Earlier this year, Kayne West criticised Kim Kardashian for letting their 8-year-old daughter North wear lipstick and post on TikTok. In an interview with Hollywood Unlocked, the 44-year-old said: ‘Don’t have my daughter wearing lipstick on TikTok, or don’t have her on TikTok at all, if I’m not there to approve that.
When it comes to letting North wear make-up, Kim has form. In 2019 she posted a photo of a then-5-year-old North’s first magazine cover. ‘My most stylish and beautiful baby girl North shot her 1st cover for @wwd !!’ read the caption. ‘She loves fashion & beauty and has so much fun doing this!’
The internet erupted as swiftly as Kayne, with comments like this one: ‘Stop congratulating her for putting make up on a 1st grader that should be out playing with other kids at a park getting dirty and laughing like a regular child that age.’
Kim and Kayne are, of course, in the middle of the world’s seemingly least amicable divorce. But it’s still a question many parents ask themselves: it ever OK to let your child wear make-up? According to a recent study by YouGov, mothers and fathers seem to have a different take on the subject, with seven out of 10 fathers thinking children shouldn’t be allowed to wear make-up until they are 16, whereas just over half of mothers (58%) think it’s OK by 14.
As the mother of two daughters aged 8 and 11, both of whom I’ve caught red handed rummaging through my make-up bag, who sometimes ask me to paint their nails, and excitedly rip off the brightly coloured glittery eyeshadow palettes that come on the front of children’s magazine (the younger one in particular), it’s a question I’ve also asked myself.
But like with so much of parenting, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, but I do think it’s about balance and context. False lashes and fake nails are a big no-no. As is posting any photos of them wearing make-up on social media. But a dollop of the candyfloss pink lipgloss that came free with a magazine, and some badly painted purple nails with a glittery topcoat (my 8-year-old’s current manicure of choice)? That’s OK with me.
In a previous interview Kim has said, ‘I already know North is into makeup for sure. She had friends over this weekend and some of her girlfriends came and they were just all in her room, giving themselves makeovers… It’s a form of expression. I want her to express herself, but I want her to be appropriate too.’
Because what we’re really saying when we criticise children (or rather their parents) for wearing make-up, is that it sexualises young girls. But done in the right way, makeup can be an extension of the dressing up box.
The other criticism, which I also think is fair, is that by allowing our daughters to wear make up from a young age, we’re reinforcing the idea that girls/women should look pretty and spend time focusing on their looks. But it’s hard for me to make this point to my daughters when I’m applying my own make-up every morning – is it any wonder they want to occasionally copy me?
On the subject of balance, however, I wouldn’t want makeup to be the only thing are interested in. They both love reading, cooking, climbing trees, riding their bikes, and they both play hours of football every week, for both their schools and local teams.
Just recently, in fact, on one of the rainiest days in a while, my youngest played in a two hour rugby tournament for her school. When I arrived to pick her up she was soaking wet, caked in mud from head to toe, and sporting the biggest smile, along with a slightly chipped and very glittery purple manicure. Like I say, it’s all about balance.