Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and wondered if you didn’t wear too much make-up? Are you afraid your dramatic ice formation might make the Halloween makeup frown early in the evening?
How much makeup is too much? Do men and women agree? Can we predict how much makeup others will really find too much?
After more than 40 hours of in-depth research, we embarked on an academic journey that will provide the answers to these questions and much more!
What level of make-up is most attractive? Can the weight of your makeup affect the way your personality is perceived and even affect your performance at work?
Read on to find out!
That’s what it looks like: Read research into why we look so different before and after make-up.
Why do women wear make-up and how do they do it?
Women use makeup on average 5 times a day.3 Research in 2017 showed that more than 50% of women of all ages use makeup at least several times a week.4 4. Most of these women are not able to use their own make-up.
Why do women choose make-up?
Women often use make-up to hide their flaws, to attract a partner and as a tool for intersexual competition to increase their attractiveness – after all, those who wear make-up are considered more attractive, prestigious and even healthier! 1
That’s why women often use make-up to make themselves more attractive. However, individuals overestimate the ideal amount of make-up (to be most attractive) when applying it themselves2.
Jones et al (2014) found that people have a tendency to misjudge the cosmetic preferences of others. Women are more likely to wear make-up that they believe matches the preferences of other people, especially men, but also other women.
Both men and women assumed that men would prefer much more cosmetics than women in the face. In fact, men and women had the same preferences for cosmetics in this study2 .
Men and women exaggerate a lot the make-up that others prefer. The actual models in the study wore far more cosmetics than the observers’ preference, and even more makeup than the observers thought others would prefer. This suggests that models who wear make-up have also misjudged someone else’s cosmetic preferences2 .
How light and heavy makeup can change your face
Tagai et al. 2017 explain that makeup can change the symmetrical balance of the face, the position of the eyes and mouth and the colour and texture of the skin. Heavy makeup manipulates the face more than light makeup.17
Lighter make-up is generally associated with femininity and softness, such as natural, clear and shiny lips and skin (sign of health and increasing femininity), finely padded eyebrows and natural eye shadow.
Thicker make-up is much more striking and generally radiates glamour and freshness. Often, glamorous makeup has a dull skin with dramatic dark colors on the eyes and lips with sharp edges and wrinkles.17
When is your make-up too important?
Selection of different makeup for different classes
Attractive generally describes the norms of women’s image, while sexuality involves a sexual appearance by emphasizing sexual attraction and sexuality. Smolak et al (2014) found that female students are beautifully dressed for everyday life (with light make-up and close-fitting clothing). These same women said they dressed sexy for the weekend parties (thick makeup, low-cut dress, tight clothes). Wearing heavy makeup can be part of the self-sexualization.5
Graham and Juhar (1983) found that all types of cosmetic products are considered more attractive at night than during the day6 .
Thick make-up may be suitable under certain conditions (for example, to look sexier at night). Wearing heavy makeup, however, if not properly applied, can have a more negative impact on attractiveness than no makeup at all6 .
More make-up = more appeal?
light or thick makeup makes you more attractive than none
In the study by Cox and Glick (1986), 7 women aged 22 to 30 applied different amounts of make-up (none, moderate or heavy). 59 students looked at 2-3 pictures of these women and judged how sexy, feminine, attractive, motivated, emotional and determined they were.
Depending on the amount of make-up she wore, the rats changed her perception of the woman’s appearance. Assessments of increased sexuality, femininity and attractiveness are positively correlated with increased use of makeup7 .
Etcoff et al (2011) also evaluated how the perception of qualities changes (competence, sympathy, reliability, attractiveness) according to the degree of make-up worn by the woman in the photograph (natural (no), professional (moderate), glamour (heavy)) 8.
The use of cosmetic products is positively correlated with all factors (competence, attractiveness, reliability).8
The authors suggest that if you try to impress a girl, thicker makeup will help you look sexier, more feminine and more attractive8 .
