On a recent trip to Sephora, that modern mecca of overpriced cosmetics, I spent two hours turning through aisles stuffed with every makeup product imaginable: brow pencils, dry shampoos, glycolic acid peels. When I took a final turn and found myself outside the store, I felt light with hope that the $40 highlighting stick I now owned would imbue me with a Cate Blanchett-like glow on the daily. (But also I mostly felt light because I had shed $200 less between the time I entered the store and the time I left.)
So, of course the exact thing I wanted to know is that women wear more makeup than is considered “attractive” by both men and other women, according to researchers from Bangor University and Aberdeen University in the U.K. “Women are likely wearing cosmetics to appeal to the mistaken preferences of others. These mistaken preferences seem more tied to the perceived expectancies of men, and, to a lesser degree, of women,” the researchers write in a forthcoming study in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. (On a slight tangent, having someone find you less attractive after you’ve put on a full face of makeup is somehow worse than when someone doesn’t even notice you’re wearing any makeup at all.)
The researchers took “before” photographs of 44 self-identified white women with freshly-washed faces, then gave the women various cosmetic products and instructed them to make themselves up as if they were getting ready to go out for the night. The researchers then showed a series of 21 photos documenting the women in increasingly heavy amounts of makeup to 44 Bangor University students, who were instructed to choose the photo they found the most attractive. The students were also instructed to rate the photo they thought most men would find attractive, as well as the one most women would like.
The results: Men and women both preferred the women who were wearing about 60 percent of the makeup they ended up applying. However, both male and female participants thought the male subjects would find the women more attractive when they wore more makeup, although that was still only about 80 percent of the makeup the women actually wore.
What does this tell us, exactly? Pretty much nothing. For one thing, all the women instructed to make themselves up had similar profiles, in that they were all white and in their early 20s. For another, the women were instructed to put on makeup as if they were going out for the night, the key point here being that night makeup is, by necessity, much more dramatic than day makeup, because you can’t see half of it, because it’s night. So, obviously, it’s going to run the risk of looking slightly garish when shot under normal lighting.
The moral here: Wear as much makeup as makes you feel good. If that means no makeup, great. If it means night makeup during the day, knock yourself out. Just go easy on the powder:
[h/t The Atlantic]