The Science of Makeup

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.orgI couldn't help but be intrigued that my stiffest competition for winning the $10,000 Blogging Scholarship was a makeup blogger. What is it about cosmetics that is so appealing? Why do people wear makeup, and what might have caused early man to play around with blush and lipstick? Well, like everything else in life, a lot can be explained by science.

Makeup has been around for centuries. The earliest records of makeup use date back to around 3000 BC when ancient Egyptians used soot and other natural products to create their signature look. Evidence suggests that the origins of makeup may go back much further. Our closest relatives, Neandertals, may have used colored pigments on their skin some 50,000 years ago, and paint pigments date back 75,000 years, suggesting people may have used body paint before they wore clothes. Most people will say that makeup makes women look younger and more attractive, but the question is, why? What is it about a little eye shadow, some pink cheeks and red lips that makes a woman look prettier? Like a lot in life, it's probably about sex.

Makeup works because it's a good lie. In much of the animal kingdom, females advertise their youth, health and sexual availability through physical signals. Whether it be red rumps, special scents or elaborate behaviors, girls of the animal world know that sex sells, and they make it well known to the men in the area that they are ready for and capable of producing some stellar offspring. Like a peacock strutting his feathers, women do this to convince the opposite sex that they're a good choice for a mate. But in humans, these signals are far less pronounced. Women's bodies don't advertise fertility loudly like our closest relatives. Instead, it's almost impossible to tell if a woman is ovulating - almost. There are subtle signs if you know what to look for, and even though they might not realize that they realize it, men (and women!) do take notice. Studies have shown that women's faces are more attractive to both sexes during the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle. Makeup works because it exaggerates or even completely fabricates these signs of fertility and sexual availability, thus making a woman seem more appealing.

Those ancient Egyptians were on to something with the eye makeup, for example. Women, in contrast with men, tend to be naturally darker around their eyes. Eyeliner, eye shadow and mascara all enhance this effect, thus making a face look more feminine. Studies by Richard Russell at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania have shown that the darker the eyes are in relation to the rest of the face, the more attractive a woman appears, while the opposite is true for men. In fact, the darkness of the eyes compared to the rest of the face is so important, the exact same face can be perceived as either male or female depending on the level of contrast - just take a look at the images on the right, which are of the same face with the same eyes and lips but one has a lighter skin tone, creating more contrast. Eye makeup also makes eyes seem wider and larger, and bigger eyes are perceived as more youthful.

As with eyes, Russell found that women have darker mouths than men of the same skin tone. Manipulating lips to be darker than the rest of a woman's face makes it appear more feminine and attractive. But it turns out that the color of the lipstick matters, too. When women are ovulating, the relative concentration of the hormone estrogen rises in comparison to progesterone. This hormonal shift enhances vascular blood flow under the skin's surface, which has a number of side effects. Women near ovulation (when they're most fertile) report that they're more easily turned on and have more interest in sex. They also tend to have redder lips! By putting on reddening lipstick, women are accentuating a natural signal of fertility. On top of that, blood flow also increases during arousal, so those red lips are not only saying that she's young and healthy - they're specifically giving the illusion that she's interested in YOU, which of course is bound to draw attention. That increased blood flow also pinkens the cheeks, so blush, too, adds to this effect.

But it's not just bold colors that make a difference. Foundation and cover-up also play a large role in making a woman look more attractive. That's because we are naturally drawn to even skin tones. As our skin ages, it tends to get discolorations, whether they be from the sun, scars, or other kinds of damage. So it's not surprising that an even skin tone, no matter what the topology of the face is, strikes us as younger and thus more attractive. One study found that eye makeup and foundation were most important in explaining why makeup makes women appear more attractive and younger. Again, it's about producing offspring - youth in and of itself isn't all that useful except in the context of sex, fecundity, and fertility.

But, I hear my female readers saying, MY (boyfriend/husband/whoever) says that I look prettier without makeup! Well, it's true that when you poll men about their makeup preferences, as many as one in five says their significant other wears way too much makeup, while one in ten wishes that women didn't wear makeup at all. While that's certainly a nice sentiment, their actions speak louder than their words. Study after study has found that when shown pictures of women with and without their makeup, men consistently rate images with makeup as more attractive, confident, and healthier. Men also think women wearing makeup come off as more intelligent and having higher earning potentials and more prestigious jobs. I'm not saying wearing makeup is more likely to get you hit on at a bar... but Nicolas Guéguen is. He found women wearing makeup were approached sooner and by more men.

When you look at the science, it's no wonder that more than $40 billion dollars a year is spent on cosmetics. Makeup works, and it does so because our bodies are programmed to perceive sexual signals from the coloration of our faces. Makeup tricks our brains just enough for it to be worth the time and effort if you want to look hotter. Of course, modern media and the way women are portrayed certainly helps boost sales. But makeup has been used for centuries in disparate and diverse cultures in strikingly similar ways for a reason. In the end, we are drawn to makeup is that it taps into our primal urge to find a young, healthy mate who will produce lots of kids so that we can pass on our genes. As Theodosius Dobzhansky might have predicted, even makeup only makes sense in the light of evolution.

Zilhao, et al. (2010). Symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Iberian Neandertals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107 (3), 1023-1028 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0914088107

Roberts, S., Havlicek, J., Flegr, J., Hruskova, M., Little, A., Jones, B., Perrett, D., & Petrie, M. (2004). Female facial attractiveness increases during the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 271 (Suppl_5) DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2004.0174

Russell, R. (2003). Sex, beauty, and the relative luminance of facial features Perception, 32 (9), 1093-1107 DOI: 10.1068/p5101

Jablonski, N. G. (2006). Skin: a natural history. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Russell, R. (2009). A sex difference in facial contrast and its exaggeration by cosmetics Perception, 38 (8), 1211-1219 DOI: 10.1068/p6331

Russell, R. (2010) Why cosmetics work. In Adams, R., Ambady, N., Nakayama, K., & Shimojo, S. (Eds.) The Science of Social Vision. New York: Oxford University Press

Stephen ID, & McKeegan AM (2010). Lip colour affects perceived sex typicality and attractiveness of human faces. Perception, 39 (8), 1104-10 PMID: 20942361

MATTS, P., FINK, B., GRAMMER, K., & BURQUEST, M. (2007). Color homogeneity and visual perception of age, health, and attractiveness of female facial skin Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 57 (6), 977-984 DOI: 10.1016/j.jaad.2007.07.040

Mulhern, R., Fieldman, G., Hussey, T., Leveque, J., & Pineau, P. (2003). Do cosmetics enhance female Caucasian facial attractiveness? International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 25 (4), 199-205 DOI: 10.1046/j.1467-2494.2003.00188.x

Nash, R., Fieldman, G., Hussey, T., Lévêque, J., & Pineau, P. (2006). Cosmetics: They Influence More Than Caucasian Female Facial Attractiveness Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36 (2), 493-504 DOI: 10.1111/j.0021-9029.2006.00016.x

Nicolas Guéguen (2008). Brief Report: The Effects of Women's Cosmeticson Men's Approach: An Evaluation in a Bar North American Journal of Psychology, 10 (1), 221-228


More like this

Itâs often said that âLove is blindâ;
If that were true, perhaps weâd find
Weâd still be seen as beautiful, although weâre slightly older.
But research shows, a different truthâ
That beautyâs seen in fertile youthâ
So industries arise to fool the eye of the beholder.
It may seem cruel; it canât be fair,
But flawless skin and shiny hair
Are hallmarks of attraction, so perhaps itâs no surprise
This aspect of biology
Gives rise to cosmetologyâ
A billion-dollar industry thatâs based on telling lies

I think it's true in a generic, trolling for a mate kind of way.

