Why Do Women Wear Makeup? The Science behind Our Makeup Obsession

So is makeup necessary seasoning, a conniving ploy by manipulating sexpots, or neither?

“There are many different roles makeup can play in a woman’s life. There is the playful and creative aspect – who does not enjoy swirling a brush in a palette of color? Then there’s the confident building aspect – why not cover a huge red blemish on your nose, if you can.”

However, just as there are women and girls who wear makeup completely for themselves, there are those who wear makeup for the perceived benefit of others, or who feel as though they are unacceptable without it. Makeup can be a mask you hide behind that gets you ready to face the world or something you deploy as a weapon to attract a partner, to intimidate, shock and amaze.

Makeup is so ubiquitous in our society that for a woman to go out without it has become, in some cases, a statement- the “no makeup selfie” being a case in point.

Perhaps, then, the more useful question to ask is “why do women wear makeup?

Research shows there are two primary reasons why women wear makeup:

Camouflage – Women who are anxious and insecure tend to use makeup to appear less noticeable.

Seduction – Women who want to be noticeably more attractive tend to use makeup to be more confident, sociable and assertive.

Some women believe that if they show their natural, untouched face, they will not be able to accomplish either of those things, and they will be treated differently. It turns out there is some science to back up the fears driving them to wear makeup every day

Women have it drilled into them from a young age that to be successful in everything, from dating to job interviews to forming friendships with other popular girls, they need to be pretty, and the basis for that isn’t entirely cultural. It may not be fair, but according to the Association for Psychological Science, attractive people are treated more favorably in every area of life, from dating to jobs to criminal trials.

Women naturally tend to have darker lips and skin around the eyes. So, our brains subconsciously note that as a sign of femininity. The more color contrast between a woman’s eyes and lips and her skin tone, the more feminine, and thus evolutionary attractive, she is seen. Lipstick and eye shadow are makeup staples because they enhance those features.

The effect of enhanced outer eye and lip color is greatest on straight men, since they biologically are wired to be drawn to feminine-looking, fertile women.

The Association for Psychological Science explains that we also like symmetrical faces, even when we can’t perceive the symmetry. You may not realize it, but the majority of faces are slightly asymmetrical–either one side will be wider than another will, eye shapes will have minor differences, one cheekbone may be a bit less pronounced, etc. And the fewer of these variations a face has, the more attractive it is perceived. Makeup evens skin tone and contouring, eyeliner and lip liner can make those features appear more symmetrical.

The social psychology of makeup can also affects your relationships when makeup does more than alter a woman’s attractiveness; it also plays a role in her ability to form new relationships. While straight men look at a woman’s makeup or lack thereof to help determine her attractiveness, straight women use makeup to help judge other women’s personalities.

Research has discovered three key findings about how straight women perceive each other’s makeup:

Women rate other women who wear makeup as more dominant. This perception that women who wear makeup are more powerful plays a role in why makeup is important to help women have successful careers.

Women are more jealous of other women wearing makeup and perceive them as more promiscuous. This is particularly the case when women wear bold, sexy makeup, such as eye shadow and dark/bright lipstick.

Women bond faster with other women who wear makeup that is similar to what they themselves wear. We are naturally drawn to people who are like us. So, it’s no surprise that makeup is one of the characteristics women look for in determining who to form friendships with. If you think about it, makeup says a lot about women, such as how much they value beauty, how much attention they desire, etc.

Makeup is an effective tool to appear more biologically attractive.

 By: Erica Owusu

A level 300 student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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