Why do we wear Makeup?- A Psychological Explanation

Why do we wear Makeup?- A Psychological Explanation

Make-up techniques and products have advanced through the years, yet noticeable similarities throughout the centuries can be noted. Like the definition of the eyes and the emphasis of the lips. Makeup is an expression and experimentation of yourself, although it can be seen as an advantageous method to enhance characteristics of attractiveness.

When looking at makeup in history, Cleopatra back in 50 BC used dark pigments from minerals and plants to apply heavy eye liner to reduce glare from the sun reflecting from the sand. Whilst becoming more vain with age adding rouge and lipstick, made from red clay and darkening her eyebrows and eyelashes with a combination of animal fat and powdered lead sulphide. Defining her facial features, similar to women of today’s society. So why throughout history are certain key characteristics emphasised?

Makeup can be seen to play a crucial role in attracting suitors. Attraction is examined in evolutionary psychology, which is based on Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest. So prevalence of qualities which are attractive will increase your chances of finding an attractive partner, thus being the most genetically advantageous of the population. Ultimately, the aim in life in these primitive terms is to reproduce and pass your genes on.


The use of makeup can be seen to enhance features which male suitors in general find attractive due to their primitive hard-wiring. Research has shown that women look for financial stability and achievement where as men look for physical attractiveness; emphasising the theory that makeup is used to secure a relationship. It is thought in this field that men are hard-wired to prefer women with a ‘baby face’ in which she has large eyes, a small mouth, a small nose and a round head. As it suggests youth and fertility.

Eyeliner and mascara emphasise and when done correctly widen the eyes. If men prefer smaller baby like lips why are lipsticks and glosses such a big beauty product? Surely men do like coloured lips then..? It’s rather raunchy but psychologists have suggested wearing lipstick symbolises your *cough* *cough* lady area, similar to female baboons with their coloured behinds we’re signalling fertility. I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I think when I apply my lipstick everyday! Surely this is all nonsense. Actually it’s not, recent observational field studies showed that women wearing red lipstick were approached at a bar by men considerably sooner than those who wore lipsticks in other colours and those who wore nothing.

Research has shown that men in general prefer blondes as lighter hair highlights imperfections in the skin, enabling them to deter from females with hormonal imbalances and/or uncleanliness. It can be argued that foundation and concealer is used to hide these face demons from the world, giving the appearance of smooth flawless skin. Once we have a blank slate many of us apply blusher or bronzer to our cheeks, for a healthy glow; what does this glow mean in psychological terms? It is thought that blushing increases during our most fertile point of the month, signalling to the males we are in a sense good to go! Other research in this area suggests that blushing allows the male to know that you are aroused/interested in them, letting them know they aren’t wasting their time on a woman who is not interested.

Ultimately, everyone is different, we all have different preferences for attractiveness in possible partners so evolutionary explanations are becoming outdated and ungeneralisable. Perhaps due to our ever extending population, giving us more choice in mates we are deterring from generic makeup and trying to stand out with new outlandish methods and the newest products, when unsuccessful we head back to the big pond of Tinder and find a new catch.  In western society, makeup is more of an expression of yourself rather than an primitive attraction method for a partner.

What do you think about psychology theories about makeup?- I’d love to hear from you.



4 thoughts on “Why do we wear Makeup?- A Psychological Explanation

  1. Really interesting, i personally don’t wear lipstick , not sure what that says about me! The notion of attraction in itself is a topic for conversation – i am interested to hear about blondes – there is also a notion that blondes are less intellegent.
    I would like to know more about the change in mens grooming habits and how woman are responding to that. Men spend a lot of time sorting out their hair and in some cases removing body hair. what does this say in the way people look for a potential mate.
    love reading you stuff

    1. Thanks I’m happy it was insightful. The problem with evolutionary psychology is that it is just based on theories. With blondes being more dim, there are some explanations suggesting that blondes and more successful with their looks so do not pursue further education. Of course another theory needing more concrete research. I will definitely write a post on me and hair!- Thanks for the idea. 🙂

  2. interesting notion that if blondes are more successful capturing a man because of looks they don’t have to become more educated – i wonder is that really true?? Is there a link with blondes education and class? Certainly something to consider – do women educated woman not bother? Clearly not the case. Men and hair would be interesting too. I look forward to more of your posts

    1. Men perceive blondes as being less intelligent in general according to research in 1999. So the research might be skewed, which I think it is… As most researchers are male, so have preconceptions which effects their findings. I don’t know of any research into class but this is a crucial factor for intelligence seen in other physical characteristics such as skin colour.

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