However, there are individuals of either gender who can see past that. I'm overweight, forty-two and haven't worn makeup in years. My husband is younger and, inconsequently, physically beautiful. He's also an original thinker and brilliant, the reasons why I love him. I still turn him on because he really really is attracted by intelligence; to him, that's beautiful.

I think those most likely to be won over by superficial appearance are those least likely to do their own thinking in the long run.

But that's just an opinion. Not science.

"...their actions speak louder than their words. Study after study has found that when shown pictures of women with and without their makeup, men consistently rate images with makeup as more attractive, confident, and healthier."

Great article generally, but isn't there a bit of a problem comparing men's reactions to images of women with/without makeup to the real deal? I think most people would agree that it's easier to spot heavy makeup in real life than in a photo.

Maybe men, esp. married men say the prefer women without makeup because, instinctively, they don't want their mate to be attractive to other men ...

or .... maybe instinctively, because of their urge to procreate, they want the real cue ....

...just speculating .... so many implications to ponder ....

Great article!

By 4liberty4all (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

I'm not saying wearing makeup is more likely to get you hit on at a bar... but Nicolas Guéguen is. He found women wearing makeup were approached sooner and by more men.

Then again women wearing makeup in bars are advertising that they are "in the game".

Another thing your studies confound is that makeup makes women look more attractive in photographs where often the photograph doesn't indicate how heavy the makeup is. In person it is much easier to notice heavy makeup and use it as indicator of attempted deception. This can cause cultural confusion - in some parts of the US it is the norm for most all women to wear a "complete foundation" that transforms facial skin into a smooth plastic like mask. In such places it almost seems that women who really need makeup have convinced the others to wear just as much.

By MonkeyBoy (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

"This aspect of biology gives rise to cosmetologyâ
A billion-dollar industry thatâs based on telling lies."

Good line of poetry and truth there :)

I just want to add that another way women advertise their fertility is through pheromones. Men's olfactory centers are very sensitive to those things. They pick it up almost immediately. What is sad to me though is the misuse of those too! People can buy them in perfume form, and deceive people by giving off the impression that they are "desireable" when they really aren't. It is illegal in several countries, but not in US. Hope nobody is using them because they can really mess up the brain when used irresponsibly.

I think a lot of women overdo the pheromone thing. Maybe a subtle hint might attract a male, but the weapons-grade crap some women liberally douse themselves with is a strong turn-off.

Great article, interesting even for us men who don't tend to wear it! I think the other commenters have a good point about photos vs. real life, but the caveat I would throw in there is that most women I know who do wear makeup and look good, do their makeup so it's not obvious they're wearing it. I think the men who don't like makeup are just thinking of those women who pancake the stuff on, which isn't really how it's supposed to be used (I'm guessing).

Kristen, do you have a reference for this pheromone stuff? From what I've read in the past it's a complete load of bs, kind of like the acai berry stuff. AFAIK, humans don't really have the sensitivity to pheromones that other animals do. I find some perfumes attractive, but I don't think it's quite as powerful as you make it out to be. However, I will forever love the following line from your post: "People can buy them in perfume form, and deceive people by giving off the impression that they are "desireable" when they really aren't."

Isn't that known as the Coyote Ugly hypothesis?

By Rob Monkey (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

I have always wondered why makeup makes us more attractive, and I always came to the conclusion that it was because it was a fashion trend. Itâs really interesting that it is actually due to horomones, but my question is what happens to people who have darker or different skin tones. Assuming that this study is based off Caucasians, does the same thing happen to other ethnicities? I think that youâre on to something, but I am curious on what would happen if the study was extended further.

Any studies on good vs. bad make-up application? I don't know about the original Geuguen study, but I think there might be a difference found between women who try to make make-up "look" natural vs. more obvious/clownish application. I am guessing that the photos were of women with a more conservative or natural application, but I could be wrong.

Just had to pipe in to correct Kristen @ #8 -- humans don't have pheromones (or at least, there's never been a peer-reviewed study done which shows that pheromones have any effect on humans). It's a common misconception perpetuated by the perfume industry.

There are reasons that haven't been discussed yet why men might say they prefer women without makeup. Jealousy, for example -- a man might enjoy the appearance of arousal that makeup gives, but be uncomfortable when his own wife or girlfriend wears makeup out in public, because he doesn't like seeing her interact with other men while showing those signs of arousal.

There's also a few simple practical issues: makeup tastes gross and leaves smears and stains, so a passionate make-out session with a made-up woman (or man -- I've dated guys who wear lipstick) can actually be kind of unpleasant. Cleaning a girl's makeup off your collar, pillowcases, etc can be a PITA, too.

Guys who are more conscious of makeup's effects might dislike it because they view it as dishonest or deceptive. It doesn't prevent them being turned on by an initial view of a made-up face, but once they consciously realize that there is make-up there, they may feel betrayed.

And, of course, poorly done makeup can often have the opposite effect of what is intended. Overused, makeup can actually make you look older, because we have a cultural perception of older "cougar" women wearing plastered-on makeup to cover wrinkles and age spots. Even if those things aren't there underneath the layers an layers of stuff on your face, people will assume their presence.

I've had my boyfriend treating me to the "you never wear makeup, you're so attractive without it" speech while I've been wearing full face. (Subtle, daytime makeup, but still the works.) I took it as a complement on my painting skills: I suspect that a lot of the "I don't like makeup" comes from seeing women in badly-applied makeup. After all, too-heavy foundation and powder can entirely hide that flushing and skin translucency that signals ovulation; solid, thin khol lines make your eyes look small and ratty; overplucked brows de-emphasise your eye region entirely; wrong texture choices of makeup can worsen the appearance of wrinkles and expression lines.

By stripey_cat (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

My photography site has a before/after Photoshop post that illustrates how important eyes can be:

The biggest change I can make is getting rid of eye circles and enhancing eye contrast. The article is spot on with anecdotal experience.

The other big factor is symmetry. That's also been pretty well shown in the animal kingdom.

There is a good website where someone created an average face based on geographic region. Because of the averaging process, it made the faces symmetric and thereby attractive too.

