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

Posted: October 5, 2011

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"Researchers have studied first impressions of innate facial characteristics, such as facial symmetry, but until now, no research has rigorously examined the role that applied beauty or features of the extended human phenotype, such as makeup and hair color, play in perception of beauty, personality and character at first glance and longer inspection," says Etcoff. "For the first time, we have found that applying makeup has an effect beyond increasing attractiveness—it impacts first impressions and overall judgments of perceived likeability, trustworthiness and competence. In today's world of self-portraits appearing on networking and dating websites, ballots, resumes and applications, the results of the study have broad implications."

Sarah Vickery, PhD, principal scientist, research & development, Color Cosmetics, P&G Beauty & Grooming, believes the data's implications also suggest makeup can give women the power to determine which aspects of their personality they want communicated to others.

"This study examined the impact of relevant makeup looks that women in the Western world commonly wear, showing that makeup is a real-life tool in their arsenal to effectively control the way they want to be—and are—perceived," says Vickery. "Makers of color cosmetics and other beauty products can take these findings into consideration to further develop science-based solutions that empower women to display different aspects of their personalities and to really take charge of the way others see them."

Detailed study methodology

The study was conducted in two parts with 100 high-resolution color images of 25 women, ages 20-50, who self-identified as Hispanic, Caucasian or African-American. The images included a frontal headshot with a neutral facial expression and were cropped to remove clothing and hair styles.

A makeup artist applied three different makeup looks that provided increasing luminance contrast between the skin and facial features (informally labeled as "natural," "professional" and "glamorous"). A professional photographer shot the women without makeup and with all three looks under uniform conditions, and the photos were adjusted digitally.