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Makeup Increases Attractiveness in Male Faces

New research on how the effects of cosmetics can extend to men.

Key points

  • Studies show that male and female raters rated women’s faces with makeup as more attractive.
  • A new study found that male faces were rated higher in attractiveness when presented as wearing makeup.
  • Makeup made men's skin appear more even, increased perceived masculinity by decreasing facial contrast, and influenced bone structure perception.

Much research has been devoted to understanding the effect of makeup on perceptions. Several studies using carefully controlled before and after photographs have found that women’s faces with makeup are rated as more attractive by both male and female raters than the same faces without makeup. This effect has been found across several styles of makeup, across ethnicities, and across various ages. Moreover, this effect has been found to influence real-world outcomes, such as jury decisions.

Jens Linder/ Unsplash
Source: Jens Linder/ Unsplash

The effect of makeup on attractiveness is well documented for women, but no study has investigated it in men. The market for male cosmetics products is growing and evolving. This includes the purchase of creams, lotions, face scrubs, and so forth.

In terms of makeup, certain products that have commonly only been used by women are starting to be marketed for men. For instance, several companies now sell concealers, powders, bronzers, and eyebrow gels specifically for men. In the past few years, purchases of these products by men have been steadily increasing. The positive effect of these products on perceptions of attractiveness has been studied empirically in female faces but not in male faces.

A new scientific study published today, November 3, 2022 (on which I am a co-author), aimed to examine whether the positive effect of makeup can be extended to male faces. In order to answer this question, we photographed twenty men twice: one time without any cosmetics applied and a second time with cosmetics applied by a professional makeup artist.

The professional makeup artist, Carmina Cristina, was instructed to apply subtle makeup without being too obvious that the men were wearing it. She applied a range of cosmetics on the participants (e.g., concealer, powder). Two hundred participants then rated all of the images on attractiveness.

We found that the male faces were rated as higher in attractiveness when presented as wearing makeup, compared to when presented not wearing makeup. This was true for both male and female raters, whether analyzing the data using a by-participant or a by-face analysis.

So how does makeup make men look more attractive? Previous studies have found that skin evenness increases perceptions of attractiveness in male facial skin. Previous research has also found that lower facial contrast (i.e., less contrast between the features and the surrounding skin) makes faces appear more masculine. Additionally, bone structure in men (e.g., facial width-to-height ratio) affects perceptions of attractiveness. Therefore, subtle makeup appears to increase attractiveness in male faces by 1) making skin appear more even, 2) increasing perceived masculinity by decreasing facial contrast, and 3) influencing bone structure perceptions.

References

Batres C, Robinson H (2022) Makeup increases attractiveness in male faces. PLoS ONE 17(11): e0275662. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0275662

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