Since the names Christie and Christine are so similar, I'm hoping that a large portion of the Make-up Blogs votes were mistakenly credited to her but placed by people trying to vote for you.
Good Luck, you rock!

As a fellow female graduate student in the sciences, the italicized text at the beginning of this post is off-putting. It's fine to promote yourself but suggesting this makeup blogger is lesser than a little much. You may not realize that is what it seems you are suggesting but realize now. It also off-putting because this is a central problem with science communicating with a general audience, there is no need to be arrogant. In fact, this article would have been far more interesting if you extended these ideas farther to discuss the retaining of this practice in American culture: like discussing the lack of FDA regulation on cosmetics, recent consumer concern with the removal of a handful of chemicals from these products, etc. As scientists, we will never have any pull with the public if we don't also pay attention to culture and use it as tool.


I detect some concern trolling.

As for the makeup blog, I felt dumber for having read it. Really, she wants a scholarship for that? My inner raging feminist finds it insulting that so much attention should be spent on products that increase women's likelihood of objectification. But I don't have room to talk because I am a loyal user of Smashbox and Shu Uemura cosmetics (I'm 30, and I still get acne).

Nonetheless, do I think a makeup blog is beneath a ScienceBlog? Hells yes, I do. I believe science is a far more worthwhile pursuit than playing dress-up. Does that make me arrogant? Probably, but I don't care. The other blog's just about makeup.

My second vote would have gone to The Oakbook, not surprising since I was a Cal Bear (in molecular cell biology, in fact), and I love the (510).

By Rogue Epidemiologist (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

@mjr, I didn't find anything in this post's opening the slightest bit arrogant, but then again, maybe the subtle nuances were lost on this not fellow female graduate student in the sciences.

@mjr - it seemed pretty gentle to me. One promotes one's self: this is how one succeeds in public media (or anything, really.)

@Rogue E - I'm pretty much with you on that. If we take Temptalia to be representative of blogs about cosmetics, and the "most inspiring [moment] in [Ms. Milke's] journey has been seeing the entire beauty community come together to create a spreadsheet to help people find the best foundation shade," science communication is pretty much hands down more important than... um... cosmetic communication.

I think a lot of makeup's effect could be that it serves as an overt signal - as was mentioned, wearing makeup to go out can advertise that you consider the outing the be of a certain status (if to a club, that you seek to look pretty and so attract attention; if to a fine restaurant, that you consider the meal to be socially important; etc.) It may have started as an attempt at deception (and it may be subconsiously deceptive,) but by now I think it can communicate a lot as a deliberate sign, just like a lot of dressing up.

This is a great post! Like Gwen, I assumed without researching it that it was little more than a fashion trend. It's interesting to see that -- and why -- that intuition was wrong. (Good thing intuitions are starting points, not ending points.)

This is my second visit to your blog, and I think I'll stick around. I wandered over after PZ's second plug on Pharyngula. Having checked out your competition for the scholarship as well, I'm certain I made the right choice in voting for your blog. Good luck! The win would be well-deserved.

Hope this makes up for it.

[...and this one is from ""... which probably will make the comment make a lot more sense to everyone else who can't see the e-mail addresses like I can]

I wear makeup because I love putting it on and playing with colors. It has nothing to do with my self-esteem or trying to look «sexy»... It's a passion for me and so it is for Christine.

By Catherine (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

I really am offended by some of the comments made on this post. To have a blog dedicated to cosmetics does not make it less important than one dedicated to science.. It's purely based on a person's opinion. I truly did find this article interesting but Christie I must say some of your readers are quite narrow-minded.

That is not what makeup is about. It is about self confidence, and, although helps women's outer beauty, it also helps inner beauty by making the wearer feel better about themselves. Makeup is not about sex. It is art, and your face is your canvas. Science is great. Makeup is great. You shouldn't bash a makeup website, just because you think it's beneath you.

To Rosalie, Haley and Catherine, and any other Temptalia or makeup fans: I want to be clear that I am in no way 'bashing' or putting down Christine's blog. This post is not about makeup being inferior or bad, and I never said that nor am I saying it now. I just found it - gosh, dare I say it - scientifically fascinating that makeup had touched so many people out there. Which, being a scientist, made me generally start thinking about why people use makeup, and where the use of makeup may have come from. This is a post about how makeup and science are one, not how they are separate or one is lesser than the other!

Wow. I completely agree with "Haley" & "Catherine". Why must you put down a make-up blog? It's obviously interesting to us. And since we obviously have a life outside of our computer, we are more valuable since we chose to take a moment out of our busy lives to read her helpful blogs.... you don't have to put someone down just because you feel intimidated.... jerks.

"As for the makeup blog, I felt dumber for having read it. Really, she wants a scholarship for that?" "I believe science is a far more worthwhile pursuit than playing dress-up."

She wants a scholarship for going to graduate school to study law. Do you truly call yourself a feminist? I personally am so sick of hearing women attack each other.

You are way too cocky, and believe "you are the best" blogger entered into this competition. You have your faults, and cockiness is one of the major ones.

@TheTruth - What a tone troll you are. You concern is noted, and ignored. Anyone who calls themself "TheTruth" is probably trying to hide something.

By psycholist (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

thanks for this post...i know for a fact christine mielke has much more class than you.
["Linda", or, I can see your IP address and therefore I can see that you are the same person as "YOU LIE" and YouCocky. Sockpuppetry will get you banned from this blog, as well as the site.]

"And since we obviously have a life outside of our computer, we are more valuable since we chose to take a moment out of our busy lives to read her helpful blogs"

tsk tsk. For shame, karen. For shame. And how is your high-school-esque stab at women in the scientific community (ie. those without lives outside of the computer, apparently) any better than the bitter comments towards christine?

So glad I've been voting for Christine/Temptalia, especially after reading this. How's the view up there on your pedestal?

By 01FancyNancy (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

Christie, I love and read Temptalia's blog daily, and enjoy it just as much as I do yours and other scienceblogs. But for me, this wonderfully written post really spoke to both my passions - make-up and science! That tipped the scales.

Best of luck!!

You only have more votes because your name is similar to Christina Mielke...

i wear makeup for confidence. i've had terrible acne and it's with makeup that i was able to really talk to people, to be more confident. i'm not saying you're bashing christine, or makeup, but i find it unfair that you've placed makeup as something solely used for sex.

as for whoever said that christine doesn't deserve this scholarship because her blog is based on makeup, have you READ her blog? she puts so much dedication into the blog, and anyone who puts that much dedication into a blog, regardless of what topic, deserves some recognition. just because what christie writes seems to have more academia and seems to have more 'credit' attached to it, does not automatically mean she's a good blogger, nor does it mean she, out of all those other bloggers, deserves the scholarship more than anyone else.