Studies by Workman and Johnson (1991) examined the influence of the cosmetic level on first impressions – particularly in terms of femininity, seduction, morality, personal temperament and personality9 .
Their discovery revealed a big difference in the perception of appeal between a look without makeup, moderate makeup and a heavy makeup style. Those who looked moderate and heavy were perceived as much more attractive. Moreover, the difference in attractiveness and estimated femininity between women with moderate and more makeup is insignificant. 9
These results suggest that perceived attractiveness and femininity remain fairly constant when a certain makeup threshold is reached.9
Graham and Juhar (1981) studied the influence of make-up on appearance and personality. Both males and females rated the photos of four women (all provisionally rated average attractiveness).11 Both males and females also rated the photos of four women.
They found that these women were more feminine, cleaner, neater and physically attractive when they wore makeup than when they didn’t. Moreover, they were perceived as more organised, more relaxed, more popular, safer, more communicative and more interesting11 .
Lighter makeup is often more attractive than heavier makeup
In a study by Tagai et al (2016), 38 Japanese women evaluated 36 other Japanese women on their attractiveness without make-up, with easy to apply make-up and with heavier make-up. Ease of use was ranked as the most attractive and the hardest as the second most attractive, while people without makeup were ranked as the least attractive10.
The authors suggest that thicker makeup may be more memorable than the actual facial features, while lighter application increases the appeal of facial features10.
That’s what it looks like: Check if your make-up looks the same as before or if you look younger [depends on your age].
Why the *type* of makeup you wear is.
Men love perfume – women love mascara
The most attractive cosmetic products for men in the 1983 study were fragrances (day and night). Women found mascara the most attractive, day and night. 6
Whole face > Eye make-up > Foundation > Sponges
Mulhern et al (2003) showed that make-up influences attractiveness. It has been shown that women with full face make-up are more attractive than women without. Eye makeup had a greater influence on perceived attractiveness than structured makeup alone. Both eye make-up and tone-on-tone make-up have a greater impact on attractiveness than lip make-up alone12 .
Lipstick varnishing equipment
Hegene (2012) found that women who wear red lipstick are more likely to enter a bar than women who don’t wear lipstick or other colors such as light pink and brown. 13
Heavy or too much make-up = more sexualized?
Research by Bernard and co-authors (2020) showed that women who only wore eye make-up were condemned to wear more makeup than women who only wore lipstick, and that the latter were also condemned to wear more makeup than women who did not wear any makeup at all14 .
Those who only had eye makeup and lipstick were condemned as equally sexy, and both were condemned as sexier than those who didn’t have makeup. With pure eye make-up the audience focuses more on the eyes, while with pure lipstick they focus more on the mouth. 14
Heavily made up people are considered more sexualized than people without, but heavy makeup has little effect on the sexualization rates. 14
In a study prior to that of Bernard et al. 2020, the link between make-up and social sexuality was also investigated.
Women who are supposed to wear more makeup are considered (by both men and women) to be more attractive and with a less limited sociosexual status than the same woman who wears less makeup.
The more make-up one wears, the more comfortable one feels in informal meetings with different partners. However, the degree of attractiveness of the assessment fully explains the link between a large number of make-up products and the sociosexuality of male parents15 .
More make-up = more positive body ?
38 American students took a picture of the body and were photographed before and after make-up. Women were more positive with makeup than without it. The more women wear makeup, the greater the difference in image happiness between wearing makeup and not wearing makeup. 16
Sixteen students evaluated the attractiveness of these women with or without make-up. Male writers rated women without makeup less favourably than women with makeup, but female judges showed no significant difference. 16
Heavy makeup affects perceived personality traits
More cosmetics = most poorly perceived person
Certain perceived personal characteristics are negatively correlated with increased use of cosmetic products. Several studies show that different characteristics are negatively correlated with increased makeup consumption.
