Why do people wear makeup?

Why do people wear makeup?People wear makeup for a variety of reasons, including:

* To enhance their natural beauty.

* To be more alluring.

* To boost their confidence.

* To conceal blemishes such as dark circles under the eye, age spots, pigmentation, visible pores, uneven coloring, pimples and scars.

* To ‘brighten’ the facial skin.

* To look younger.

* To look older (teenagers)

* To help them adopt a persona or role (as in clowns’ makeup or actors’ makeup). Actors wear makeup to counteract the washing-out effect of studio or stage lights, and clowns wear makeup as a form of disguise.

Painting the face with makeup as an aspect of personal grooming makes people – especially women –  look more attractive.
‘The maintenance of youthful features and the exaggeration of female typical traits can be found in almost every culture,’ says Dr. Bernhard Fink, a professor at the University of Göttingen who studies the evolutionary psychology of human mate preferences. Makeup works for women because it exaggerates (or invents) the natural signs of human youth, fertility and sexual availability, thus making them seem more appealing on an evolutionary level. [1]

Makeup has the power to change our appearance. ‘Foundation smooths the skin, making it appear healthier and younger,’ says Dr. Pamela Pallett, a researcher at Dartmouth University. ‘Eye makeup and lipstick can also accentuate your natural femininity.’ The darker and more contrasting your lips are from the surrounding skin, the more attractive.

The ancient Egyptians regarded beauty as a sign of holiness. Everything the ancient Egyptians used had a spiritual aspect to it, including cosmetics, which is why cosmetics were an integral part of their daily lives. In tombs, cosmetic palettes were found buried with the deceased as grave goods which further emphasized the idea that cosmetics were not only used for aesthetic purposes but rather magical and religious purposes.

Nonetheless women will often state that their male partner tells them they look prettier without makeup. It is indeed true that when men are polled about their makeup preferences, as many as one in five says that their significant other wears far too much makeup, while one in ten wishes that women did not wear makeup at all. There is no doubt that a large proportion of men will say women look prettier without it.

While that’s certainly a laudable sentiment, it may not reflect the true situation. Study after study has found that when shown pictures of women with and without makeup, men (and women) consistently rate images with makeup as more attractive, confident, feminine and healthy.

Makeup doesn’t merely change how men view a woman’s looks. When asked to evaluate personalities, men also give higher scores to women who wear makeup. Furthermore, waitresses wearing makeup earn higher tips from their male clientèle. Studies show that men think women who wear makeup have higher-status jobs and are more intelligent, confident, interesting and efficient!

Dr. Nicolas Guéguen, from Université de Bretagne-Sud, even asserts that women who wear makeup in bars are more likely to receive attention from males. He found that men approached a woman sooner and more often when she wore makeup than when she didn’t. However, Guéguen surmises that makeup’s effect may not be just because it makes faces look ‘prettier’. ‘Perhaps the effect of makeup is not to enhance physical attractiveness per se,’ he wrote, ‘but to serve as a cue to males that ‘this female might be available.’

Whatever it is that gives makeup such power, it works – and not only on men. Women feel prettier when they’re wearing makeup. A study of American college students found that women had higher opinions of their own bodies and appearance when made up. Putting on cosmetics has been shown to boost self-image in a variety of different women, from the elderly to surgery patients.

It is no wonder that people spend literally billions of dollars annually on makeup. Women are attracted to makeup because it draws upon their innate drive to enhance their femininity, set them apart from men and demonstrate that they are a desirable partner—whether or not they are conscious that this is their motivation.

Alternatives to traditional makeup

Technology continues to advance rapidly. These days, cosmetic procedures can address issues pertaining to the human face. Peels, scrubs and laser treatments can even out skin tone, remove blemishes, rearrange facial fat and tighten skin. Cosmetic tattoos offer replenished color and contrast. Surgery and dermal fillers can correct asymmetry, and so on.
The books discuss these alternatives.


[1]     Facial, Olfactory, and Vocal Cues to Female Reproductive Value. Susanne Röder, Bernhard Fink, Benedict C. Jones. Evolutionary Psychology 11(2): 392-404

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