Women Who Wear Makeup To Work Are Trusted Less In Leadership Roles, Says Study

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Science Says Women Leaders Wearing Makeup Face Gender Discrimination At Work

If you are a woman in leadership or one who hopes to be promoted to a significant position at work soon, you'd be smart lay off of wearing too much makeup like lipstick and mascara STAT.

Because apparently, new research conducted by a team of psychologists at Abertay University resulted in findings that fly in the face of what society has been telling women everywhere about how wearing makeup is something they all must do if they want to be taken seriously and perceived as leaders at work.

Despite what you may have believed up until now, this study found that "the amount of makeup a woman is wearing can have a negative impact on perceptions of her leadership ability."


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According to information released on the university's website, the team of researchers asked participants to evaluate "a series of images featuring the same woman without cosmetics and with makeup applied for a 'social night out.' Computer software was used to manipulate the faces and the amount of makeup was also manipulated in the face images." 

"Each participant completed a face perception task where they judged sixteen face-pairs, indicating how much better a leader they felt their chosen face to be compared to the other face."

In reviewing the participants' responses, "It was found that both men and women evaluated women more negatively as a leader if the image suggested she was wearing a lot of makeup."

Dr. Christopher Watkins, who led the study, went on to say that women who wear makeup are considered more "frivolous" and "untrustworthy" than women who wear less or no makeup.

“This research follows previous work in this area, which suggests that wearing makeup enhances how dominant a woman looks," he said. “While the previous findings suggest that we are inclined to show some deference to a woman with a good looking face, our new research suggests that makeup does not enhance a woman’s dominance by benefiting how we evaluate her in a leadership role."

Thus, this new data proves one fact we should all see as obvious: 

For women leaders in the workplace, there is nothing any one of them can do that will ever universally be perceived as "right" when it comes to being accepted, trusted, and respected by your colleagues, regardless of their gender and their position of power in relation to your own. 


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Because here's the thing — prior studies have shown that wearing makeup in a professional setting "increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability [and] competence." 

According to an article in the New York Times: 

"It has long been known that symmetrical faces are considered more comely, and that people assume that handsome folks are intelligent and good. There is also some evidence that women feel more confident when wearing makeup."

Therefore, Nancy Etcoff, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard University, gives "makeup credit for people inferring that a woman [is] capable, reliable and amiable."

But what both studies show is that while women with a good handle on makeup application are, again, considered more competent, intelligent, confident, capable, reliable and likable, the very same women are also considered to be "untrustworthy" across the board!​

Being a working woman comes with a large and varied set of complex challenges.

You struggle to earn an equal wage. You struggle to get the maternity time you need. You struggle to be taken seriously and to be trusted in positions of leadership.

Sure, men face challenges in the workplace, too, but none of those challenges have them worrying that the shade of lipstick they need to buy in order to make sure Roger from accounting thinks we're BOTH smart and trustworthy enough to use the corporate credit card responsibly.  

For women, it often feels like you're set up to fail in the professional arena right from the start, but that doesn't mean you need to change who you are as a person in order to succeed.

Make your own decisions and find work in environments in which you are valued for all that you bring to the table.

Trust me, people will respect you all the more for it! 


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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the love and dating advice show, Becca After Dark on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 pm Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.

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