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Wear Makeup, Appear More Likable

A new study sheds light on why makeup is a girl's best friend.

October 4th, 2011

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Wear Makeup, Appear More Likable

Fans of “The Drew Carey Show” may recall Mimi, a co-worker most well known for making cutting wisecracks and wearing an extremely ostentatious amount of makeup on her face.

Turns out, viewers may have perceived her character to be the most competent of the workers. According to a new study involving joint research from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry and Procter and Gamble (P&G), the way women wear color cosmetics can significantly alter how others perceive them.

MORE: The Science of Makeup

Researchers asked participants to judge 100 photos of 25 women’s faces, in which the ladies appeared in varying degrees of makeup classified as “natural,” “professional” and “glamorous,” (building up intensity with the latter category representing the most obvious darker shades of color).

PLoS ONEMakeup from left: no makeup, natural, professional and glamorous
Makeup Attractiveness

All three makeup looks increased ratings of attractiveness, competence, likability and trust compared to ratings of the same women when they were viewed without any makeup at all. More surprisingly, women with the "glamorous" look were rated just as likable as the same women with the "professional" look, but were rated significantly more attractive and competent (though less trustworthy). Crazy, right?

QUIZ: Are You Satisfied with Your Face?

Makeup haters, feel free to take the research with a grain of salt, but at least consider its implications for social and professional empowerment. In a video interview, lead investigator Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard University and Associate Researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry, claimed this all means that when it comes to self-confidence, makeup doesn't just have a placebo effect. "This [research] suggests that makeup is a tool that women can use to bring out different aspects of themselves, not just their attractiveness, but other aspects of their social warmth, likability, their trustworthiness or their confidence," she said.

Big meeting coming up? Sounds like a touch of mascara and lipstick certainly couldn't hurt. Whether you decide to go full-Mimi is totally your prerogative.

MORE: What "Pan Am" can teach us about looking good on the job

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