The best make-up for tweens (and the ‘sex-proof’ product to avoid)
Self-expression is important, but it isn't necessarily found through horsing on makeup
PS... Brushes (from €1.50 at Penneys)
If you’re locked in a clash with a tweenager who insists, while throwing their limbs limply about in protest, that “everyone else is wearing makeup”, you are certainly in a bind. Parents should encourage self-expression and independence in their children, but this isn’t necessarily to be found through horsing on buckets of makeup so that young people look older, or less like themselves, or more like everyone else.
Undertaking responsible acts of independence is better than painting on the face of someone who looks more independent, but the latter is an easy route to feeling (and sometimes being treated by others) like an adult. This is tempting, and can obviously lead to children unjustly feeling infantilised by their parents because, unlike those parents, they often cannot identify the precise difference between looking like an adult and actually being one. It can be challenging to find the balance between allowing a young pre-teen or teen to experiment with makeup, and allowing them to use it as a crutch.
It doesn’t help that the beauty industry is not always nurturing to its potentially more vulnerable, younger customers, or even mindful of them. Catrice Epic Sex-Proof Lip Ink (€4.95 from March) passed across my desk recently, and I am still conflicted about it. The matte lip stain is part of a collection of products designed to stay in place during exertion, which is a perfectly serviceable USP for a product range. But sex proof? Why not hot yoga proof, or gym proof? Or twenty cups of tea proof? Even kiss proof – that title would provide the consumer with a frisson of flirtatiousness which is harmless and even fun. Sex proof is a discomfiting title for a product from a hyper-affordable brand largely bought by teens and young women. I often recommend Catrice as one of the fun, affordable brands for young people just developing an interest in makeup. I like many of the products myself, but this one has struck the wrong tone entirely.
If you decide to concede or compromise with a tween daughter or son who wants to wear makeup, there are age-appropriate products that should buy you some time before they move on to heavier, more obvious products:
Very young skin doesn’t need foundation and often does not get on well with it. However, sudden blemishes and discolouration at the onset of puberty can be distressing. A light concealer such as e.l.f. Beautifully Bare Lightweight Concealer Stick (€7.25 from Penneys and Superdrug) looks natural but still feels as though you’re wearing something. Now is also a perfect time to encourage taking up a good skincare routine. e.l.f. recently launched an affordable skincare line, which is a good place to start.
The range of makeup brushes at Penneys, such as PS… Brushes (from €1.50), is so much better now than during my early days of makeup experimentation. You can put together a small kit of basic but hardworking brushes and still have change from a tenner.
Cuteness is not something that beauty lovers ever grow out of, and these are impossibly cute. For a child whom you consider definitely too young for makeup, the K-beauty inspired Oh K! Lip Balm Duo (€11.49 from asos.co.uk) are a fun compromise.
Barry M Nail Paints (€4.49 from Boots) have improved enormously in quality since my forgotten youth, and the brand itself has matured into something of a glossy teen insta-brand. The polishes come in a vast array of trend-driven shades and finishes that are bright, young and cheering.
Along with all the other parts that suddenly and wildly begin to grow at the brink of adolescence, brows tend to turn explosive. Thankfully, the trend of plucking them into oblivion is long gone. A clear or tinted brow gel such as Rimmel Brow This Way Styling Gel (€5.49 from Boots) will hold them in place and give them a bit of extra tint and volume. If brows become unruly, a visit to a professional can also be a good idea, so that young people with excellent brow real estate can learn how to maintain their eyebrows with the respect they deserve. As we have all learned, once you over-pluck them, they never return in their original glory.
There is no reason for a first mascara to be an expensive mascara. All that’s needed is a black tint, staying power and the satisfaction of applying it. Avoid volumising mascaras too – their big, dramatic finish can look bizarre on the very young. Essence Super Curl Volume Mascara Eye-Opening (€3.80) is perfect for under sixteens (though it also offers plenty of excellent products for adults to use).