Like the beauty mantra goes, less is often more.
It turns out a little makeup has a significantly positive impact on how others perceives you, but piling on too much cosmetics does you no favours.
Researchers found that makeup makes women look more attractive, likeable, competent and trustworthy as opposed to their bare-faced peers in a recent study by Proctor & Gamble in conjunction with Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
In this study, pictures of 25 women of different ethnicity wearing no colour cosmetics and looking “natural”, “professional”, and “glamorous” with increasingly dramatic makeup, were shown to volunteers for different lengths of time.
When the faces were shown very quickly (250 milliseconds), all ratings increased with the amount of makeup on. Well-groomed women were judged as more competent, likable, attractive and trustworthy than in their au naturel state.
This comes as no big surprise, as many a study has confirmed that attractive people are often conferred the beauty premium and are expected to do better in school, on the job and in life. But what’s interesting about this study is the fact that it’s one of the first to scientifically prove the importance of colour cosmetics as a means by which any woman can easily enhance her appeal, while previous studies focused on innate physical features.
One explanation given is the contrast effect. As more makeup is added, the eyes are drawn out, the eyebrows and lips are defined and the features pop. That’s probably why newborns and infants show a preference for attractive faces too.
However, when subjects were given another chance to examine photos for a longer period of time, the same perceptions didn’t carry over — ratings for beauty and competence still went up, but trustworthiness (or honesty) soon suffered as cosmetic looks became heavier.
All in all, the study findings may serve as a message to women as to how cosmetics could have an impact on how people judge them in ways beyond physical attractiveness.
“In situations where a perceiver is under a high cognitive load or under time pressure, he or she is more likely to rely on such automatic judgments for decision-making,” the authors wrote. This may have a bearing on the way women should approach photos for appear job applications, websites, dating sites or even electoral ballots (politician wannabes hear this) – when impressions derived from a split-second glimpse of a facial picture at zero acquaintance can have long-lasting consequences.