Can A Woman’s Make-Up Choices Help Her Shatter the Glass Ceiling?

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?


Related from Care2:

10 New Year’s Resolutions Every Woman Should

Make 13 Ways Females are Underrepresented, Stereotyped and Sexualized on Screen

6-Year-Old Calls Out Board Game For Being Sexist

Photo credit: Photo by omaniblog used under a Creative Commons license.


Jeorge B.
Jeorge B.1 years ago

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Raymen D.
Past Member 3 years ago

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Elena T.
Elena Poensgen4 years ago

Thank you :)

Naigor A.

Stop to use simplistic and precarious approach; this is civilization.
Only consider how, no matter social background people in any country loves to show themselves at their best.
When well used, make-up enhance both genders,, male and female, and may be the third, not forget.
Considering how extremely lucky nowadays we are in having at hand all needed techniques to stir out the best and better of our aesthetic possibilities !!! Beyond compare life itself has been conquered by them...
Among other matters linked to human demeanor make up must be teach in a part of one's self complaisance... as other's fairly enjoyment.

Paulett Simunich
Paulett Simunich4 years ago

This is nothing new....the slim person gets hired over the chubby person.....shining hair gets the nod over poor, thin hair....A gal with a peached n' cream complextion will be hired over the gal with a bit of acne.........We are a society of "Beautiful People"......Noted there are times that your education and personality etc. are more of an asset. Now we know what is in the stuff we put on our cheeks, lips, eyes,........not to mention,,,but I will, on our hair.....Maybe, we will elect to save the money which is spent on make-up...and hair products ....The onus is on us!!!!!!!!

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Bryna Pizzo
Bryna Pizzo4 years ago

Thank you for the information, and I agree competence must be the focus.

Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara4 years ago

Yes, "I couldn't agree more". Tks.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen5 years ago

Thank you :)

M Larson
M Larson5 years ago

Interesting topic... From my own experience, when I'm having a "natural day," (workout gear, light makeup--mascara only-- pony tail, etc.) I can tell you that get a 100% different reaction in public--from both men and women--then when I get all "put together" (hair fixed, full makeup, quality clothing, jewelry etc). Keep in mind my put together is a professional look, not caked on make-up look.

I know, if I want to have a low key day--avoid conversations, keep to myself--I go natural. If need to non-verbally command respect, obtain authority, I fully put myself together. It makes a huge difference. I wish it weren't so, but we are humans and everyone is a critic. People seem to be less critical (in my experience) when my appearance is more polished.

Women adorning ourselves is nothing new. Women have culturally done that as long as there has been record keeping.