‘I don’t wear make-up, nor do I wish to spend 20 minutes applying it,’ said Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University who wrote ‘The Beauty Bias’ (Oxford University Press, 2010), which details how appearance unjustly affects some workers. ‘The quality of my teaching shouldn’t depend on the colour of my lipstick or whether I’ve got mascara on.’
She is no ‘beauty basher,’ she said. ‘I’m against our preoccupation, and how judgments about attractiveness spill over into judgments about competence and job performance. We like individuals in the job market to be judged on the basis of competence, not cosmetics.’
But Professor Etcoff argued that there has been a cultural shift in ideas about self adornment, including makeup. ‘Twenty or 30 years ago, if you got dressed up, it was simply to please men, or it was something you were doing because society demands it,’ she said. ‘Women and feminists today see this is their own choice, and it may be an effective tool.’
Dr. Vickery, whose Ph.D. is in chemistry, added that cosmetics ‘can significantly change how people see you, how smart people think you are on first impression, or how warm and approachable, and that look is completely within a woman’s control, when there are so many things you cannot control.’
Bobbi Brown, the founder of her namesake cosmetics line, suggested that focusing on others’ perceptions misses the point of what makes make-up powerful.
‘We are able to transform ourselves, not only how we are perceived, but how we feel,’ she said.
Ms Brown also said that the wrong colour on a subject may have caused some testers to conclude that women with high-contrasting make-up were more ‘untrustworthy.’ ‘People will have a bad reaction if it’s not the right colour, not the right texture, or if the make-up is not enhancing your natural beauty,’ she said.
Daniel Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said the conclusion that make-up makes women look more likable — or more socially cooperative — made sense to him because ‘we conflate looks and a willingness to take care of yourself with a willingness to take care of people.’
Professor Hamermesh, the author of ‘Beauty Pays’ (Princeton University Press, 2011), which lays out the leg-up the beautiful get, said he wished that good-looking people were not treated differently, but said he was a realist.
‘Like any other thing that society rewards, people will take advantage of it,’ he said of make-up’s benefits. ‘I’m an economist, so I say, why not? But I wish society didn’t reward this. I think we’d be a fairer world if beauty were not rewarded, but it is.’
BeautySouthAfrica.com believes firmly and passionately that inner beauty is what counts – but that we can all make the most of what we have. And if make-up improves our features, or makes us feel better about ourselves, or even, as this article suggests, makes others perceive us in a more flattering light, then we are all for it!
Written by Catherine Saint Louis, this article originally appeared in the New York Times