Putting on your face is something that very many of us do on a daily basis. On average, women will spend “29 minutes putting on make-up to achieve a ‘natural look’”, and a third of us “never go out without make-up”. And, over a lifetime women on average spend 136 days (3276 hours) “getting ready for a night out”.
Once upon a time respectable women didn’t wear make-up. Only ‘painted ladies’, sex workers, wore make-up; made-up eyes, lips and cheeks were how they advertised their trade. Gradually make-up became OK, so much so that in the Second World War, lipstick was believed to be vital to morale – it was not rationed and was imported across blockades with other ‘necessary’ supplies (Dyhouse, 2011, p.82).
Wearing make-up is now routine; required for work, special occasions, or to ‘face the day’. Make-up is such a part of who we are that we can raise money by not wearing it! The 2015 ‘bare faced’ selfie campaignraised £8,000,000 in six days for cancer research. The non-made up face is rare, and apparently make-up even makes us look more competent and professional. In a study on the perception of females’ (aged 25-50) faces with and without make-up, “ratings of competence increased significantly with makeup”, and likeability and trustworthiness also increased, although less significantly (Etcoff, Stock, Haley, Vickery & House, 2011, p.8). But this is not always the case and, ‘too much makeup’ can have the opposite effect. A 2018 study found that “regardless of the participant’s sex or ethnicity, makeup used for a social night out had a negative effect on perceptions of women’s leadership ability.” (James, Jenkins & Watkins, 2018, p.540). And in some professions, wearing almost any make-up marks you as frivolous, unintelligent and not to be taken seriously. Yet while some professions require less make-up than others, most of us are doing more. For example, some surveys suggest that the average women’s make-up routine in 2016 takes 27 steps, compared to just eight in 2006. As most of us wear make-up, not wearing it becomes abnormal – more of a political statement than a fashion choice. What is the right amount and how can we get it right?
Some bullying statistics suggest no matter what we do we can’t do it right!
Similarly, 75% of people aged 13+ agree “some women would look better if they wore less make-up” (Ditch the Label, 2017). But, 45% of 12-20 year olds agree that “unattractive people need to make more of an effort with their appearance”. (Ditch the Label, 2019)
This looks like an impossible circle to square and that’s before you take into account that 63% of US men agree that “women mainly wear make-up to trick people into thinking they’re more attractive”. (YouGov, 2017)
The #everydaylookism stories back this up. We can be shamed for wearing make-up: