The best makeup for work

Work makeup: the look that will make you more money

In an ideal world, employees are rewarded for their skill and experience rather than their looks, enhanced by perfect work makeup. After all, in an age of diversity, we should accept people for who they are – not what they look like. But in reality, we all know looks hugely contribute to influencing and impressing others. Why else do politicians and celebrities hire stylists to present the most flattering and confident version of themselves? Of course it’s not just how people view women – the same goes for men too – but here I’ve just reviewed the research on the effects of different levels of makeup on women. A telling study conducted at the University of California presented images of potential political candidates with more-and-less competent demeanours. The most capable-looking candidates won a 13 per cent vote swing. Presenting your best side using makeup is already known to make women appear more attractive, likeable and proficient at their jobs. But how much product should we paint on? And is a natural look better than a glamorous one if we want to command a bigger pay packet?

Why natural beauty is best

First impressions – including how you wear your work makeup - really do matter – especially in the office, according to a study by job search website Monster. It reveals employers make decisions about interviewees within seven minutes while 70 per cent say the way a candidate applies makeup affects their initial thoughts about them. These quick conclusions are based on three factors, in order of importance
  1. Work experience (36%)
  2. First impressions (24%)
  3. Education (12%)
Other interesting research reveals the amount of work makeup we use to enhance our appearance – has a huge impact on people’s perception of our ability to do the job well. And it can help career progression. It sways whether an interview candidate is hired, whether they seem competent, trustworthy and likeable and if they will land a top salary. What’s more, once first impressions are made, they are difficult to change. A US study published in the journal PLoS ONE acknowledges that attractive people are more likely to be hired, promoted and earn bigger bucks than unattractive individuals. Psychologists refer to this as the †˜halo’ effect and it is linked to ideas that beautiful people are viewed as more socially skilled, confident and successful. But smoothing out imperfections by caking on cosmetics won’t instantly win you a better wage. Studies show that women wanting to secure a job - or win people over - should apply minimal, well applied work makeup. A report titled †˜Beauty Is As Beauty Does’ in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology presented images to HR professionals of women before and after makeovers. The salaries of the †˜polished’ females were thought to be 8 to 20 per cent higher than those with less or no makeup. US research from Virginia Commonwealth University used photographs of women with natural (none), professional (moderate) and glamorous (heavy) makeup to evaluate who looked most accomplished. Those wearing the most beauty products were deemed less capable than applicants wearing little or no make-up. And when it came to pay, the †˜natural-looking’ group were assigned a higher starting salary than women donning light to moderate amounts of cosmetics. Work makeup clearly has many beneficial effects – such as making women feel more confident and appear more deserving of top dollars. But too much greasepaint or an overly glamorous look goes the other way. A study in the research journal Frontiers in Psychology shows light makeup is preferable over heavier alternatives. This is because it is †˜viewed as more attractive and allows for greater expression of individual personality and easier recognition by others.’ It also makes people seem more trustworthy – a characteristic we all want so we can catch that next promotion or client contract.
Natural makeup makes people seem more trustworth © 2011 Etcoff et al. Faces from left to right: No makeup, natural look, professional look, glamorous look. Findings: the natural look resulted in a significant positive effect on trustworthiness, while the professional look did not have a significant effect, and the glamorous look had a significant negative effect.
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