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Study Reveals What Your Makeup Says About You

Science (and living life) has long indicated that there is a “beauty premium” (also called a “plainness penalty”), where the more attractive among us are more likely to land jobs, secure promotions, and just generally have more cash than their less comely counterparts. Or as Tina Fey explained it to Jon Hamm on that one episode of 30 Rock, really really good looking people pretty much live in a bubble of better treatment than the rest of us.

But a recent study from the brainy folks at PLOS suggests that not only are humans superficial and shallow, but we’re also easily manipulated (SURPRISE!). So what did we do to deserve such labels this time? Well, to date, face research has been mostly focused on what we might call natural beauty — face shape, size, symmetry, configuration, and movement of facial features — but until the PLOS team recently took it on, scientists hadn’t actually ventured into how grooming, styling, and makeup affected how we judge our proverbial book covers. Oh, science. You so crazy.

For humans, clothes, makeup, scents, etc. serve as our version of “signaling,” essentially the equivalent of a peacock’s fanned-out tail feathers or a baboon’s big swollen red butt. For the purposes of this study, the focus was the use of colored cosmetics, and the results were staggering … so you can only imagine what hair style, jewelry, and clothes might add to the equation.

What does your makeup say about you? And more importantly, how can you now manipulate science to your advantage and get people to give you what you want? Read on to find out.

  • Your Makeup Is Speaking For You, but What Is It Saying? 1 of 5
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    Here's the skinny: adult men and women were shown images of female models ages 20-50 in various states of makeup. They were permitted to view the images for either 250 milliseconds for a snap judgement, or for an unlimited amounts of time for inspection. On a quick look, cosmetics has a "significant positive effect on all outcomes." When allowed to take a longer look, makeup still heavily affected whether models were deemed competent or attractive, but likeability and trust were impacted more on longer inspection. What does it all mean? In short, your makeup is speaking volumes before you open your mouth.

     

    Figure 1. Models without makeup and with natural, professional and glamorous makeup from "Cosmetics as a Feature of the Extended Human Phenotype: Modulation of the Perception of Biologically Important Facial Signals" by Nancy L. Etcoff, Shannon Stock, Lauren E. Haley, Sarah A. Vickery, and David M. House. (source)

  • Au Natural: More Trustworthy, Less Attractive 2 of 5
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    Not a fan of the makeup? More likely to buy a tinted moisturizer than a full coverage foundation? You'll be seen as trustworthy, but less confident on a book-cover judgement. (About 40% of American women over 18 reported that they wear no makeup.)

     

    Models with no makeup at all were seriously dinged in the "attractiveness" category, and in fact scored lower across the board on both the 250 millisecond and the unlimited viewings. (For the record, I'm in public wearing no makeup while I write this, but I'm second guessing that decision.)

     

    Image via iStock

  • Just a Touch of Color: Competent and Likeable 3 of 5
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    If you're a fan of the natural look, but enhance what nature gave you with products, you're likely to be viewed as competent, trustworthy, and like-able.

     

    Photo credit: Thinkstock/ Fuse

  • Makeup Maven: Attractive and Likeable 4 of 5
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    It's not especially surprising that women who wear more makeup are viewed as more attractive, but I was surprised to see just how much higher faces that were professionally made up scored in terms of attractiveness and like-ability. 

     

    Notably, facial contrast was rated as one of the highest indicators of attractiveness, something makeup is often used to enhance, and an attribute that is regarded as distinctly female.

     

    Image via iStock 

  • Glamourpuss: Most Attractive, Less Trustworthy 5 of 5
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    Highly skilled with a brow brush? You're most likely going to rank well across the board for confidence, competence, and attractiveness -- models wearing more dramatic makeup were ranked significantly higher in the attractiveness category than those with little or no makeup, but on longer inspection, took a serious hit where trustworthiness was concerned.

     

    You know what they say ... wear lipstick, be viewed as a criminal mastermind.

     

    Image via iStock

More from Morgan:

My Mom Had A Wardrobe Malfunction At My Bat Mitzvah
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Social Media is a Warm Gun

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