What you need to know before applying your makeup

What you need to know before applying your makeup

When you see a woman wearing makeup, what crosses your mind? Do you admire her? Are you threatened by her?

According to one study, your gut reaction might be determined by your gender.

The research, from the University of Stirling in Scotland, revealed that men and women have very different reactions to women wearing makeup, with men more likely to view the made-up woman as “prestigious”, and women more likely to consider the woman “dominant.”

As part of the study, the author, Dr. Viktoria Mileva, asked both men and women why they associated made-up women with the words “prestigious” or “dominant”. She discovered the most common reasons women listed were jealousy and feeling threatened.

“A decision that may seem as personal as deciding whether or not to wear makeup can, at times, have far-reaching consequences,” says Dr. Elizabeth Rutha, a clinical psychologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.

“These studies indicate that a woman wearing makeup may be perceived differently by either gender. Men may have a tendency to view the woman more positively— the term specifically used in the article is ‘prestigious’—while women may view the same woman and tend to feel competitive.”

Another study suggested that women who wear makeup are perceived as more competent, confident and attractive than those who do not. However, the study also revealed a gender difference in that other women perceived women wearing makeup as promiscuous and untrustworthy.

“At a job interview, knowing whether the hiring committee will consist of men or women might influence a female candidate’s decision about wearing makeup,” Dr. Mileva said in a news release. “Whether the interviewers will view her as attractive, dominant and/or prestigious can affect her and the interviewers’ actions, and perhaps, the outcome of the interview itself. Thus, understanding the potential implications of cosmetics use are important not only for the wearer, but also for the perceiver.”

Dr. Rutha agrees.

“When making choices about one’s personal appearance, particularly in situations in which one is likely to be judged by strangers, it’s important to think about the attributions that others make based on superficial variables such as makeup,” she says.

Fortunately, makeup has become a symbol of choice rather than social acceptance for many women. Makeup, when used to boost self-esteem, is helpful and empowering for women, as it is a choice that they get to make for themselves, according to another study.

“Ultimately, it is a personal choice whether or not to wear makeup,” Dr. Rutha says. “But understanding its impact on others is a powerful tool to have.”

Related Posts



  1. So the only choices were “prestigious” or “dominant”? And I’m supposed to take this study seriously?

    In any case, properly applied, no one can tell when you’re wearing make-up, so what exactly are we talking about here? Women with obvious and gaudy make-up? Stage make-up?

    We can’t cure cancer, but we can study BS like this. Sigh.

    • Dienne, you voiced exactly the same concerns I had when I read this. It is SO Vague, so incomplete, that I, too, seriously doubt that it was based upon any real, or scientific, even academic parameters.

      My mind cried out, with yours, at the “only two words”, “prestigious “ or “dominant “, eflecting tallied perceptions of “women who wore make-up”. Dubious, entirely dubious.

      And, with you, highly disappointed that there are no parameters, not even a suggestion, to define what, “wearing make-up”, MEANS, in this “study”.

      Because, agreeing once more, “wearing makeup”, can mean the subtlest, meant to be invisible, complementary to nature, uses, not even detectable as normally seen, and used a Correction,all the way to over-the-top uses, to whatever increasing increments follow, on up to garish, heavy, overdone, theatrical-mimicking applications.

      Nothing in this article is definable.
      I was expecting to find something actually useful and enlightening; and I didn’t, either. Greatly disappointed, in this so-called “study”, being reviewed, and the writer, and in the editing process.

  2. Makeup serves different purposes.

    Seeing as most people have some sort of either skin issues, self-esteem issues, or even trying to hide ones past with makeup.. shouldn’t we be looking deeper into the people being judged and labeled rather than asking people to emit technical terms that other men and women decide we are based on how we look..

    Besides, In todays day and age, women aren’t just the only ones who use some sort of cosmetic products.

    There are so many more things to be worried about, this article was disappointing and actually kind of seemingly filled with common fluff.

  3. I, for one, am grateful that make-up exists. It is extremely dramatic in my case & does so much for many women’s appearances. It accentuates my features incredibly. I think women are even more beautiful when they take care of themselves, have good attitudes, can laugh at themselves & enjoy the pamper. Men tend to be very visual, but so are women. I make it a point to compliment anything I notice about a woman’s appearance. I go out of my way, even to an acquaintance or friendly face. When you acknowledge the good & beauty in others, you are strengthening that in yourself.

  4. It is sad to see that make up is such a touchy subject for WOMEN. Mostly, what arises from this topic is judgment. Why this is such a delicate topic for women is uncertain to me. We are always judging people, it’s part of our human nature. The point is not if someone is wearing make up or not and how other perceive us. The important thing to remember here is to be ok with ourselves and our appearance, not everyone will like us whether we have make up on or not. Why give so much importance to how other people might view us? Let’s focus on ourselves and being happy with us.

  5. One more thought, prompted by Mary’s comment, above: One more use/application of make-up, not covered, is also the practical (not only social, though part of social) uses of make-up, is to a) Meet social expectations and b) Meet PROFESSIONAL expectations.

    I.e., As a professional salesperson, to Not wear makeup on a Par with my peers, managers, and clients, regardless of my own preferences, would have been considered truly negatively in my professional performance reviews – in spite of increasing legal structures against sexual discrimination. It’s reality. If I eschewed makeup, on the job, I would have actually endangered my security in my jobs.

    And, I’ve done my own comparison studies: When I am out, doing any and all forms of Retail interactions, men AND WOMEN’s positive attitudes towards me, are almost always, enhanced when I am wearing even minimalist natural-looking makeup.

  6. How absurd. EVERY woman I know wears makeup and unless another woman is wearing cat eye type liner I can’t see anyone thinking this. “However, the study also revealed a gender difference in that other women perceived women wearing makeup as promiscuous and untrustworthy”.

    Stick to articles on cancer because the lifestyle things like this you include are almost always way outside the mainstream.

  7. How shallow of a study to report for this website — there’s way more crucial health related issues to be concerned and reported about.

  8. For all the “complainers” about these type of articles. DON”T READ THEM IF THE TOPIC DOESN’T INTEREST YOU !!!!

  9. I would usually think the same but when the title is “What You Need to Know Before Applying Makeup”, I had assumed it would be about skin care or how to take care of your skin, not others opinions… very misleading title.

    I think what the most irritating part is that the title basically screams that the only reason people apply makeup is because of what others think, and that if we really knew others opinions, we would have no desire to!

Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.