Your Makeup Is Fraught With 'Meaning'


If you’re more partial to maximum makeup, people might want to make the sex with you, but there could be a detrimental effect on whether they like or trust you. Okay, science, tell us something sexist we didn’t know already.

According to the study, women wearing a more “natural” look were viewed as more trustworthy, and those rocking maximum makeup were seen as more powerful and confident — but it’s less likely you’d leave them alone with your man. Because you know what they say about women who know how to correctly smudge eyeliner. (I mean, besides: Uh, can you please teach me how to do that pretty please?)

In the two studies published in PLoS ONE, researchers asked adult men and women to rate the faces of 25 women ages 20–50, self-identified as “Hispanic, Caucasian, or African American”, with and without color cosmetics, and varied the style of makeup from minimal (natural), to moderate (professional), to dramatic (glamorous). The faces were shown to the subjects for either 250 milliseconds or for unlimited inspection time, and were then rated for attractiveness, competence, likability, and trustworthiness. Wow, you can tell so much just by looking at a book’s cover. Glad we don’t have any commonplace expressions about that.

Unsurprisingly, the researchers found evidence of “significant effects” of cosmetics in both studies. All the makeup looks significantly increased attractiveness and competence ratings at 250 ms and on longer inspection. However, ratings of likability and trust varied with type of makeup (more with natural, less with glam) and were weaker, although generally positive with natural and professional. It’s social cognition vs. social warmth — we believe an attractive face is the face of a competent person, but it doesn’t totally translate to a trustworthy person.

It all makes sense, and maybe now that science says it’s true, we can all be more thoughtful about acknowledging our judgments — snap and otherwise — and attempt to factor in that knowledge in how we treat our fellow human beings. If we know our reactions to people are all “OOH PRETTTTY FACE PAINTED BEAUTY FACE” or “YEE GADS WHO IS THIS CLEAR-FACED MONSTER BEFORE ME” perhaps we can stop to say hello to that reaction and then allow it to step aside so we can meet the real person behind our perceptions.

[PLoS ONE, Shine]


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