Some of the comments on here are disgusting. How could you possibly put down Christine when you know nothing about her? You may think makeup is shallow but in reality you're the ones who are shallow for thinking that just because she writes a makeup blog she doesn't deserve to win. Christine is really sweet and works hard on her blog just as Christie does. I was disgusted to read someone say that Christine's votes must have been accidental. They're were not accidental; Christine's blog gets tons of views each day. (Not sure how many but her facebook page has almost 10,000 'likes') She replies to questions quickly and her blog is a great resource for makeup swatches and reviews.

There are many reasons women use makeup. Some feel they need it, some just feel more confident when they wear it, others use it to express themselves artistically. Its not all superficial and Temptalia is not beneath this blog in any way. Make up is Christine's hobby; however, it isn't what defines her. To think that way is incredibly narrow minded.

Christie, I appreciate what you said above. I did find the opening paragraph of this post slightly condescending though judging from your comment above it doesn't seem like you meant it that way. My comment wasn't an attack on you at all. I just felt I had to say this in response to some of the other posters. I wish you the best of luck.


I simply find it interesting you choose to write a blog on this topic when coincidently you are in a scholarship battle with a big beauty blogger, both of you well above anyone else in voting.
What bothers me about the underlying catty nature of that as well as the comments is that WHAT the blog is about shouldn't/doesn't matter. What matters is that the contestants put their heart and soul into their blog. It is important to them, it does not need to be analyzed or compared to another subject. Christine from Temptalia seems to put a hell of an effort into her blog, I don't care if it's about make up, neurobiology, or cream cheese, if she is passionate about it and puts the effort and time into sharing that then her blog is a success. End of story. It would be the same for any blogger.
Just food for though for those quick to dismiss those who think Temptalia is beneath this or any other blog.

i'm sorry but this is very much unneccesary. questioning why someone is interested in makeup and blogging about it is like asking why you are so interested in science? because everyone has their interests and hobbies and just like how science makes you happy, makeup makes other women and christine happy.

By natasha b (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

I'm a reader of Temptalia and beauty forums and am makeup obsessed.

That said, I found out about you because the youtube beauty blogger xsparkage asked her subscribers (me included) to vote for Christine Mielke. And I just have to say... good LORD are some of the people that hopped over from Temptalia completely moronic. This post isn't even slightly offensive or rude to Christine Mielke and, in the end, yes-- science is way more important than makeup. Guess what, a scientist can formulate a jar of MAC Studio Sculpt Concealer for all the vain gals out there who are unable to return the favor.

So, good luck Christie and I hope the huge endorsement by xsparkage (she has a gazillion viewers) doesn't affect your chance to win!

By UC Berkeley un… (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

Wow, it makes me really angry to see so many ignorant comments on this post. Make-up is not just something superficial. It is an art, it is a form of expression and it is something that makes countless women feel confident and beautiful everyday. From evolutionary point of views, it may be considered to be entirely sexual, but in modern day, for a lot of women AND men it is so much more than that. A lot of the facts presented in this article are common knowledge, at least I knew all of this research already, and it is of course from an evolutionary and scientific perspective which is what this blog caters to. However, makeup has a lot more facets to it. It is something a lot of people wear because they wear it for themselves, because it interests them, it fascinates them and it gives people an ability to create things. To all you people on your high pedestals, there is just as much merit to loving makeup as an art as there is to loving science. Christine from Temptalia is a super hard working individual who shows that you can be hard working, determined, have a love for cosmetics and be in an intellectually challenging and demanding field. She is finishing a degree in law, which I would like to say is just as prestigious as science and her dedication to her blog, her commitment to her readers and her kind and generous nature is EXACTLY why she should win this scholarship. Christie your blog seems great too but I really think Christine deserves this. Just my opinion.

Christie, I read both your blog AND Christine's. I just want to remind everyone that there is no way, on the basis of CONTENT, to judge one blog as superior to the other. That is a matter of SUBJECTIVITY because they are on entirely different topics. It's like saying "What's better, sports or painting?". I'm sure this contest is NOT being judged on blog content, but rather on the amount of effort that the blog owner puts into their blog, how organized it is, how responsive they are to their readers, etc.

With that being said, I'm APPALLED at the commenters suggesting that since they view Christine's topic (cosmetics) as trivial in comparison to science, she must somehow be less of a blogger or putting in less effort than someone who blogs about science. That girl puts up in depth posts MULTIPLE times a day. The amount of time she puts into testing and comparing hundreds of products must add up to months, if not years. She is also out in stores and in constant contact with numerous companies, keeping on top of their release dates, programs, policies, etc. While this is obviously different than scholarly research, it is still research. It still requires TIME and EFFORT. Both Christie and Christine do their research (whatever it may be) and report back to their readers in an interesting and informative manner that has some of their own personal experience/opinion/oomph put into it. For this, they are BOTH commendable bloggers.

Yes, science is probably more important to mankind at the end of the day than cosmetics. But to judge either blog or bloggER based off of this is, I feel, entirely inappropriate for this contest.

It's ridiculous how people are acting. This isn't an offensive blog, not in the slightest. Geez, people.

However, it is only looking at makeup from one point of veiw. Many people, especially those who take full-on hobbies from it, see makeup as an art. Not to attract the opposite sex, but to express themselves.

You clearly stated in one of your comments that you are basically insulted that a makeup blog is your biggest competition. Of course Science is more important to the world.
Your tone though? Arrogant. Your passion is science. Her passion is makeup. Its clear you don't respect that. I'm sorry for those whose passion lie in something that is of lesser importance than science! They must be dumbos roighht!

"As for the makeup blog, I felt dumber for having read it. Really, she wants a scholarship for that?"
Like you, she wants a scholarship to continue pursuing her education, and no its not her MBA in Cosmetology.

You need to get off your high horse. Humble yourself. Whether you have 5 views or 50,000 views, you in no way should degrade anybody's passion or dreams because YOU THINK in your narrow minded world that YOU ARE TOOOO SMART be in competition with someone of that stature.
Its all in good competition.

Why is that we class people who wear glasses and no makeup to be smart and those who wear makeup to be dumb. Its ridiculous. Times have changed. Lots of models are walking around with degrees etc etc. Beauty with brains! Its been out awhile now like Temptalia.

(I'm 30, and I still get acne). Theres cosmetics for that hun :)

The article, was indeed interesting. Thumbs up

Christine, do you wear make-up?

The reason men tell the women they are dating/married to that they look better without makeup is to lessen the chances of other men hitting on the women. In other words, they are lying to protect what they have from the competition.

By Dale Husband (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

Don't worry dude, Reddit has your back.

Wow. That BLEW UP! As a woman who has a cosmetics fetish AND is pursuing her PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience, I can objectively say, "Who cares?" Enough with the popularity contest. Back to the science! (That was what this post was originally about, wasn't it?)

Referencing comments 8-13 about pheromones:

A pheromone is a chemical messenger secreted by one animal that influences the behavior of another individual of that same species. In species such as mice, these signals are picked up by the vomeronasal organ and convey information about individual identity, social status, physical health, and sexual receptivity.