Cox and Glick (1986) showed that the increased use of makeup was positively correlated with the perception of sexuality, femininity and attractiveness. However, the wider use of makeup is also negative (or unrelated) for determination, emotionality, morality and attractiveness. 7
It has been shown that self-expression, introversion, conformity, self-confidence and anxiety stimulate a more intensive use of make-up. 7
Workman and Johnson’s research (1991) examined the influence of the cosmetic level on first impressions – particularly in terms of femininity, attractiveness, morality, temperament and personal characteristics. Wearing make-up has no effect on your temperament or character traits. In addition, there is a negative correlation between the wider use of makeup and the perception of morale. Certain perceived personal characteristics are negatively correlated with increased use of cosmetics. 9
Conversion, conformists and anxious people use more makeup
Fieldman, Hussy and Robertson (2008) tried to determine which properties are associated with three levels of makeup use (low, medium or high). 18
Extroverts tend to use less makeup than introverts, and the authors say this is due to the fact that extroverts have more confidence. Conformists wear more make-up to fit in and not stand out from the crowd. You can interpret these results as if those who wear more makeup are trying to hide errors or uncertainties. 18
Scott (2007) found that when women are anxious, this leads to increased use of cosmetic products. The same research showed that women have less self-confidence and those who feel insecure feel less involved in makeup. 19
Make-up and the labour market
The extent to which women use make-up influences their perception of skills in the workplace.
That’s what it looks like: Discover science at its best and get to work.
In class, those who wear too much makeup are judged by team members to be more focused on themselves than on teamwork, more likely to do poor quality work, less likely to show up on time and less likely to take the work seriously. 22
Sex balance in the workplace may affect the amount of makeup applied.
Cox and Glick (1986) found that wider use of makeup was negatively correlated with the perception of women’s ability to compete for female-dominated jobs. The increase in the use of cosmetic products is not related to the level of performance expected from women applying for gender-neutral jobs. 7
More make-up can have a negative effect on perception at work. Kyle and Mahler (1996) found that women who aspired to a professional role and wore more makeup or glamorous makeup were considered less capable than women who wanted little or no makeup. 20
Women who do not wear makeup receive a higher starting salary than those who prefer light or moderate makeup. Based on these results, women should not use cosmetic products when attending job interviews or work sessions to be taken more seriously. However, all participants in this study were students. The dynamics in the workplace with older people can be different. 20
Wearing heavier makeup than the seller’s may lead to less confidence and sales.
In another experimental study, people felt that sellers with glamorous or extreme makeup were much less reliable than sellers with other levels of makeup – including none. 21
The more makeup the seller wore, the less confidence he or she had, which in turn led to lower buying intentions and sales effectiveness. 21
The more make-up there was planned, the less confident and reliable the seller seemed, the less chance one would buy from him. 21
Saleswomen with extreme or glamorous make-up were considered much less reliable than when the same saleswoman didn’t wear make-up at all or didn’t look natural. It was even necessary to check the gender, age and disposable income of the buyer. 21
This shows that wearing little or no make-up is the best choice for saleswomen who want to sell more. Even a moderate amount of make-up on a professional level poses a possible risk of reduced sales, and a very high level of make-up has a direct impact on the sales figures of saleswomen21 .
Make-up = more tips for waitresses
Jacobs and others. (2010) tried to determine whether the composition of a waitress influences her behavior. Wearing cosmetics has been associated with a significant increase in the number of tips from male customers compared to the same woman without makeup23 .
