Inspired living

Does wearing makeup sends mixed messages?

Women make up

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In any given six month period, according to Roy Morgan research, 6.3 million Australian women over age 14 purchase makeup of some kind. That’s 64 per cent of all women, indicating that wearing makeup is a popular phenomenon; but it begs the question of what is being achieved by wearing makeup? According to a new study, what makeup achieves is dependent on the gender of the person looking at it.

Both men and women agreed that women with makeup look more attractive.

In the new study, a researcher from the University of Stirling investigated what both men and women think of women who wear makeup.

Both men and women agreed that women with makeup look more attractive; however, differences emerged when it came to how people interpreted the social status of makeup wearers.

Previous research has shown that high status can be achieved by two routes. On the one hand, you can achieve high status by being dominant, using forcefulness to make people follow you; or you can gain it by prestige, having merits that make other people want to follow you. Makeup feeds into those pathways differently depending on your sex.

The research found that men think women wearing makeup are more prestigious while women thought that other women wearing makeup appear more dominant. This also led to women saying they thought makeup-wearing women are more promiscuous, would be more attractive to men and would make them feel jealous.

So, ultimately, makeup is about status and also about the inevitable differences between women and men.


Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.