It is true that human pheromones have not yet been identified and isolated (so any perfume you might buy that says "pheromone" is BS), and the vomeronasal organ is greatly reduced in humans, but this does not eliminate the possibility of human pheromones.

It has been demonstrated that humans have preferences for the body odors of members of the opposite sex with high genetic value, and in women this preference is modulated by menstrual cycle phase (Roney & Simmons, 2008). And by "high genetic value" I mean healthy, symmetrical mates with immune systems complementary to the subject's. In these experiments, the only stimuli the participant was given was a series of white t-shirts sealed in Ziploc bags which had been worn by members of the opposite sex (no deodorant, scented soaps, lotions, etc allowed) and they were asked to rate them on a Likert scale.

But since human pheromones aren't going to be on the market any time soon, your best bet is a healthy lifestyle and a little skillfully applied makeup. (-_^)

Excellent blog post. I used to be a makeup fanatic myself. I love how you tied in your competition's blog theme to your own.

Thanks for sharing this! You most definitely get my vote. Good luck!

All of this science is true and supports the idea of cosmetics as a way to attract a male but it's kind of silly to not mention that nowadays it's not all like that at all.

Women are interested in makeup beyond that, men are interested in makeup and hell people make careers out of it. They're sure as hell not doing it to get a man. Might as well mention the evolution of makeup beyond mate selection.

The comments on this post are ridiculous. What does the subject of Temptalia's blog matter in terms of everything? It doesn't make her any less deserving considering the time and effort she puts into it, just like you put time and effort into your blog. Of course her JD/MBA dual program can't possibly compare to science?

I'm really disappointed with the timing of this post. I originally learned about the blog scholarship from Temptalia, but also thought it was VERY cool that you were a contender because you are going to UH Manoa, where my husband went to grad school. He also comes from a very scientific family. I thought it was cool that you were representing science, UH Manoa, and Hawaii. The intro to this post did not come off well. After reading other's impressions, I know I'm not overanalyzing/imagining things. Even though Christine Mielke is in California, she has so much more Aloha.

Wow, I think my head just exploded from all the negative, catty comments and baseless assumptions made in the aftermath of this post...

Christie, I have to apologize for all the people from Temptalia and YouTube coming here to attack you for this post. It's more than a little ridiculous how people are jumping to conclusions based on vibes they think they're picking up on that aren't actually there--as well as feelings they get from some of the comments made by people that aren't even you.

This post was in no way implying that makeup bloggers are inferior to science bloggers, that Christine (from Temptalia) is shallow or dumb or less deserving than Christie (from this blog), or that makeup is solely useful in leading to selecting a compatible sexual partner. For those of you who haven't done scientific research and written papers and articles: this is how science works. In daily life, we often come up with research questions and ideas because they're related to something we encounter. Then, as researchers, we think about it further, and then rather cover all 90,000 ways to analyze that question and viewpoints surrounding it, we pick one and go with it. If there's room and time, we pick and second and maybe a third, too. But articles are not black and white. This is not the end-all-be-all of Christie's thoughts on the matter and has very little to do with her opinions of the Temptalia blog, makeup blogging in general, or personal choices to wear makeup. The article, I'd presume, is simply Christie's take on the topic of her competition, since she knows very little about the huge "beauty community" and the obsessions some people may develop here. Her take is from her field of expertise and topic of her blog: science and biology. I'd like to see Christine write a post in the near future on the biology of makeup or the cellular composition of certain cosmetic products and why they help and hinder perfect application or skin and body health. Something, anything, that stretches her writing and research into an area that she may not be entirely comfortable with and may have to work at and really think about to get to write up.

Christie, thanks for the interesting and very well-written article! Even though I'm a reader of Temptalia, you most certainly have won my vote. :D

And about the name confusion, there's a very clear link on the voting page for you to read through who all the contestants are. If you're not entirely sure of who you should be voting for ("Is Temptalia's name Christie or Christine?"), why not do a slight bit of reading?

By Fellow Scienti… (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

I`m sorry to inform you Ms. but you only have lots of votes because your name came first and is similar to Christine...
Really, thats it.
Your blog is sooo boring!

I think it is important to note that women often don't simply wear make-up for the benefit of their desired mates, but because they enjoy how they look, and enjoy fucking just as much as the next guy.

Here is how Christie's blog post actually comes across (in my opinion, but it's a very strongly held opinion). It comes across as Christie's nod of respect to Christine, a way of treating Christine as a worthy adversary by building a bridge between her own passion (science) and Christine's (makeup). Dedicating a blog post to Christine's topic of choice is the very opposite of from being condescending or catty. It is closer to bowing to your opponent during a staged battle.

For another link between science and make-up, compare this (a recent product review on Temptalia) with this (a view of distant stars through a telescope). Way for a woman to have the universe at her fingertips. :-) (Actually, I prefer this colour, for reasons owing more to my interest in fantasy than in science. Reminds me of dragon skin!)

Interesting post, but today, makeup is definitely more than a way to attract the opposite sex. Today, makeup is really like art and as someone mentioned before - your own face, or other faces are canvas. :)

Also, it really helps women to feel more confident about themselves and not because they want to attract males, but because they really need to feel confident. And you don't have to use a lot makeup, just a small amount on the right features of your face makes a huge difference.

And when it comes to men who say they prefer natural - that's really BS which they sell to their girlfriends, lol. Luckily, my boyfriend really does love makeup on me, and so do I. Not because of him, because of myself. :)

It was very clear to me that there was no ill-will intended in Christie's blog; quite the contrary, it appeared that she found a really neat observation and directed her own world-view (science) toward it, in order to better understand it. There was no value judgment being made whatsoever.

I look forward to a future post of Christie's, looking at the science of ingroup-outgroup polarization in response to perceived threat, and how that might take an innocuous comment and turn it into a perceived catty insult. I only wonder if she could find an example to use... (again, to be blunt, both the use of makeup and the polarization of opinion in inter-group contact are part of what makes us human. It is no insult to examine such things through the lens of science.)

@ Christie - the scholarships in the bag!

@ E - This is one of the few, very few, blogs that I have read for a very long time and still enjoy to this day. It may be boring to you, but Chirstie has a massive following that loves this awesome blog.

Wow, some seriously nasty catty stuff here. It's tempting to reply in kind, but probably best not to.

Anyway, here's my criticism, too, which I hope reads more as amusing snark with a point. You say In the end, we are drawn to makeup is that it taps into our primal urge to find a young, healthy mate who will produce lots of kids so that we can pass on our genes. Now, whaddaya mean "we"? Why is your generic human apparently a heterosexual male? All of your post is about women wearing makeup, and how makeup enhances various signals from women to men.

So sorry, but I'm certainly not looking for a woman to pass on my genes! And aren't you a woman, too? While I'm cool with it if you do want to marry a woman with nice makeup, I'm afraid it's not going to help you pass on your genes any.

