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You couldn’t make it up, makeup works

03 August 2018

Makeup changes the apparent age of a face, making faces younger than 30 appear older, but making faces older than 30 appear younger.  Faces of all ages are rated as more attractive with makeup.

These are findings from a paper published today, Friday 3 August 2018, in the British Journal of Psychology by Richard Russell of the Department of Psychology at Gettysburg College, in collaboration with researchers from CHANEL Fragrance & Beauty Research & Innovation.

The initial study involved 32 women in four age bands – approximately 20, 30, 40 and 50 years old.  Each face was first photographed with no makeup.  The women then were made up by a professional makeup artist and photographed again with the makeup.  Photographic and lighting conditions were identical for all of the women in all of the conditions.

Participants were then asked to estimate the age of each face by clicking on a visual scale ranging from 10 to 70.  They were also asked to estimate attractiveness on a scale ranging from 0 to 100.

Make up accentuates three youth-related visual features—skin evenness, facial contrast, and facial feature size. By manipulating these visual features, it would seem that makeup should make faces appear younger.  Though makeup did make the middle-aged faces appear younger, it made the young adult faces look older.

The study also found that make up applied only to the skin and eye region had a significant effect on perceived age compared to make up applied only to the skin and lips.

Richard Russell said:

"In many contexts there are rules regulating when a girl can begin wearing makeup. To the extent that women are more likely than girls to wear makeup, people may learn to implicitly associate makeup with adulthood.

"Because age discrimination is pervasive in employment contexts, particularly for women, the ability to manipulate perceived age through makeup may provide critical professional benefits.”


You can view Richard Russell's open access paper here.


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