PARENT ZONE DEBATE:
Are YouTube make-up tutorials bad for children?
Read two sides to the argument, then tell us what you think at the bottom of the page
Vicki Shotbolt, Parent Zone CEO
Google the phrase ‘make-up for 8-year-olds’ and you might be surprised by what you see.
Detailed ‘looks’, complete with product placement and encouragements to buy. One 8-year old make-up guru has over 6.5 million subscribers on You Tube. Another has a contract with a cosmetics brand to feature their products – presumably to capture that important early adopter market.
Experimenting with make-up is something children (girls and boys) have done for years. Messing up your Mum's favourite lipstick has long been a right of passage, and if you have older sisters the opportunities for cosmetic grand larceny are extensive.
But is this trend towards primary school children simply an extension of that, or a further example of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood? Is it healthy for children to be encouraged to be so conscious of their looks before they have the chance to develop their own sense of identity and self? Certainly, the Valentine’s day make-up looks and the ‘sexy pout’ lip references don’t align well with the idea that these are children merely playing ‘facial dress up’.
Which brings us to identity and self. Experts confirm, and parents always knew, that the need for affirmation is huge for children. The online world presents multiple opportunities for children to curate identities and seek feedback.
‘Perhaps the worst it will do is lead to some flaky skin and dirty pillow cases’
Applying make-up to create a ‘look’ that appears to be age-inappropriate feels wrong. For some, though clearly not all, it suggests children who are experimenting with sexuality as part of their identity long before they are developmentally ready to do so.
But who knows. As with so much of this debate, the truth is that we don’t know what the impact will be of girls watching hours of make-up tutorials encouraging them to wear full faces of slap well before secondary school.
Perhaps the worst it will do is lead to some flaky skin and dirty pillow cases (there are certainly fewer ‘how to take it all off’ videos than there are ‘how to put it all on’).
At the very least, we should be pausing for thought. We should be asking ourselves where the line is between a child wanting to play with make-up and a child who feels they need to enhance their eyelashes and pout their lips.
And we shouldn’t just glide into a situation where a child can’t leave the house without primer – and I’m not talking about something you put on your woodwork.
Rachel Rosen, Parent Zone health editor
I asked permission to start wearing make-up at 12 years old. My mum thought it was a bit early, but after sitting me down and talking about my reasons (wanting to look like a punk rocker, which I never ever managed) and the ground rules (no red lips; nothing that would get me in trouble at school), she agreed.
But that wasn’t the end of the conversation.
She bought me a book about natural and creative beauty for teens that explained how to take care of your skin, and some of the fun things you can do with make-up. YouTube didn’t exist yet, but I like to think if it had, we might have watched videos like this together: Siberian Husky Makeup Tutorial, Cat Eye Makeup Tutorial and Comic Book Makeup Tutorial
Instead, she brought me along to a stage make-up class, and I learned how to terrify passengers on public transport with fake scars and bruises.
Most importantly, she made sure I understood that make-up is a choice, not an obligation for women and girls. She made it part of our discussions about having a healthy body image, valuing confidence and intelligence over beauty and being an unapologetic feminist.
I grew up to be someone who would much rather watch football than make-up tutorials, wears tinted moisturiser instead of foundation and is completely baffled by contouring.
Now YouTube is at the fingertips of nearly every child in the UK, I admit things have changed a bit – for better and for worse.
Your daughter (or son) can learn how to look like a Siberian husky or a character from Inside Out – that’s awesome.
On the other hand, even the best make-up artists use their videos to push products. That’s their right, but you might not want your child sold to at such a young age.
And if your pre-teen daughter wants to post her own make-up tutorial videos, you’d be very right to worry about her digital footprint and the number of random views she could get from people all over the world.
‘Parental guidance is still the key’
But those aren’t reasons to keep young girls or boys from watching make-up videos all together. They’re reasons why, just like when I was growing up, parental guidance is still the key.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being interested in make-up, or wanting to see how other people do it. As long as you’re there to offer guidance and help your child think critically about what they see, make-up tutorials aren’t bad.
Who knows, your child might learn how to do incredible art with makeup and brushes – or they might learn from watching the many steps involved in putting on a full face that no one wakes up looking like Kim Kardashian.