It's also odd that you write about makeup for women only, given that you at least mentioned ancient Egypt, where makeup was worn by both sexes. And I'm not sure I believe in the general applicability of your studies. I'm guessing that the test subjects were modern western undergraduate males, mostly American, who if confronted with, say, a Japanese beauty of the Edo period with her black teeth and no eyebrows, would be quite repulsed.

I wish I could make a law that anyone wanting to make evolutionary psych generalisations about all humans should first be required to take some anthropology and cultural history classes.

I have a comment currently waiting in the moderation queue (because it contains links, triggering moderation). I'm sure it will appear upthread eventually, but it seems I misjudged when Christie would be around to approve it. In the meantime, @Cuttlefish comes closest to expressing the same sentiment.

@James ...and just how do you think the women that "enjoy fucking as much as the next guy" are landing the men they fuck, if not by being perceived as attractive? A guy isn't approaching a woman from across the bar because he's attracted to her sparkling personality. That's what men find out AFTER approaching a woman they find attractive.

Christie is simply looking at the HOW and WHY the wearing of makeup came to be. She is not saying that is the only reason people wear or like makeup (although everyone here needs to recognize that mate-seeking is not beneath any of you). The urge to pass on your genes is a driving factor for all living organisms. We still all make mate choices in light of evolution-the desire to pass on our DNA and produce viable offspring. That star football player you're attracted to--well his children will be more likely to be athletic and will by physically superior. The brainiac you fall for--his children will be intelligent. The guy you love that is sweet and takes care of you when he's sick--he'll be a good father because he is a nurturing and will put time and effort into raising his offspring. Living organisms want offspring that will survive to further pass on the genetic line- the fastest can outrun, the smartest can outwit. No human is above it- you pick your mates on some perceived ability to provide or pass on good genetic material- whether it is wealth, intelligence, or some physical characteristic.

Of course, those who are saying there is more to makeup are also right. Makeup has become an art form, with the face as a canvas. That's why there are the Kevyn Aucoins of the world, that's why you can find makeup in all its varieties and colors. Christie isn't saying that makeup can't also be an art, or a form of self-expression, she is simply explaining the evolutionary drivers BEHIND makeup.

I can't believe all of the people coming here to bash Christie. They're like people who can't separate their personal identity from a sports team.

Christie and Christine are both finalists because they maintain excellent blogs while attending school. Both of them deserve to win, but only one can. Please stop confusing losing with tyranny.

Don't let these assholes get you down Christie. They are insignificant compared to the 100,000+ people who support you!

To all the people making ridiculous claims as to how Wilcox got so many votes:

You are wrong: it has nothing to do with the similar names or the order the blogs are listed. It's because the scholarship poll was advertised by Wilcox's colleagues here at Scienceblogs, including noted most popular atheist blogger PZ Myers. I know PZ said otherwise, but this really is just another example of how online polls are a terrible way of deciding things.

Anyway, bratty, misinformed comments like "you only have lots of votes because your name came first" just won't cut it here on Scienceblogs.

By rienzi0711 (not verified) on 05 Nov 2010 #permalink


It's also because she's made the front page of

By psycholist (not verified) on 05 Nov 2010 #permalink

Yeah, that too.

By rienzi0711 (not verified) on 05 Nov 2010 #permalink


SciBlogs certainly has commentors with better manners, and thats saying something...

Im trying to cure HIV/AIDS. I actually just got something to work that might (hoping) be a technological break-through in the field. Im kinda really, really smart. And, I read make-up blogs, as I love make-up. Currently wearing royal blue eyeliner with sparkly white eyeshadow. So hot with my lake water, blue-green eyes. So hot.

But content wise, the Tempalia blog isnt even comparable to Observations of a Nerd, and it has nothing to do with make-up.

I read make-up blogs. They are all like Tempalia. I see no innovation or depth there beyond the stock-standard format. And, there are no reviews for drug-store brands (if not outright contempt for drug-store brands), which is off putting to a 'fellow student'. Its difficult to be sympathetic towards a student asking for a $10K scholarship, while she is turning up her nose at less-than-$30 eyeshadows.

As someone who is comfortable interacting with both social circles, the in/out group dynamics is cute (though almost certainly distressing for both Christies, youre not helping, jerk commentors), content wise, we are comparing a stock content blog to a multiple 3 Quark/Research Blogging/Open Lab winner.


I was disappointed to read through the primary sources for this article and find that the vast majority of the research into human attractiveness is performed with Caucasian subjects only (one study included a group of Caucasians and a group on East Asians, but that was the only effort to represent non-Caucasians that I noticed). Were these studies conducted in places with such homogenous populations that only Caucasian subjects were available? Without data from other ethnic groups, you can't make conclusions about *human* attractiveness, only about *Caucasian* attractiveness.

Also, none of the studies mentioned controlling for the sexual orientation of the male or female subjects, or of the males and females rating their attractiveness. If you are testing for the relationship between ovulation/ fertility and attractiveness, sexual orientation would be a confounding factor.

Though the actual words weren't blatantly offensive, I believe the writer knew what she was doing. This article was completely unnecessary and inappropriate.

Erv I'm guessing you really didn't do your research, which is surprising for someone who is scientific because Christine does indeed review drugstore brands as well. There's no "turning up her nose" at anything and you know what they about people who assume things...Speaking as a well educated science nerd myself, I find myself disgusted by supporters who are so narrowminded to belittle other people's passions and work because th ey differ from their own. So much for being objective.

I think you are both doing a great job with your blogs and your studies. Liking makeup does not mean you're superficial or "anti-feminist" (I should know as i'm both a member of a feminist party and owner of a succesful business). I think some of the comments on this blog show how much we still have to work at equality, especially in the US. Best of luck to Christie and Christine, you are both winners to me.


I hope you don't let all of these spiteful comments -- based on willful misunderstanding of things you've written here -- spoil a good competition and (hopefully) a win.

Knee-Jerk Commenters,

Seriously? What exactly is offensive about this? I read this not as putting down Temptalia, its participants, or its readers but as something of a nod in their direction, a hat tip to a worthy competitor. Sure, some of the commenters here and elsewhere have suggested that a make-up blog is shallow, its writers vain, etc. This is unfortunate and those of you affected by such comments have every right to feel hurt and offended. But Christie hasn't said any of this. Surely we can't hold her responsible for other people's claims!

It's a bloody popularity contest on the internet. There's no need to tear down the winner because she's not the competitor you favour. Pot-kettle-black, kids. You're the ones devaluing another's work, not Christie.

Yeah, a grand total of zero Loreal reviews this year, one review of Physicians Formula (ever), one Hard Candy review this year, zero Neutrogena, three Cover Girl reviews, a few Rimmel, zero Sally Hanson, handful of Maybelline (almost all the same product, but different posts/different colors=cop out), same thing with Milani (even though Milani is so frigging amazing I would think even a snob would have to notice), and no Wet N Wild ($1 for eyeliner?????)-- vs literally hundreds of MAC, alone.

