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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Makeup Is Damn Important - The "No Shit, Sherlock" Experiment Results

I was inspired by this Huffington Post article about the importance of makeup. One of the criticism of that experiment is that the difference was the smile & expression, but after over 8 years working professionally, I know that makeup makes a HUGE difference. I decided to repeat the experiment to see the effect of the "makeup tax" on women, only I decided to use the same, identical picture, just with one edited to give the appearance that I'm wearing makeup. 

The only difference I made is to add a bit of colour to my lips and cheeks, darkened my brows, evened out my skin tone & got rid of my spots, and added a winged liner. So nothing drastic, but probably about 30-45min of work IRL (1h if I'm breaking out really badly).


Methodology Discussion: 
For this experiment, I used PhotoFeeler a site where other users rank you on several qualities based on your photos only. In return for votes, you get credits you can use to get your own pictures voted on. One vote gives you one credit, which gives you 1 vote on your own pictures. I initially planned on getting 100 votes for each picture in every category (so 600 votes total), but I kept running out of pictures to vote for, so I decided to limit the "Dating" and "Social" categories to 40 votes each, while sticking to 100 votes for the Business category since that's what I'm most interested in (360 votes total). 
To ensure no one accidentally sees a makeup & no makeup pic at the same time and realizes something is up, I made sure that there's a space of a day after voting finishes on the first pic before I posted the next pic. I also thought that it may seem unprofessional if people see the same pic that is supposed to be for "Business" in the "Dating" and "Social" categories, so I only posted the same pic into the last two categories after the "Business" voting is over. 


Business Setting

Comments (Left without makeup, right with makeup)

As you can guess, the pic with makeup with immediately ranked higher for competence (10% higher), likability (23% higher) and influence (10% higher). Not only that, the pic without makeup got comments mentioning that I looked "somewhat unconfident" and "a bit uncomfortable", my "smile seems a bit forced", and "something seems a bit odd with [my] eyes...[they look] a little scary". It's called massive eyebags and yes..they're scary. Shows I'm in dire need of sleep and may murder you for coffee. 

The only criticism about the makeup pic is asking for a different post or angle, which is what I got for the non-make up pic as well.

Social Setting

Comments (Left without makeup, right with makeup)

Surprise, surprise...the makeup pic does way better again! I'm rated 25% more confident, 18% more authentic, and 15% more fun when when I'm wearing makeup. 

Generally, people don't really think I'm fun, but hey, anyone using what looks like a professional pic for their social accounts are probably the type who'll only draft HR-approved status updates, so fair enough. I definitely find it funny going makeup-free makes people think I'm less authentic, so for anyone saying that girls who wear makeup look "fake"...the stats don't lie. ;)

I would think going out without make up signals confidence, but nope. People think you're more confident with makeup. Kinda goes against what people like to say about makeup and insecurity. I thought the confidence measurement is important for work too, so now I know I definitely need to wear makeup before a big presentation.

The eyebags definitely made an impression again, since the only comments in the no makeup pic mentioned that I look tired. I find it interesting that I got more criticisms in the makeup pic (4 vs 1), where people told me to fix my posture, pose differently, make eye contact or wear something different. Maybe they thought the same about the no makeup pic, but said nothing since they saw how messed up I looked and felt bad.

Dating Setting

Comments (Left without makeup, right with makeup)

Again, the make up pic does better. Shocking. What I wanted from this test is the intelligence rating, and the sad news is that I'm perceived more intelligent (14% higher) with makeup. Ouch. Also, I'm rated at 6% more trustworthy with makeup. So once again, I have no idea where the people who think makeup look "fake" are coming from.

Without makeup, my attractiveness plummets by 57%, but that's hardly shocking. Whenever people tell me I look pretty, I tell them it's my make up skills and I'm not being modest or lying. 

Again, I got told I looked tired. This experiment shows me that my best makeup investment is my undereye concealers. Interestingly, I got told to wear a different outfit in the makeup pic again. I wonder why no one tells me to wear something else in the no makeup pic. Maybe no one wants to see more skin when my face is a wreck. 

In conclusion:

Sure, your job performance can ultimately counter your first impression, but I'm sure we've all experienced how important a first impression is. So yes, if you need to make a good first impression, definitely wake up an hour early and make your face up. 


  1. maybe judging someone by their looks is the problem to begin with? trying to determine these traits from a photo is almost laughable.

  2. Thank you for this post. Guess it's time to start wearing makeup on the regular again. Looks like you spent quite a bit of time on this article and I'm grateful for the results. It's nice to think that without makeup, you're pulling it off okay. But, reality is makeup gives you a quantifiable edge. Respect, and cheers!

  3. You have shown that by applying makeup, you can make people think you are better in every way.

    This seems less like a "tax" and more like cheating at life.

  4. Pax Empyrean: In a vacuum, the fact that an action improves a number can be viewed as either a bonus of for doing the action, or as a penalty for failing to do the action. With no other points of comparison, there's no reason to prefer one view. BUT: this is not a vacuum. We have other points of comparison: the scores for men. My expectation is that a plot of the scores for men will look much like a plot of the scores for women with makeup, while a plot of the scores for women without makeup would be lower. If that's true, then it's empirically justified to view it a penalty rather than a bonus.

    1. I agree with the "penaly for failing to do the action," however I disagree regarding the significance. As a manager, someone who fails to put fort minimal effort to improve the impression they leave may not put forth that minimum effort in other areas where it would make a difference.

      This applies to men as well as women. I would be interested in seeing the same test but both pictures with no makeup, one of them with the hair doctored so it looks neater (without the stray strands going over the right eye and the general unkempt look).

      I bet you get the same results. How you treat yourself indicates how you treat others.

  5. I'll be honest...this is part of the reason I started to get into makeup in the first place.

    I've been a "natural" girl for most of my life. As I got older (I'll be 25 in a few weeks), I noticed that women with makeup were noticed as being more powerful and being perceived as more sophisticated. Something I've been wanting since - without makeup - I'm often confused with a 16-year-old high school student. :(

    So I've started getting into makeup, painting my nails, doing my hair a little more, etc. I feel like I'm already noticing a difference. But in this, I've discovered I actually really like makeup, A LOT more than I thought I would! It's actually fun!

    It's still sad that I felt like I "had" to wear makeup though. :/ Now I wear it because I want to.

  6. Your experiment only scratches the surface.

    You might want to read this one:

    Very truly yours
    Jean-Paul Bardou

  7. HI. I just found this after reading another article about your experiment! I'm a 24 year old Korean with a monolid (and white parents) in the US and need some serious help. Looks like I'll be breaking the bank to change my look!

    1. I'm more than happy to chat about makeup! Do you have IG? If you do, you can totally message me there and I can tag you in some tutorials :) (@workingwithmonolids)

    2. I follow you on IG! I've been researching basics and am making purchases today. Will keep you posted! @918plate :)

  8. Replies
    1. You so look familiar with a girl I used to work with! OMG! Love the content of this post :)

      Elle from

  9. you're look like Katri na kaif when pin your hair on side n widout dat lipstick
    -----duonglamlam work at Sakura BeautySakura Beauty