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November 01, 2011 Practice Points

The Effect of Makeup on Perceived Competency

By Gabrielle Jackson

Appearance may not be everything, but the way a woman presents herself can affect how she is perceived in the office. A recent study sponsored by Proctor & Gamble and designed and executed by Harvard University Professor Nancy Etcoff, researchers from Boston University, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found that women who wore makeup were perceived to be more competent, likeable, and trustworthy than non-makeup-wearing counterparts.

The study took a diverse group of 25 women between the ages of 25 and 50 and took pictures of them in four different looks: no makeup, a natural look, a professional look, and a glamorous look. The pictures were then shown to two separate groups. The first group was shown the pictures for 250 milliseconds so that a snap judgment could be made. The second group was shown the pictures for an unlimited amount of time. According to the study’s findings, women who wore makeup were perceived as more competent than the women without makeup, which even held true for those depicted in the glamorous makeup option. However, according to Professor Etcoff, if a woman always wears a glamorous look, “there may be a lowering of trust, so if you are in a situation where you need to be a trusted source, perhaps you should choose a different look.”  Read the full study.

Keywords: women, beauty, makeup, perception, competency

Gabrielle Jackson, Wake Forest University School of Law, 2013

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