And then we get the Q: "Whats your favorite drug store brand?"
A: "Dont have one."

Then we have a YouTuber singing her praises for how she only reviews 'high end' products.

Its obvious to a casual observer, like myself, that drug store brands are despised and looked down on by the blogger. I find that unattractive in someone asking for money.

I also think its obvious you arent a well educated science nerd, because you called me 'Erv'.

As a longtime reader of Christine/Temptalia I am embarrassed by some of the comments you've received. Your blog is really interesting and I can see why you have so many votes. A few of Temptalia's readers are very young and it's making me cringe to see their petty comments alongside your intelligent reader's comments. Your blog is obviously about something completely different! Christine/Temptalia herself is a lovely person and most of her readers are not this...weird. Anyway, good luck to you. Great blog :-)

Considering she is buying most of the products herself and is not writing her blog for profit, maybe she has a right to review brands she is interested in or is most asked for? If I wanted to read reviews on drugstore brands I can go to other sites.

I don't know how you can infer that she despises something because she doesn't have a favorite. I don't have a favorite fruit, does that mean I hate eating them? No, I prefer different ones depending on the season or my mood.

I also fail to see how not capitalizing your poster name makes me an uneducated science nerd. I'm sorry my phone doesn't recognize it as an acronynm

Pay no mind to the insults some cretins have posted here. Obviously they didn't read what you wrote.

It's just a few hours 'til the voting ends and you're looking great!

I'll take a chance and offer congratulations right now.

By Janice in Toronto (not verified) on 05 Nov 2010 #permalink

I'm confused. In many animal species, including ours until recently, males have been equally if not more committed to using beautifying techniques to attract females.

Why is this subject being presented as if the last 100 years or so in human history is the only norm?

By Chgo_Liz, Danc… (not verified) on 05 Nov 2010 #permalink

So... women wear makeup to make themselves look younger and more fertile. I guess that begs the question of why men don't use makeup. Is there something about the shape or proportions of men's faces that makes makeup a no-go? Perhaps it's the facial hair? Would be interesting to see a study based on male makeup use. Might tell us how much is genetic/psychological and how much is cultural?

I already voted for Temptalia (oops) before I had a chance to check out her competition and after I have read several of your articles and the discussions in the comments and then comparing them to the discussion on Temptalia and the catty (and yes, cringe-worthy) comments from her readers here, I wish I could change my vote. Generally I would like to support that which is elevating the social and intelligence level of the internet rather than the other way around.

Way to go Temptalia readers (note sarcasm to the many who obviously need it blatantly pointed out)!

And I immediately thought of this post as a respectful nod to a rival rather than a snub but I guess it's easy for someone who is insecure about their hobby to think otherwise.

@cath - the overwhelming majority of people interested in women are heterosexual males.

@paul - youth is not an honest indicator of the ability to produce superior offspring in human males. in females, the likelihood of successfully maintaining a pregnancy and producing an infant without serious defects is strongly correlated with age.

also, the inanity of the trolls in this thread is extraordinary. 0/10 for all of you.

By James Dean (not verified) on 05 Nov 2010 #permalink

Hey! Am I really the first to say?--voting is over, it's all said and done, and Christie is the winner!

Congratulations! Well-earned!

Congratulations Christie! I have to admit, I'm an occasional reader of Temptalia and a make-up junkie, but I'm glad you won. Personally I was appalled Christine could ask for people to vote for her to win a scholarship while practically bragging about the amount of money she spends on cosmetics. $80+ for an eyeshadow palette? $52 for a lipstick? Purchasing every item in MAC's seemingly weekly new collection? And realistically, how many times does she wear each eyeshadow or lipstick before it gets tossed in her enormous pile only to be forgotten? I enjoy makeup as much as the next woman, but I can't support someone who spends that much money on cosmetics and then asks for money. If she has that much money to spend on makeup, then she has money to pay off her student loans. Again, congratulations Christie, you deserve it!

@James Dean: The quality of male's sperm does decline with age--older men produce more offspring with genetic defects. And at the same time, infertility rises. In addition, sperm is not the only thing human males donate to reproduction. They help raise, protect, and provide for the children. It gets a little complex on how that would influence a woman's mating choices, but a young man has vigor and longevity on his side.

Women might be more generous than men in their willingness to accept an older mate, but age clearly matters to women as well. And men, in turn, work on concealing their age in various ways. They just don't typically wear make up in our society to do so (but you can find other societies where they have.)

I know this thread kinda got hijacked, but incase anyones still reading comments, I think there's something you're missing with this: "...their actions speak louder than their words. Study after study has found that when shown pictures of women with and without their makeup, men consistently rate images with makeup as more attractive, confident, and healthier."

There is a *major* difference between asking someone what they think of a person they love and admire and cherish, and asking them to rate random faces. A man might love the way his girlfriend looks 'naturally' because she is beautiful to him, and means much more to him, yet random faces in a bar he prefers looking as 'pretty' as possible.

Same with both sexes. I prefer guys with nice abs, but that doesn't mean I'd prefer my boyfriend to look any different. The way I feel about him and his looks is different to the way I feel about random guys I might check out in a bar.

And I never wear makeup. Can't be bothered, it all seems myseriously complicated.

I never thought of the reason why we put on makeup the way you did. I always thought that makeup was to hide our flaws so we can feel and look better not really because weâre trying to find someone whoâll give us a good looking offspring. After reading this I thought that it all does make sense. Why do girls wear makeup? Probably because of guys but I think most girls are afraid to admit that, and I think most of the time they just say that they do because they want to. When I was looking at your picture (before I read the description) I thought they were two completely different people! I assumed that the one on the left was a girl and the right was a boy. I was surprised when I read that the pictures were of one person just with two different skin tones. It kind of made me realize that males and females are more similar than I thought. The red lipstick part surprised me too. I never knew that your lips turn redder when youâre ovulating. I also didnât know that by putting on red lipstick itâs showing others that youâre ovulating. This post overall made me so interested in learning more about the reason why we wear makeup and why we put on what we put on (i.e. blush, concealer, foundation etc.). I wish to see you write more about this topic; it seems like you know a lot about it.

Ah, I love your post! The science of makeup â I did not know wearing a makeup would relate to science! I do NOT wear makeup. In fact, Iâve only worn makeup once or twice for a special occasion. I treated makeup as a tool to brighten up (?) my face for special events, but it seems that makeup is an essential item in order to appeal to men when women aren't near ovulation (I never knew our faces change to make ourselves look more attractive). Oh, and itâs interesting how the exact same face can be perceived as either male or female. Maybe I should wear a makeup since my mom always tells me I look like a boy with my short hair⦠Anyways, itâs amazing how everything leads to the ultimate goal of humans or other animals: Reproduce.

