It’s not just bold colors that matter. Foundation and cover-up also play a large role in making a woman look more attractive because even skintones give the impression of youth. “Both skin topography and skin coloration affect the perception of facial age, health and attractiveness,” says Fink. “Skin topography seems to be a strong age cue while skin coloration is a stronger predictor of facial health perception.” When we’re young and healthy, our skin is flawless. But as we get older, our skin tends to get discolorations and become less even-textured, whether from the sun, scars or other kinds of damage. It’s not surprising that covering up such imperfections makes us appear younger and healthier.
But, you’ll often hear women say, MY (boyfriend/husband/partner/whoever) says that I look prettier without makeup! Well, it's true that when you poll men about their makeup preferences, as many as one in five says their significant other wears way too much makeup, while one in ten wishes that women didn't wear makeup at all. There is no doubt that a good portion of men will gladly say women look prettier without it.
While that's certainly a nice sentiment, their actions speak louder than their words. Study after study has found that when shown pictures of women with and without makeup, men (and women!) consistently rate images with makeup as more attractive, confident, feminine and healthy.
Makeup doesn’t just change how men view a woman’s looks. When asked about personality measures, men also give higher scores to women who wear makeup. Waitresses wearing makeup also earn higher tips from their male clientele. Studies have found that guys think those makeup-wearing gals have more prestigious jobs and are more intelligent, secure, interesting and organized!
We’re not saying wearing makeup is more likely to get you hit on at a bar, but Dr. Nicolas Guéguen, from Université de Bretagne-Sud, is. He found that men approached a woman sooner and more often when she wore makeup than when she didn’t. Guéguen thinks that makeup may not be just about looking prettier, though. “Perhaps the effect of makeup is not to enhance physical attractiveness per se,” he writes, “but to serve as a cue to males that ‘this female might be available.”
Whatever makeup says, it works, and not just on the men. Women feel prettier when they’re wearing makeup. A study of American college students found women had higher opinions of their own bodies and appearance when made up. Putting on cosmetics has been shown to boost self-image in a variety of different women, from the elderly to surgery patients.
It's no wonder that we shell out around $40 billion dollars a year on this stuff. We are drawn to makeup because it taps into our primal urge to enhance our femininity, distinguish ourselves from men and prove that we are a catch—whether we realize that’s what we’re doing or not.
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