More make-up a mistake

RACHEL CLUN
Last updated 11:00 08/05/2014
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LESS IS MORE: But we knew that already, right? (We type this while rocking cat eye liner and bright red lips).

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Ladies, step away from your liquid eyeliner. When it comes to make-up, less is definitely more.

While women think men prefer more make-up, they might actually be applying too much, according to research in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

''There are a variety of miscalibrations where attractiveness is concerned - often what one sex thinks the opposite sex finds attractive is incorrect,'' the report's authors Alex Jones and Robin Kramer write.

Researchers for Bangor University and Aberdeen University in Britain gave 44 women a large assortment of the latest foundations, mascara, eyeshadows and blush.

They asked the women to apply their best ''going out'' make-up and took photographs of all the women before and after they put their make-up on.

Then the researchers digitally altered the photos so they had a range of 21 photos of each model showing various degrees of make-up coverage.

Forty-four students from Bangor University were then shown the images and asked to pick which image out of each set they found most attractive.

The students then had to rate which version they thought women would like best, and also which image men would prefer.

It turns out women prefer women with a tad more make-up than men do - but men and women both preferred models with much less make-up.

In fact, both men and women preferred models' faces with about 60 per cent less make-up than they originally applied.

Interestingly, the women thought men would prefer more make-up than other women, and it seems this is why women wear more make-up.

''Taken together, these results suggest that women are likely wearing cosmetics to appeal to the mistaken preferences of others,'' Jones and Kramer write.

''These mistaken preferences seem more tied to the perceived expectancies of men, and, to a lesser degree, of women.''

So more make-up doesn't necessarily mean more attractive, which is a great thing if you can never be bothered putting much on.

Before you ditch your make-up bag permanently, however, there are a few things to think about.

First, the study was conducted using models and students from one small area in Wales.

Make-up norms and trends do vary from place to place, so the experiment might have different conclusions if it were to be conducted in Sydney.

Second, these models were asked to do their make-up as if they were about to go clubbing, so they are wearing quite a lot.

Because most women tend to wear less make-up day-to-day than when they are going out, chances are that your normal daily routine already involves just the right amount of make-up.

Third, the use of make-up is a complex thing, and isn't just about pleasing friends, colleagues or strangers.

A Japanese cosmetics company commissioned research in 2007, called Cosmetics, Beauty and Brain Science.

It showed that when a woman sees herself in the mirror without make-up, the reward system of the brain is activated with the release of dopamine.

Researchers concluded this brain activity shows she ''is likely to feel a mix of expectation, encouragement, and ambition'' before putting on make-up.

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Another study funded by Procter & Gamble showed subjects women's faces with and without varying degrees of make-up.

The subject then rated the models for attractiveness, competence, likeability and trustworthiness.

When subjects were given shorter lengths of time to view the images, researchers found that the subjects significantly preferred the more made-up faces.

They also found ''that beauty has a significant positive effect on judgment of competence''.

Researchers concluded that make-up could have a positive initial impact on quick impressions, and to some degree alter perceptions of competence.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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