By Heidi Kwak (not verified) on 08 Nov 2010 #permalink

I loved your post! This cleared some of my questions on why women prefer to wear makeup. I mean, I understand that it makes you look more attractive, but I never really understood why it made us feel that way. I was impressed and kind of surprised that science can be used to explain the things that appeal to the emotional side as well as the physical side. The one thing that particularly sparked my interest, though, was when you talked about studies that showed that womenâs faces are more attractive to both sexes during the fertile and menstrual phases. Do you know what studies were made specifically? It would help to know what kind of experiment they did with what kind of variables. Other than that, though, amazing job, it was very entertaining and educational!

Attractiveness! One of my favorites topics. It seems people got genuinely offended over this. Strange.

It seems culture commonly trumps biology, though we can trace what we find attractive back to biology. (An example of blackened teeth was given -- surely evolution would suggest white teeth to be more attractive, but the culture wins in that situation.)

I found all the comments about "make-up not being about sex, but women feeling confident," strange. Saying it's about sex makes it sound all crazy and erotic, but when a woman wants to feel confident it's because she wants to feel that she is attractive, and chances are, her standards of attractiveness at least overlap with many others. She wants to feel attractive. This relates to sex. However, I agree that make-up is an art in that much of it is experimentation or fun, interesting designs that don't have any evolutionary background. This would be hard to approach from science, so it's obvious why it's not here. Also, the art of make-up in simply being a skilled applier.

This relates to something else. Men that claim they prefer no make-up? I don't think they know when someone is wearing make-up well. I mean, a well-done face with light, natural eye make-up pretty much looks bare to many men. People that don't know much about make-up wouldn't know enough to be able to pick that out. So those people probably mean they don't like dark, heavy eye make-up or face make-up they can see (which, come on, no one should). I think this is important. I hear all the time from guys that they prefer no make-up, but I get far more attention (even from intellectual and loving men, men I've been in relationships in, etc.) if I wear make-up and style my hair. It's something I've grown to accept!

Also, make-up is not degrading to women. I'm appalled anyone would think that. I applaud any woman who doesn't wish to wear make-up and feels fine without it. I also applaud those who are able to go outside with a smile because they can apply it just right to feel pretty. Make-up is fun. I thoroughly enjoy paying my face close attention. It's a sort of pampering that women can get away with, in fact, are expected to, and I admit, I'm glad I can. Combining colors, matching them with your skin, watching your skin go from plain to dewey and flawless. It's fun. It may not be an intellectual, heady exercise, but there's nothing wrong with it.

Ah -- make-up, how I love thee. :)

The number of comments on this post shows an already lively debate but I wanted to add my two cents.
One of my undergraduate professors was very fond of saying that a way of thinking is a way of seeing. Although he was referring to the many debates dividing literary critics, I think the maxim applies very well to the debate at hand. This post is an excellent analysis of make-up use from a broadly scientific perspective. So while an evolutionary psychologist or anthropologist may agree with you, an artistically disposed reader might argue that make-up is an avenue for personal expression. Culture plays an enormous role as well -women in working in office environments are expected to look "professional" which often carries a tacit requirement of applying discreet makeup. To present any one explanations as the definitive reason why women wear make-up would be a crude and reductionist approach to a choice which is highly personal and seems to be connected to so many areas of one's life. So while I found this post informative, I think it's important to stress that it describes only one perspective on the issue without excluding or invalidating others.
By way of a disclaimer, I should add that my views are those of an inveterate make-up lover who often leaves the house barefaced and who studied literature and biology before going to law school, resulting in an inability to generalize.

After reading some of the comments by the cosmetic enthusiasts I re-read the article and its heading several times. I can not see anything there that would raise anybodyâs hackles. Nowhere is there any denigration of cosmetics or of cosmetic enthusiasts let alone cosmetic bloggers. Nothing in the article is confrontational rather it is a well organized presentation of the current science, particularly as it relates to evolution. Much of this is not new â research in this area has a long history. Christie does a very good job of bringing together the recent findings in a coherent and comprehensive way. Good article. It was even entertaining and that, of course, is a good thing.

The acid that flows from some of the comments reminds me of my junior high-school days. You might expect emotional, irrational outbursts at that age â some, I guess, just never get past that.

Hail Eris!

There is a reason we perceive higher contrast faces as feminine. Women have paler skin than men. It's part of the vitamin D / folic acid trade off. Paler skin lets in more sun which raises vitamin D levels, but destroys folic acid. Women have a slightly different balance from men with regards to this, so they tend to have lighter skin than their brothers. My guess is that male and female lips and eyes are basically the same color, but paler female skin makes them look darker. Cosmetics further emphasize this.

As for men's attitude towards women wearing makeup, remember that "sexy" doesn't have as much to do with sex as the word seems to imply. It is more about status and attention than copulation.

My favorite makeup magazine is Allure. It's sort of like Make, but for cosmetics. It has product reviews, think pieces and do it yourself projects.

I met one guy who got into makeup because he grew up near Boston and spent all winter skating on frozen ponds. He got a job with the Ice Capades and started wearing makeup for work. They had cosmeticians, but he could do a better job putting on his own makeup. Soon, other performers were asking him to "do them" before a show. When I met him, he was the head of cosmetics at Barney's, the high end store in NYC. His next client was Queen Noor of Jordan. (I also knew a guy who got into makeup working for the CIA, but that's another story.)

A little male perspective on the whole "guys say girls look better without makeup" thing.

1. Guys are diverse. Some of us probably actually do prefer women without makeup. "consistent" is actually a pretty fair distance from "universal." I, for example, actually had some trouble grasping what you were getting at with the "photos to the right." It turns out some of us don't like watching football, too.
2. Guys are notoriously oblivious. It's not that we don't like makeup, it's just that we don't like to *notice* it. If we actually do see it, it can very quickly catapult you into the same "uncanny valley" occupied by clowns, mimes, mannequins, and corpses. It has the opposite of the intended effect.
3. Guys traditionally find themselves in the role of supportive liars. Not only don't we notice that you look fat in that dress, we know that we're not allowed to admit it even if we do. Same goes for makeup. You're pretty, full stop. So naturally you're pretty without your makeup -- prettier, even! And you'll never get us to admit otherwise. Because we don't like sleeping on the couch.

i was wondering if you could tell me what they actually put into make up that we use today?

By Rebecca Wills (not verified) on 23 May 2011 #permalink

i am in school, regular high school and we r doing venn diagrams of famous scientists and we have to compare and contrast them, if u could plzgive me like 1 or 2 names of famous makeup scienctist's for me to use in this venn diagram.. and tell me a little bit about them if possible.. thanks :D

By Kasey Marie Legg (not verified) on 10 Feb 2012 #permalink


As a fellow evolutionary biologist/graduate student, I want to say your article is BANG ON. And itâs so refreshing to see a blogger actually cite or list references, as you did. So many people post blogs or general statements in the name of âscienceâ without citing anything and expect others to just swallow it. The facts are here for others to check.

Two questions: Know of any good articles on the evolutionary origins of stage fright?

And do you have a Facebook page for people to follow your writing?