A “back to schoolmake-up masterclass for girls as young as 12 in a John Lewis store has been cancelled following criticism from parents and charities.

An advert for the event, due to be held at a MAC cosmetics counter in the store at Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent, said girls could “learn how to make the best of [their] skin and brows” ahead of the start of term.

But parents criticised the “MAC back to school mini masterclass” Facebook event.

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One mother said she did not think it was “appropriate”, while another said she was “horrified” by the concept, as young girls already feel under pressure over their appearance.

Caz Hobbs, a “devoted” John Lewis customer, called for the store to assess their affiliation with the event and the message it portrays, adding that it had made her “second guess” the company.

Charities have also spoken out against the make-up brand’s event for children ahead of school.

Bex Bailey, from the Young Women's Trust charity, said: “At school and work young women and girls are too often judged on appearance not ability. Nearly a third say they have been treated differently at work and in interviews because of how they look.”

She told The Independent: “In one case, a former shop sales assistant told us her employers cared more about whether her hair was straightened than how many shoes she sold. 

“Unless we focus on the talents and skills young women can contribute, not on a prescriptive beauty ideal, today’s young women face a lifetime of inequality.”

Ella Smillie, head of policy and campaigns at the Fawcett Society, a charity promoting women’s rights, added: “It's what's in girls' heads that counts, not what's on their faces.

“At the Fawcett Society we're glad this event has been cancelled but it's concerning that it was ever offered in the first place, especially in the context of preparing for the new school term when parents and teachers would prefer kids to focus on their education, not their appearance."

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A statement from John Lewis said: “This was an isolated event organised at a local MAC counter.  As a brand MAC does not market to anyone under 16 so this event should not have been arranged.  It has been cancelled and we are very sorry for any upset caused. We're looking into how it happened to make sure that this type of event doesn't take place again.”   

MAC has been approached for comment.

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