Makeup and Confidence

In a perfect world, I would wake up everyday looking refreshed and my eyebrows on fleek. Unfortunately, instead I spent approximately 10 minutes every day putting on my “no makeup” look. On special occasions, my routine can take up to 45 minutes. Yup that’s right, I waste 45 minutes of my life putting guck on my face.

You might be wondering why. Well for me that answer is simple. When I’m wearing makeup I tend to feel more confident. I walk a little taller, am more open to talking to new people, and feel unstoppable. Don’t get me wrong I’m not an introvert by any means without makeup, but makeup gives me a little extra boost. So I wondered, is this a natural occurrence? Do women wear makeup because they like the look or are the addicted to the rush of self-assurance that comes with the practice?


In the First Place

My first question is when and where makeup practices started?

Since 4000 BCE Egyptians have been using cosmetics to enhance and compliment their facial features. In fact when thinking of ancient makeup, people usually imagine Egyptian political forces such as King Tut and ancient-egyptian-makeupCleopatra. Is it because of these historical figures that there is an association to power/confidence and makeup?

However I do not know if you could really test if the association is due to the figures. As Andrew discussed in class, there are some topics that are either untestable or very difficult to test. I think that this specific correlation would fall under difficult to test.

I can see no way to experimentally or even observationally observe this occurrence, so that only leaves data such as surveys and anecdotal data to be recorded, which does not have strong credibility in the scientific world.

Cold, Hard Facts

Though historical association might not be able to answer our question of whether makeup means confidence, this topic has become a popular test subject in recent years.

A study conducted at Hanover University measured the differences in college women’s anxiety levels when wearing makeup in different situations. In this study, anxiety levels were utilized to measure confidence. It found that anxiety was lowest when women wore “going-out makeup” while out with friends. Therefore saying that confidence was highest when the women were wearing makeup and spending time with friends.

However there are problems concerning this particular study. The most discrediting feature is that there were only four participants regarded in the study. Four participants do not produce nearly enough data to make any amounting conclusions. Also, the study did not have a control. It did not measure women without makeup in different situations; it only compared different styles of makeup in different situations.

Hanover University redeemed itself though in an additional study. Participants were asked to rate their level of makeup usage and then rate their level of self-esteem. The two levels were then compared. The study concluded a significant correlation between physical self-esteem and participants’ current make-up.

Whether this positive correlation is indicating causation is unknown, but it does show evidence that make-up could have a measurable effect on someone’s confidence. In regards to the question of a third confounding variable, there is a possible one: appearance. Makeup influences appearance, and appearance could influence self-esteem. The lines get a little blurred here however because though the make-up and appearance are two separate entities there very closely related nature causes them to be one-in-the-same.

Others Perceptions

Third variables, such as in the second Hanover study, play a large factor in the question of causation between makeup and confidence.

Arnaud Aubert, experimental psychologist, has found links between wearing makeup and trust from others/likeability. Several other studies show perceptions of confidence and health to be elevated for regular cosmetic wearers. There are several others studies out in the scientific world that further reinforce these conclusions.

These conclusions cause me to question the actual causality behind cosmetics and confidence. Is it the actual makeup that causes the confidence, or the knowledge of others’ perceptions that cause people to feel more confident?

So what actually is happening?

My research, especially the second Hanover study, has led me to rephrase my initial statements. I think instead of saying make up causes confidence, I think it is actually the act of wearing makeup that causes confidence. When you wear makeup, you are able to cover your imperfections and change your insecurities; naturally this altering of appearance would elevate one’s self-esteem.


Whether this is actually good for society is an entirely separate question. Should we need to alter our appearance just to feel good about ourselves? Probably not, but in today’s perfection centered world, I think it acceptable. If waking up 5 minutes early to swipe on some mascara means that I will feel better about myself, I’m game.



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3 thoughts on “Makeup and Confidence

  1. Sarah Elizabeth Read

    Great post! I can definitely agree that there is a correlation between wearing makeup and feeling confidence levels. I used to put a lot of thought and energy into my routine in the mornings, but I think I might be an odd case in respect to your post. Since I’ve been here at PSU, I’ve found myself caring less and less about how I look going out. And I’m not saying that because I’ve become lazy; I have just found that on a campus this size, I’m not going to see most of the people I run into again. There was one day several weeks ago when I got all the way to my first class before realizing that I didn’t have anything on my face (not even mascara). At first I was freaked out, but as the day progressed I almost felt confident in myself for not wearing any makeup. The study that you included in your post had an extremely small sample size, so I’d be interested to see a study that questioned more people. I’m attaching the link to an article that talks about the best ways to build confidence. One of the bullets listed is to take risks. Maybe taking a risk in this situation would mean going without makeup for a week!

  2. Grace Ellen Leibow

    Wow Marielle, this blog post was extremely thought-provoking, and caught my attention for a few reasons. First of all, the structure of the blog post was incredible. It was easy to follow with the clear subheadings for different sections, and the easy flow of the broken up paragraphs and transitioning statements. Additionally, I was extremely interested by the claim. I loved how you didn’t stick to the status quo of the usual “girls don’t need makeup to boost confidence,” and instead found through your research that the act of putting on makeup can be a confidence booster, and why should that be such a bad thing? I found a short article from the New York Times that came to a similar conclusion that you did. If you get the chance, read it, as it contains an interesting study revealing the power of makeup as a tool in influencing others’ opinions. The article can be found here:

  3. Alexis Herrington

    I would agree that make up plays a big role in boosting female confidence. We use it because we believe it covers our flaws, for example, acne. Many people have opinions that breaking out is caused from make up. But is it possible that make up isn’t as bad for our skin as people make it out to be? Why would we wear make up to cover acne if it would just create more? In one study I found online (link here: ) results showed that make up interestingly has no major effect on acne. In fact, the study found that when recommended acne treatment medication and using daily make up and creams, the acne still seemed to actually decrease at a significant rate.

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