Does Wearing Make-Up Age Women?

New research shows the surprising effects of make-up on perceived age.

Posted Aug 22, 2018

Research shows that make-up generally enhances one's physical appearance, making faces who wear it appear more attractive, but what it say about a woman's age? In a new study titled "Differential effects of makeup on perceived age" published in the British Journal of Psychology, researchers sought to determine the answer to an interesting related question: Does make-up make you look younger?

The answer: It depends on your age.

Stockpic/Pexels CC0
Source: Stockpic/Pexels CC0

In the first of a series of studies, the research team photographed 32 women in four age bands–approximately 20, 30, 40 and 50 years old, with no make-up, and then with professionally made-up. Participants in the study were then asked to guess the approximate age of each person in the photograph, with and without makeup, and to also rate their attractiveness, from a range of 0-100. Two further studies replicated the results found in the first:

40‐ and especially 50‐year‐old women appeared significantly younger when wearing makeup, 30‐year‐old women looked no different in age with or without makeup, and 20 year‐old women looked older with makeup.

This surprising result of younger women looking older with make-up may be because there are societal norms around when women first start wearing make-up, with the assumption being that it begins in adulthood. Therefore, the association between makeup and adulthood may cause the average person to guess a young adult wearing make-up looks older. For older women, however, because make-up affects the perception of skin quality and also exaggerates youthful features like big eyes, women older than approximately 30 are perceived to be younger in age.

In line with previous research, all women, regardless of age, were still perceived to be more attractive with make-up than without. 


Russell, R., Batres, C., Courrèges, S., Kaminski, G., Soppelsa, F., Morizot, F., & Porcheron, A. (2018). Differential effects of makeup on perceived age. British Journal of Psychology.