Makeup: Revealing and Concealing

Walking downtown on a Friday night, it is not rare to see groups of girls in high heels, nice outfits, and makeup.  While I will occasionally dress up and have someone else do my makeup, I generally do not wear any makeup. However, many of my friends do, and I have noticed that, for the most part, once people start wearing makeup, they find it hard to stop.

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Many studies have been done on the subject of makeup, specifically on the correlation between confidence and makeup usage.  A student at the University of New Hampshire wrote her honors thesis on the effects of makeup.  She did research and conducted a survey which showed an indication that women in college tend to be more aware of the beauty industry and use make up more.

She cites a study done by Thomas Cash that found that makeup affects both society’s perception of a woman as well as the woman’s own perception of herself.  By manipulating the variable of the amount of makeup the subjects wore, the researchers could study whether there was any causation behind the observed correlations.  The results found that women tend to overestimate how attractive they are when they have makeup on in addition to underestimating how attractive they are without makeup.  If this is a correct conclusion, then it would be reasonable to assume that the reason women find it hard to stop wearing makeup after they start is because they feel the confidence boost the first time and that emphasizes their insecurities when they do not have makeup on.

Another study, done by Nash, Fieldman, Hussey, Lévêque, and Pineau, that the research paper referenced found that women wearing makeup generally had more self confidence than those not wearing makeup.  However, it did not mention whether the women who were not wearing makeup usually did so, which made the results are ambiguous.  Saying that women who normally wear makeup are more confident with it on rather than off is different than the conclusion that women who wear makeup are more self confident than those who never do because another study she quotes states that there is a negative correlation between women who are more extroverted and self-confident and the use of makeup.

The study by Nash, Fieldman, Hussey, Lévêque, and Pineau also showed that people tend to think that women wearing makeup are healthier and more successful.  This could mean that if a woman started wearing makeup and then stopped, people would think she looked less healthy.  If people did think she looked less healthy without makeup on, they might ask her if she was feeling okay, which would influence her to keep wearing makeup so that she would not get asked those questions.

Hanover University conducted a similar study, but it focused on the anxiety felt when wearing different types of makeup in different situations.  It mentions the fact that makeup is a quick method to making one feel more confident about themselves as opposed to deciding to diet or exercise more.  Generally, makeup usage starts during the adolescent years when girls become more concerned with their femininity, and it continues on, especially during the college years.

The researcher asked four college aged women to fill out a survey about their confidence levels when going to class in their normal “class” makeup and out in their normal “out” makeup and then they reversed the two.  The hypothesis the researchers mentioned was that matching the makeup to the situation would create the lowest levels of anxiety, but the results showed that the lowest anxiety levels always occurred whenever the women were wearing their “out” makeup.  Since there were only four women, more research would need to be done because the sample size was not necessarily wide enough.  Additionally, all the women were Caucasian which raises the question of whether the effects of makeup differ among different races.

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A third paper, “Why women use makeup: Implication of psychological traits in makeup functions,” found that there are two main reasons behind the use of makeup.  These are categorized as “camouflage” and “seduction.”  Those in the first group tend to be less confident and use cosmetics as confidence boosters, while the women in the second group tend to be more sociable and use makeup “to allure.”  The studies conducted used a large sample size, and found that the results were statistically significant in proving that there are different uses for makeup depending on “emotional and psychological profiles.”

These studies all provide interesting insight as to why women use makeup.  It appears that it boosts their confidence, hides insecurities, and helps them to feel more feminine.  However, it would be interesting to examine why some women cannot stop using makeup once they start and others can, whether women who do not wear makeup are as confident as women who do while they are wearing it, and how the usage and effects of makeup vary between races.

Most studies correlate the self-confidence issues and use of makeup with the beauty industry.  As a result, some companies are now taking action to project the image that the “real you” is beautiful.  Dove’s advertisement summarizes the ideas of self perception that many of the studies observed with their commercial, Dove Real Beauty Sketches, which were meant to act as a social experiment.  The results of the video, demonstrate why the use of makeup is so prevalent in our society.

3 thoughts on “Makeup: Revealing and Concealing

  1. Alana Marie D'agnese

    I really enjoyed reading your article. Being a girl who wears makeup I can easily relate. People have asked me if I’m tired or sad on days when I don’t wear makeup. It’s kind of offensive if you actually think about it. But it supports the study by Nash, Fieldman, Hussey, Lévêque, and Pineau. Guys always assume that girls wear makeup to impress them. That may be true in some cases, but I wear makeup for myself. It sets the tone for the day. For example, if I wear baggy sweatpants and a sweatshirt with no makeup and my hair in a messy bun, I will probably procrastinate and not socialize at all. But when I put on jeans and a shirt, braid my hair and put on a little makeup, I set myself up for success. Since I feel more confident, I will be more productive and make an effort to ask questions in class or interact with people. Its crazy how much a little lipstick or mascara affects a girl’s life.

  2. Kateryna Onysko

    I think girls in America and in my country have different opinon about make up and the need to wear it. Here at Penn State I see bunch of girls who do not wear make up at all, while it is impossible to find even a single woman who would not wear make up at least once a week in my country. And I am always asking myself if Americans are so confident and love the way they are that they do not put on make up or it is becasue they just do not care how they look like?

  3. Kassidy Schupp

    I never wore a lot of make up to begin with but ever since I started school here I find myself never wearing it at all! I didn’t like the way I looked without it before, but now I am getting used to the way I look without it and I kind of like it! I completely agree. I think magazines and advertisements over-glorify the make up products. The faces on the ads are covered in make up as well as computer edited. I believe that these adds really do harm to self-confidence because it makes some people feel like “If I don’t look like those girls, I am not pretty/attractive” and it makes people think that they have to look like that to be considered pretty and perfect.

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