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Study Reveals That Makeup Can Control the Way Women Want to Be Perceived

Posted: October 5, 2011

A new study from P&G Beauty & Grooming and lead investigator Nancy Etcoff, PhD, assistant clinical professor at Harvard University and associate researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry, confirms for the first time that using color cosmetics does, in fact, significantly alter how women are perceived by others, even at very first glance. Results of the study, published on October 3, 2011 in PLoS ONE, show that makeup application specifically impacts judgments of attractiveness and character when viewed rapidly or for unlimited amounts of time.

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Researchers conducted two studies in which 100 photos of 25 women's faces were judged without makeup and with three different applied makeup looks that included varying levels of luminous contrast (different levels of light to dark makeup shades). The looks were informally classified as "natural," "professional" and "glamorous."

When viewed for 250 milliseconds, all three makeup looks increased ratings of attractiveness, competence, likability and trust compared to the ratings of the same faces without makeup (all p < .0001).

Further, participants in the second study who had unlimited time to inspect the faces gave both the natural and professional makeup looks increased ratings of attractiveness, competence, likability and trust (all p < .0001). The glamorous look, which had the highest luminous contrast, was judged to be equally likeable, less trustworthy and significantly more attractive and competent (p < .0001) than the faces without makeup. The reverse connotations associated with this look demonstrate that makeup impacts both automatic, instinctual responses and conscious, deliberative judgments, causing people to make impressions based on the visual alterations caused by cosmetics and their conscious ideas about makeup users and looks.