Study: How makeup affects the perception of competence

Emily Rappleye (Twitter) - Print  | 

Women wearing heavy makeup are perceived as less experienced, less competent, less warm, less moral, less in control and less human, according to a study published in the journal Sex Roles.

Not all makeup had the same effect. Heavy eye makeup in particular was associated with the lowest perception of warmth and competence. A cat eye or dramatic eye shadow would be perceived more negatively than bright lipstick, for example.

Both men and women who participated in the study held negative perceptions of more made-up women, and these perceptions were the same for both models and ordinary people.

The aim of the study was to determine if a focus on women's faces, rather than bodies, would be an "antidote" to the objectification and sexualization of women. The results suggest "heavy makeup prompts men and women to focus more on women's sexiness and sex appeal than on their personality, thereby causing a subtle form of dehumanization," study author Philippe Bernard, PhD, told Psy Post.

Coverage of the study by The Guardian notes that the results illuminate one side of another double-bind women face in their personal lives and at work. The Guardian cites past research that showed some makeup can make women be perceived as more competent at work, and that more attractive people often earn more. Read more here.

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