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'Au Naturel' look comes out on top in Bangor makeup study

A UK university has found that women are considered more attractive when wearing less makeup

girl applying makeup

Women appear more attractive when wearing up to 40% less makeup, according to a new study by Bangor University.

Dr. Alex Jones, a psychologist from the university who pioneered the study, examined people’s misconceptions in considering what the opposite sex finds attractive. 

‘The take home message from this study is that our ideas about what the opposite sex find attractive are often inaccurate,’ Dr. Jones said.

‘The misconceptions play a role in body image and self esteem issues and are sadly based on simple misunderstandings.’

Photographing a group of university students both with and without makeup, Dr. Jones created a sequence of images of their faces with varying amounts of makeup on. Participants were asked to scroll through the photos and stop when they found the one that they found the most attractive. This process was then repeated, only this time participants were asked to point out the picture they thought would be considered the most attractive by others.

Both men and women favoured faces with 40% less makeup, with men indicating that they thought their peers were more likely to find more made-up faces the most attractive. None of the participants found faces with the actual amount of makeup worn by models to be the most attractive.

‘These misconceptions have roots in serious psychological illnesses, and the media intensifies these,’ Dr. Jones said. ‘Perhaps images of models with airbrushed skin textures contributed to the apparent overuse of makeup in the study, though I can only speculate on that.’ 

The findings come in the face of the viral ‘no makeup selfie’ craze, in which women post photos of themselves without makeup across social media platforms to raise awareness of breast cancer. Whilst the campaign has been criticised as encouraging vanity in the name of charity, it has succeeded in raising £8 million for breast cancer research so far, as well as kick-starting conversations about people’s perceptions of beauty and the effects of wearing make-up.

Dr. Jones’ study has not been the first academic foray into perceptions of beauty and attractiveness, either. In 2012 the California Institute of Technology led the first scientific study into perceptions of the close-up photo upon attractiveness. Photo subjects photographed at close-range were perceived as warped and unrealistic, and thus were found as less attractive and competent then their more realistically photographed counterparts.

The Bangor University study, ‘Misattributions in judgements of attractiveness with cosmetics’ will be published on March 22 in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.


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About Author

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Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.