The Debate: To Wear Makeup or Not

The controversy is real and has raged for years.

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Is it society or the cosmetic industry, or a mixture of both, that demands women wear make-up? Good question. Although this issue has always been around, it is now in the spotlight mainly because of Alicia Keys’ decision to stop being a chameleon, at least at this point in time.

The sad truth is society demands women to wear make up. It has even been referenced as the “makeup tax.” Several surveys have pointed to the fact not wearing makeup gives off many negative feelings from both the woman not wearing makeup, as well as from the people who view her.

Women have been taught from a very young age—usually around 13—that wearing makeup makes you feel pretty and confident. Mothers teach their daughters, and the cycle continues. There may be a change coming, however, with more young women deciding they don’t need to put on a mask to face the world, although society is not readily accepting of this.


There have been several recent surveys on this topic: People view a photo of a woman without makeup in comparison to viewing her photo with make up. The majority of the viewers found the woman in the photo looked more confident, competent, likable, fun and influential; the person with makeup was even voted to look more “authentic.”

This is the where Alicia Keys’ issue lies; she didn’t feel authentic wearing makeup. Instead, she felt like she was wearing a mask or being a chameleon, far from her authentic self.

The surveys and experiments clearly show women generally feel more confident when they’re wearing makeup, as opposed to not wearing it. Is this really society’s reaction to the person not wearing makeup, or is it actually the woman’s anxiety about not wearing makeup?


There was a study conducted by Sarah Scott on four women attending Hanover College. They were asked to differentiate their makeup from what they would wear to class versus what they would wear for a night out partying. They were then told to switch makeup styles and wear what they would for a night out for class, and what they would wear for class to a night out.

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They were instructed to journal their feelings and the amount of anxiety, if any, they had in both situations. The results were quite interesting. All four participants felt more confident wearing their night out makeup than wearing class makeup.

Basically, for these women, wearing more makeup made them feel more confident. Of course, during this experiment, the women were hyper-focused on their appearance, which could have swayed their anxiety and confidence levels.

There are many similar surveys showing side-by-side photos of women without makeup versus the same women with makeup. Clearly people viewing the photos don’t have anything else to base their thoughts on other than what they perceive from the photos.

Here is a video of a woman who actually found out that her personal perception of how she feels without makeup isn’t actually how people feel about her without makeup. She learned with her own experiment she can decide for herself what makes her feel good and that people will accept her either way.

Sadly, this may not transfer into the workplace and career goals. It has been well established women are expected to wear makeup if they are to be successful. A double standard, for sure. Women’s products cost more 44% of the time.

This type of marketing is considered the “pink tax”.  If you purchase a product that is specifically designed for a woman, such as a razor, it will cost more than a man’s razor.


Women can have confidence without makeup and they can feel empowered. It has to be their mindset, but unfortunately, they will have a harder time with their careers, because society has deemed women need to look a certain way to be taken seriously. This is the standard employers look at, albeit unfairly.

Being part of a white collar environment

Women should always have a choice and should not be concerned by how they will be treated in any situation. Be strong, stand tall in your own skin and convictions. If you are looking to grow in an industry that puts a strong emphasis on appearance, you will have to decide what is in your best interest.  

Makeup is what you make of it. It is not a mask unless you perceive it as such. If it is necessary for you to wear it for your career advancement, then do so. If you enjoy wearing it, that’s fine. If you want to relax and have more time for other things than putting on makeup, that’s all good. It’s time to take a stand as women, and we should have the freedom to do what works and feels best for each of us individually. No one should judge us, women nor men.

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