Why do women wear makeup?

Abhinav Jain
4 min readFeb 8, 2023

One could say the answer is fairly simple, to look good. Why don’t men feel the need to do the same?

One school of thought from Dr. Khandis Blake is that wearing makeup is driven by social status-seeking behavior. Wearing makeup makes the woman more attractive which helps her navigate to a higher social status.

Historically women used hypergamy, a phenomenon where women find a partner who is economically superior to themselves. So when there is economic or gender inequality, they marry up, moving up the status ladder.

Being attractive helped this upward journey. Since the power dynamics were tilted toward men, the men did not have to look attractive, but they surely needed to have wealth to signal their status. This is why men tend to display their cars, expensive watches etc.

This phenomenon is corroborated by a study that showed that in areas of higher economic inequality, sales of makeup products are higher. From a brand lens, there are two discourses running, the Dove one is about real beauty, about being comfortable in your own skin. While other makeup brands talk about how makeup gives you the confidence to be unstoppable.

In reality, multiple studies have shown that attractive people do better in life, they get hired easily and are generally assumed to be smarter. So one is better off wearing makeup.

In my opinion, wearing makeup does not give you confidence, instead, it is the other way around, when you are confident you wear makeup. The women with bright bold lipsticks or colorful hair don’t find their confidence in makeup but express their confidence through it. There is an existing confidence because you are comfortable standing out. This is something many women have been taught not to do, to avoid eve-teasing and associated social malice.

What are the benefits of being attractive? Historically you would have attracted the right mate, but today it can attract the right people and opportunities over a long time. So you can attract the right advocates, mentors, investors, etc. Because subconsciously we like attractive people. There is no hiding from this fact, even studies with babies found that they spend more time looking at attractive faces, it is an evolutionary truth, not cultural conditioning.

Personally, I came from the minimal or no makeup camp, because I felt that wearing makeup also indicates that I am not comfortable or happy with how I look. But there is definite value in looking more attractive.

I am sure some would argue, it doesn’t matter. There are multiple women who have managed to move up the social ladder without being attractive. But I bet their journey would have been easier if they were also attractive.

The greatest strength of any influencer here is people don’t ask for proof.

- Co founders saying they don’t negotiate salary
- HRs saying they gave higher CTC than what candidate asked for
- Managers saying they gave chance to a fresher in a very critical role
- Influencers saying they earned 1 crore in a month from stock
- Startup founders saying their app downloads increased by 1000%

Everyone wants to read a good story here. Everyone wants to read something that gives them a feeling of how the world should be, not how the world is. Most viral stories here are either complete work of imagination or exaggerated version of reality.

If one does a random audit of people whose post go viral here, it is very easy to see most of them are writing feel good stories which may or may not be true.

My cynicism comes from the reality we live in. Whether as HR, or as a co founder or as a manager we are bound by constraints put by our employers, our investors or the reality. The real world demands us to remain practical in certain aspects and we are answerable to many stakeholders.

Next time you read a very good story that sounds almost unrealistic or too good to be true. Just do a random audit of posts of that person and if all posts are same, do ask for some proof.

The world of social media has already distorted reality enough with people portraying only the happy part on Instagram , writing extreme views on Facebook and Twitter. Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you imagine.

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