We know from studies that for many women applying makeup has a positive effect. Last year research revealed that 48% of the women who prefer to wear makeup said it made them feel positive and strong. As founder of Studio10 I’ve spoken to a lot women about their relationship with makeup and the different reasons behind why they wear it. From exploring identity and style or taking some therapeutic time out for themselves, to camouflage and seduction or simply feeling more attractive, what almost all of the women have reported is that it boosts their confidence and self-esteem. It does seem that wearing makeup is an innate part of our wellbeing.
However, recent Harvard Medical School research has taken the impact of wearing makeup one step further when they found that “cosmetics can significantly change how smart people think you are on first impression.” In addition to this they found an increased perception of trustworthiness, likability and warmth, making the women seem more approachable. To quote the research: “… women who wear makeup are perceived as more attractive and competent than those who do not.” It finished with the notion that “… look is completely within a woman’s control, when there are so many things you cannot control.”
The study involved 25 women who were photographed with three different looks – natural with no makeup, some with a little makeup and finally those with what the researchers called ‘glamorous’ makeup. These pictures were shown to a group of men and women for a brief second and to a second group for an unlimited period of time. Both groups reported back that the women wearing makeup gave the impression of being more competent than those who did not. It also considered makeup within the workplace, finding that a darker lipstick offered a “take charge” impression, while a lighter shade held a more “collaborative” appeal. Interesting – and certainly an area for lively debate.
I know that there are many women who will be infuriated with this research, and on a certain level rightly so (we know well never to judge a book by its cover), but I think it’s important to concentrate on a key phrase they use in their findings – “on first impression”. The report is concluding that women who wear makeup have the appearance of being smarter and more competent, not that they are, and we know that this is exactly what makeup does – it creates a ‘first impression’. The rest is up to us. What does interest me in this research though is that it highlights the power of makeup, beyond its potential to make us feel more positive and confident.
I’ve written before about how makeup holds so many positives when it comes to our emotional wellbeing – and I have to say here that most of the women I have spoken to wear makeup for themselves, because it makes them feel good and not because they feel that they would be unacceptable without it. What I find fascinating is that aspect of makeup that allows us to create the face we want to present to the world and the impact it can have in those situations where we choose to wear it. If research suggests that wearing makeup can give the appearance of being more competent – that’s a heady concept! Of course we have to prove ourselves beyond that first impression, but perhaps it gives us the courage to put ourselves out there in the first place.
Whether we wear makeup or not, it’s important to remember that the choice is entirely ours. There should be no collective opinion that we should. As I always say, ‘you do you’ and that’s what counts, but there is something exciting about the idea that makeup can create any identity we choose to embrace – which takes us right back to being children again. Getting out the dressing up box and raiding our mother’s makeup to be whoever we want to be. Playing with colour. It has to make us feel good!
Grace Fodor – PRO AGE warrior, Beauty Expert & Founder of Studio10. Passionate about challenging outdated stereotypes, anti-ageing and ageism to celebrate age. Providing education on how to apply makeup for older women.