not worry about eyeliner,” I said, instead.

The makeover process didn’t take long – and she guided me through what she was doing as she did it. She was in charge of telling me when I was “done”.

She pulled away and looked at me, a huge beam on her face. “There you are!” she said. “You look like a unicorn!” Then she pulled me out my chair and ushered me to the mirror.

'After' my makeover
Victoria Richards
'After' my makeover

And, I had to concede: she did a great job. It wasn’t my usual black flick and red lip combo, but I’d look good in a rave. And the overall effect was probably more subtle than when I do it myself.

“Do you like it?” she enquired, clearly delighted with the results. “Will you keep it on, all day?” I said I did, and would, and gave her a high five. I even promised to come to “the salon” again.

After all, if you can’t wear bright purple lipstick and glitter during a pandemic, when can you?