It’s well accepted that physical attractiveness can open doors. Research suggests that prettier people get hired more and paid more, apparently due to increased perceptions of likability, competence, and trust. For women especially, looks seem to be important to smoothing one’s path in life. And it’s not just inherent beauty, like facial symmetry. In a new study funded by Procter & Gamble, researchers from Harvard and Boston Universities found that makeup also influences how people responded to women.
The scientists asked participants to rate the same female faces with and without makeup along four different parameters: attractiveness, likability, competence, and trustworthiness. Drawn from a range of ethnicities, the faces were left without makeup or made up in three different styles—“natural,” “professional,” or “glamorous.” All three types of makeup increased ratings in each category when participants had only fleeting, 250 millisecond glances at the photographs. When participants were allowed to inspect the three looks for an unlimited amount of time, glamorous faces were considered less trustworthy, though still ranked higher than faces with no makeup in the other categories.
“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,” lead author Nancy Etcoff of Harvard University, said in the press release. “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.”