The cosmetic industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. In fact, by 2015 the cosmetics market is projected to reach over $41 billion. That’s probably because 63 percent of women 18 and older in the United States report using some type of makeup product during the past year.
Despite this huge market, research has largely ignored the effects of facial adornment like make-up on people’s perceptions of women. Countless studies have however examined attractiveness and found that beautiful people are perceived to be more socially skilled, confident and successful. Studies have also found that attractive individuals are more likely to be hired, promoted, and earn higher salaries than unattractive individuals.
But does a woman’s make-up choices have an effect on how she is perceived?
A new study paid for by Procter & Gamble which sells CoverGirl and Dolce & Gabana takes a look at the effects of four different make-up styles on women and how they are perceived. For the study 25 female subjects were photographed barefaced and in three looks described as natural, professional and glamorous. The amount of make-up on each woman’s face increased from barefaced to glamorous, with glamorous being the face with the most make-up. The women were 20-50 years old and were white, African-American and Hispanic.
Participants judged the women’s pictures for a brief moment (250 milliseconds) for a snap judgment and then for a longer inspection with unlimited time to examine the faces.
The results found that:
- Make-up produced a significant positive effect on judgments related to attractiveness, competence and likeability.
- The natural look had a significant positive effect on trustworthiness.
- The glamorous look had a significant negative effect on trustworthiness.
- With unlimited inspection time, the natural and professional looks had significant positive effects on likability.
- Make-up increased inferences of warmth and cooperation when faces were presented very briefly, but did not always do so upon longer inspection.
Interestingly “natural” beauty – that is light and less obvious make-up – had the most positive effects. On the flip side, heavier more obvious make-up actually had a negative effect, especially when it came to trustworthiness.
So on top of competing in the workplace for equal salaries and top ranking positions, women now have to worry about how their make-up will be perceived at work. I for one am tired with how much people’s judgments on attractiveness effect their perceptions of how smart or successful a woman can be.
I think Deborah Rhode, law professor from Stanford University who wrote “The Beauty Bias,” said it best when she told the New York Times, “The quality of my teaching shouldn’t depend on the color of my lipstick or whether I’ve got mascara on … I’m against our preoccupation, and how judgments about attractiveness spill over into judgments about competence and job performance. We like individuals in the job market to be judged on the basis of competence, not cosmetics.”
I couldn’t agree more.
What do you think?
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Photo credit: Photo by omaniblog used under a Creative Commons license.