What is the real reason for “putting your face on?” For beauty? For confidence? To help deal with the fact that we need to make an 8:00 meeting after a Wednesday evening spent swimming in chardonnay?
Women tend to have darker eyes and redder lips than men do, and we wear makeup partly to exaggerate those sex differences. There’s also a corrective aspect: Blush makes us look healthier; foundation makes our faces appear more symmetrical.
The recent #NoMakeupSelfie campaign would have us believe that we’re entering a paradigm in which both men and women celebrate the unadorned visage. Or, more likely, that we’re still living in a paradigm where hot people look hot in photos, regardless of whether they used concealer that day.
But surely there must be some sweet spot between #NoMakeup and #AllTheMakeup; some physiognomic Camp David where we look like we're trying—but not trying too hard.
The problem is, people are terrible at imagining what other people find attractive. Women think men prefer skinnier body types than men actually do, and the same goes for men and muscley-ness.
But are women similarly wrong about how much makeup they think others will find appealing?
Researchers Alex Jones at Bangor University and Robin Kramer at Aberdeen University in the U.K. photographed 44 early-20s white women, all of whom had just washed their faces, with a Nikon D3000 SLR camera in a naturally lit room. Then they gave them “a range of best-selling foundations, lipsticks, mascaras and blushers,” and told them to apply the products as though they were getting ready for a night out.