Why Do Women Wear Makeup?
From January of 2011 to October of 2011 nearly 117 million makeup products were sold in the United States alone, bringing in $2.8 billion (The NPD Group, Inc.). Why is it that despite the economic crisis we are facing the beauty industry continues to grow? Makeup is certainly not necessary for our health or safety, so why has it become the norm for women of all ages?
Makeup Makes a Woman Seem More Capable
A study performed by Boston University in 2011 found that when women wore makeup gave the impression of being more competent, trustworthy, and intelligent than when they did not. Of course, confidence and self-esteem play a role in this, right? A woman who thinks she looks good and is proud of her appearance will give off a stronger and more commanding vibe, certainly. However, in this study the women were not allowed to look in a mirror during or after makeup application to prevent their own opinion of themselves from being projected onto the viewers. Two different testing methods were used; one group saw each face for only 0.25 seconds before making a decision of which look was most competent, the other had unlimited time. In both cases the woman was found to appear most capable while wearing makeup.
The increase of reality and makeover shows, as well as media exposure in general, is exposing us to more beauty products than ever before. This is having the largest effect on children and teens, who are more impressionable and not as set in their ways. Another study by The NPD Group found that in 2005 the average age that girls began using beauty products was 17. In 2009 that age had dropped dramatically to 13. Children as young as 5 or 6 are tuning into shows such as “Toddlers & Tiaras” and “Little Miss Perfect” and seeing their peers tanning, getting highlights, wearing makeup, etc. Naturally they want to emulate this behavior.
Photo Manipulation and the Unobtainable Standard
It is rare to see an ad today that has not been photo-shopped and airbrushed to perfection. Do the viewer’s know that their favorite model probably doesn’t have perfect skin? Of course. Despite this we cannot help but compare ourselves to these images. We try to achieve with makeup what has, in the media, been created by a professional team of stylists, a professional photographer, perfect lighting, and photo retouching.
How often do you hear people say they wish they were ugly? Probably never. It is in our nature to want to attract others. Yes, a great personality outweighs a pretty face but the sad truth is that we are so often judged by our outward appearance. In the case of women, and especially teens, not only are we concerned with what prospective romantic partners may think of us, but also what other women think. Polls show that two thirds of women dress up with the intention of getting compliments from other women rather than men. Peer pressure and acceptance play a huge role in the use of cosmetics.
By now you might be thinking that I have a vendetta against the cosmetic industry and never wear makeup. Wrong. I love wearing makeup. I think it is fun, I like how it looks, and there is an art to it that can be beautiful and amazing. What I am against is a society that makes us feel ugly or like less of a woman if we choose not to wear makeup. No one has clear skin, groomed eyebrows, and long, full lashes 24/7. We need to start accepting less than perfection; both in ourselves and others.