Day 37–Up the Career Ladder, Lipstick in Hand

I found an article in the New York Times that was quite surprising. The title alone (my blog’s title) caught my attention.  The article’s reporting made my mouth gape open.  I’ve cut out the unnecessaries so you can get the gist of the premise:

“Wearing makeup — but not gobs of Gaga-conspicuous makeup — apparently can help. It increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness, according to a new study, which also confirmed what is obvious: that cosmetics boost a woman’s attractiveness.

It has long been known that symmetrical faces are considered more comely, and that people assume that handsome folks are intelligent and good. There is also some evidence that women feel more confident when wearing makeup, a kind of placebo effect, said Nancy Etcoff, the study’s lead author and an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard University (yes, scholars there study eyeshadow as well as stem cells). But no research, till now, has given makeup credit for people inferring that a woman was capable, reliable and amiable.

The study was paid for by Procter & Gamble, which sells CoverGirl and Dolce & Gabbana makeup, but researchers like Professor Etcoff and others from Boston University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute were responsible for its design and execution. The study’s 25 female subjects, aged 20 to 50 and white, African-American and Hispanic, were photographed barefaced and in three looks that researchers called natural, professional and glamorous. They were not allowed to look in a mirror, lest their feelings about the way they looked affect observers’ impressions.

One hundred forty-nine adults (including 61 men) judged the pictures for 250 milliseconds each, enough time to make a snap judgment. Then 119 different adults (including 30 men) were given unlimited time to look at the same faces. The participants judged women made up in varying intensities of luminance contrast (fancy words for how much eyes and lips stand out compared with skin) as more competent than barefaced women, whether they had a quick glance or a longer inspection.

Dr. Vickery, whose Ph.D. is in chemistry, added that cosmetics “can significantly change how people see you, how smart people think you are on first impression, or how warm and approachable, and that look is completely within a woman’s control, when there are so many things you cannot control.”

Bobbi Brown, the founder of her namesake cosmetics line, suggested that focusing on others’ perceptions misses the point of what makes makeup powerful. “We are able to transform ourselves, not only how we are perceived, but how we feel,” she said.

Daniel Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said the conclusion that makeup makes women look more likable — or more socially cooperative — made sense to him because “we conflate looks and a willingness to take care of yourself with a willingness to take care of people.”

Back to my thoughts:

Well, my friends, what do you think?  Do you view women who wear makeup as more likable  trustworthy and attractive?  What constitutes gobs of Gaga makeup for me? Does it have to be bright blue to be too much?  By the way, Addison does think I should wear makeup like Katy Perry on Easter Sunday just because I can.  Rest assured, that’s not happening.

This article helped me think about three different categories of makeup…natural, professional and glamorous.  Clearly what I’m going for on Sunday mornings is professional, not glamorous (despite what my mom says about my eyes.)  Maybe I’m looking for a natural makeup look during the week.  I agree with Bobbi Brown when she says makeup’s ability to transform how we feel makes it a very powerful tool.  All in all, this was a very helpful article to read.  I recommend the entire article.  Maybe it will help you figure out how you view makeup…and how you hope others will view you in makeup.

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