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The science of beauty: How makeup affects attraction

Believe it or not, makeup has a very real sociological affect on our subconscious attraction brainwaves, and there’s science to back it up. Here are a handful of interesting study-based facts that might make you think a little more deeply during your next session at the vanity table.

Both men and women prefer women with full to moderate makeup on. Interestingly enough, women observing other women are just as receptive to a made-up face as are men. Studies have found that both genders have a definite tendency to rate the polished, painted look as more attractive than a bare-faced one.

Makeup can make you seem more competent. We are such an evolved culture, aren’t we? Wait. There might be physiological reasoning behind this effect.

The study examined people’s reactions to different photographs of the same women wearing varying amounts of cosmetics. Participants also weren’t allowed to look at themselves in the mirror before being photographed. Observers – male and female – had 250 milliseconds to make a snap judgment of each photograph. All in all, the women with more makeup on were deemed more attractive, competent, trustworthy and even likeable.

Other independent research has also found that women who wear makeup are often perceived by others as having better jobs or earning higher income (maybe because they had the cash to buy the nice-looking stuff in the first place?).

Take note though – it’s not about wearing makeup just to wear makeup. The wrong color makeup actually made women more “untrustworthy.”

Eye makeup has the most effect on how others perceive us – and lip makeup the least. This is pretty self-explanatory, but it ties into the basic idea that greater contrast between our facial features and our skin is what the brain automatically registers as attractive. “Men find a greater contrast between the darkness of the eyes and lips and the lightness of the surrounding skin to be most beautiful,” explains the U.K.’s Independent. These effects are more noticeable with very dark eye makeup than they are with lip color.

Darker eyes and lips have to do with typically feminine traits. Studies done by Richard Russell at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania made the indicate  that darker eyes and lips were a typical female trait, while the opposite was true for men. This explains why makeup, which enhances these effects, can make a woman look more feminine (and attractive to men). In fact, this works so well that the same photograph of a face – one with darker eye contrast, and one with lighter – could be perceived as either male or female.

Women who wear makeup are approached by men more often. Studies have shown that makeup-wearing women were approached by considerably more men at a bar than ladies wearing little to no cosmetics.

All in all, it’s more important to feel comfortable, no matter what studies say. If you feel great with no makeup, continue on! If a fully beat face is what makes you feel like a million bucks, go for it.  A little blush or mascara to enhance your natural beauty are always good options as well.

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing