Makeup Makes Us Appear More Competent?

I just read an article on the New York Times website titled, “Up the Career Ladder, Lipstick in Hand,” about how women who wear makeup appear more competent in the workplace…my first reaction was WHAT??? NO FREAKING WAY!!! But then I thought about it and I must say I’m actually not shocked by the study’s conclusion.

The study was funded by Proctor and Gamble, but conducted by Boston University:

“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.” NY Times

The determinant of whether or not a woman looked competent depended on where their appearance fell on a “luminance contrast” scale which basically measures how much the eyes and mouth of a face stand out from the skin. The higher the contrast the higher the competence. The basic conclusion of the study was that professional and glamorous looks scored higher on the scale than the natural look.

I love what Bobbi Brown said about the power of makeup: “We are able to transform ourselves, not only how we are perceived, but how we feel.”

Ultimately, I think it’s up to each of us to know what’s right for ourselves. What we’re comfortable with and how we want to present ourselves to the world. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question. What are your thoughts about the results of this study? Agree or disagree?


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