First impressions against further research into the influence of colleagues’ make-up advice
Etcoff et al (2011) found that the use of cosmetic products is positively correlated with competence, sympathy, attractiveness and reliability. However, when participants spend more time analyzing photos, they no longer associate positive use of makeup with sympathy and reliability. 8
Makeup that pointed to natural beauty was seen as more social and communal and warmer, and those who seemed more attractive (dramatic makeup) did not seem warmer and more sympathetic. 8
This shows that the use of make-up (and the amount of make-up used) is a means of influencing perception. If you are trying to attract people or find a job, the minimum make-up is optimal. However, if you are trying to impress a date, wearing thicker makeup will help you look sexier, more feminine and more attractive. 8
Think of the difference between a strong lip and a bright, faded colour
According to the study of Etcoff et al (2011), one of the co-authors, Sarah Vickery, gave advice in an interview with the New York Times :
There are times when you want to make a strong impression. I’m in charge here, and women shouldn’t be afraid to do it. 24
A strong colour of the lips can help radiate this energy.
Another time, if you want to show a more balanced and cooperative look. 24
In this case it is better to use a plaster with stupid lips (to give the skin some contrast without looking too shiny or artificial). 24
Women in the workplace sometimes see women in makeup as more dominant
Mileva et al (2016) showed that women consider other women who wear make-up to be more prestigious, while men consider women who use cosmetics to be more prestigious. There is evidence that the impression of dominance is influenced by jealousy – that women are jealous of women who wear makeup. 25
The authors further explained that these results have an impact on the labour market, especially on the interviews. If you are applying for a junior position with an employee who is in the hands of a majority, you should consider wearing natural makeup. If you are trying to get promoted, wear stronger makeup (more eyeliner, deeper lipstick), especially if the researcher is standing upright. 26
.1. The use of feminine makeup as a tactic to attract friends and compete with rivals Lumann Mafra et al (2020).
.2. Misunderstandings in judgements about the attractiveness of Jones’ cosmetics, etc. (2014)
.3. Beauty habits of women in a new study on stowaways in cosmetics
.4. Frequency of makeup among consumers in the United States from May 2017, by age group Statista (2017)
.5. By sexualizing oneself: What College Women and Men Think About and Do to Be Sexy by Smolak et al (2014)
.6. The importance of cosmetics in the psychology of the appearance of Graham and Jowhar (1983).
.7. Re-evaluation and use of cosmetic products : If not better, Cox and Glick (1986)
.8. Cosmetics as a characteristic of the extended human phenotype : Modulation of the perception of biologically important facial signals by Etkoff et al. (2011)
.9. The role of cosmetics in the formation of the workman and Johnson Print (1991).
.10. People with light makeup are more visible than people with heavy makeup Tagai et al (2016).
.11. The effect of cosmetics on human perception Graham and Juhar (1981)
.12. Do cosmetics increase the attractiveness of Caucasian women’s faces? by Mulhern et al. (2003)
.13. Does red lipstick really attract men? Evaluation of lawyers by Gegen (2012)
.14. First test of the dehumanizing cosmetics hypothesis: Too much make-up reduces the contribution of human characteristics to women’s progress (Bernard et al.). (2020)
.15. Evidence that makeup is a false signal for the sociosexuality of Batres, et al. (2018)
.16. The effect of cosmetic use on physical attractiveness and body image on American College
Women for cash, etc. (1989)
.17. The advantage of a light make-up during the facial treatment: Evidence of the potential related to the Tagai et al (2017) event.
.18. Who wears makeup? Individual differences and their relationship to the use of cosmetics. Feldman et al (2008)
.19. The influence of cosmetics on the self-esteem of female students: Scott’s research study (2007)
.20. Influence of hair colour and cosmetic use on Kyle and Mahler’s Perception of a Woman (1996)
.21. Make-up or mask: the influence of make-up on the confidence of sellers by Mittal and Silvera (2020).
.22. Social signals from (unreliable) Neu team members (2015)
. .23. Facial make-up and tipping waitresses: Jacobs Field Trial, et al (2010).
.24. At the top of the career ladder, lipstick in hand NYT article (201).
.25. Gender differences in the perception of dominance and prestige of women with and without cosmetics Milev et al (2016)
.26. How makeup men look good and other women are jealous [Press release, 2016].