Moms

High school bans makeup, removes mirrors to crack down on teen vanity

Sep. 15, 2011 at 12:42 PM ET

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Aqua eyeliner, that staple of high school girls' bathrooms.

Ah, the high school girls' bathroom. Perhaps you remember it well.

Girls jockeying for a spot before the mirror, dabbing concealer on that day’s blemish, checking their blue eyeliner for signs of smudging, swiping their lips with another coat of gloss.

Can you imagine school days without the primping rituals?

That’s what’s happening at a British school, which not only banned makeup for its 13- to 16-year-old students but also temporarily took down the bathroom mirrors.

The no-mirrors policy at Shelley College, a co-ed public school in northern England, came about around May because some girls were spending too much time in the loo, crowding the mirror to touch up their faces, says head teacher John McNally. They were even staying in there to eat lunch, making other girls feel uncomfortable when they had to walk through a crowd, he said.

The makeup ban followed a month or so later because teachers were daily challenging a small number of students - some wearing heavy mascara and thick foundation - for flouting the school’s vague policy allowing “discreet” makeup, says McNally.

“The makeup ban is about getting girls to focus on what’s important in school, which is learning and not being distracted with makeup and wanting to check it all the time,” McNally told TODAY Moms in a phone interview. “The mirror ban is to break a cycle where social groups started to emerge in the bathroom.”

With school back in session, school officials check each girl’s face daily, and offer makeup-removing products if necessary, McNally said. Most girls have accepted the policy, though a few back-to-school faces were challenged, he said.

Though the girls who want to wear makeup typically say they need it to feel confident, McNally believes that’s not true for most students.

“We’ve had quite a few girls say they feel more confident since the ban’s been introduced,” McNally said, because they don’t feel compelled to compete with other girls in the lipstick and eyeliner department.

And, above all, he feels the school’s rules will lead to better academic performance. “We do think it will help,” he said.

Not all of the girls are happy with the policy.

“Before the ban I’d wear foundation, mascara and eyeliner, now I don’t wear any,” Emily Stonehouse, 14, told the Daily Mail. “It is a bit unfair. I do believe too much make-up can be a distraction but so too can too little.”

What do you think? Is it silly to prevent girls from popping by the bathroom mirror after lunch to check for food in their teeth, or a worthwhile restriction that could boost academic achievement?

 Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York.

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