With the UK Beauty Industry worth over £17bn, it seems safe to assume that we all spend some time in front of the mirror applying makeup, styling our hair or doing other personal grooming tasks.
In a recent study conducted by clinical psychologist Nancy Etcoff, she argues “makeup is a powerful but understudied tool.” It’s a means to adopt a persona, to become a different character - we literally put on a different face, and so many of us spend in excess of half an hour (and perhaps over half our wage) doing so. But why?
Etcoff’s study suggests that it only takes 250 milliseconds for us to judge a woman as being competent, likeable, and trustworthy all from her appearance. When participants in the study were given longer to view images of women with and without makeup on, their appraisal became far more critical.
Interestingly, women were judged as being (un)trustworthy based upon how much or how little makeup they were wearing. Such results beg us to question whether our own biases govern our perception of others, and if we establish ourselves and our own sense of attractiveness as our benchmark.
Even though I wear makeup (in fact, I wouldn’t leave the house without it), I don’t believe that a woman should have to wear makeup only with the aim of inspiriting a certain reaction - it should be used as a tool to boost a woman’s confidence, but perhaps it shouldn’t become her confidence.
On a personal note, I’m aware that wearing makeup isn’t me, it doesn’t make me, but it does make me feel more like me or at least the me that I choose to be. As Etcoff states, “makeup is what you make of it”, and just as it is a personal choice to wear makeup; how a woman feels when wearing makeup is also intrinsically personal.
The effort we put into personal grooming is almost like a visual statement or symbol, suggesting that you care about yourself enough to care about how others see you or read you. Makeup may not make the world a better place, but surely the confidence and increased sense of self-esteem it gives is powerful in itself? Maybe it isn’t the makeup that beautifies, but the confidence born out of wearing it.