Why Do Women Wear Makeup?

What: TED Talk

Requirements: Your TED presentation will be delivered in a lecture hall to an audience of 25-30 people. It should incorporate all of the presentation concepts and slide design principles we’ve covered in the course, particularly a sticky idea. This presentation is not about you and your idea, it is all about your audience.

Write something your passionate about that relates to the audience. Your presentation should be understandable, memorable, and change your audience in some way. Your slides should add some adhesive to your idea.

Bottom line: Create a presentation story, with illustrations, with a sticky idea that inspires a change in thinking.

Length: 8-10 minutes.

Practice: Go to the Presentation Practice Center at least once.

Short Outline:

1. Personal story
2. Taboos
3. Egyptian Culture
4. Interviews
5. Social Expectation and experiment
6. Mentioning Professionalism and my Mission
7. Why makeup is worn a certain way–PsychologyToday article
8. Roommate mentioning Culture
9. Jake-Jamie. His Movement and Purpose
10. Makeup isn’t about femininity
11. Human nature to strive for perfection — let’s change this

Long Outline:

When I was 14, I began to wear makeup. It started as a fascination, but soon turned into something I thought I needed to be pretty because I received comments like “You would be so much more pretty if you were makeup.”

Makeup has been around for almost 6000 years and overtime it has evolved into something only girls wear, filled with multiple different taboos, suggestions, and assumptions as to why we, as women, wear makeup. Makeup shouldn’t have those traits tied to it and should be something that is genderless.

The use of makeup is something seen by society as something used purely by women, however, throughout history makeup has been commonly used by males due to their culture.

When looking at the Egyptian culture, it was not unlikely for males to wear makeup. Ancient Egyptian eye makeup had a long history in Ancient Egypt. Both men and women were using eye make as early as 4000BC. The eye make they used concentrated in providing color to their eyelashes, eyelids and eyebrows. Their favorite eye makeup was black and green. It was made from powders that were ground into a palette then mixed with water to form a paste.

Egyptians used makeup for decorative and ornamental purposes, as well as for medicinal, magical, and spiritual practices. Ancient Egyptian Physicians prescribed the use of kohl against eye diseases. Kohl, which comes from Galena, has disinfectant qualities and aids in shielding the eyes from the sun. Egyptian mothers would apply kohl to the eyes of infants soon after they were born believing its application would strengthen the child’s eyes and preventing the child from being cursed by an “evil eye” Green eye makeup was believed to induce or evoke the the eye of Horus, the God of the Sky & Sun.

I took the time to Interview my roommates and some of my friends to get opinions aside from my own as to why they started wearing makeup and why they still wear it. One said she started wearing makeup because she was self-conscious of her bad acne. As she got older and her self-confidence grew, she continued to wear makeup because she found it fun and loved feeling pretty.

Another said she started wearing makeup only because it seemed like that was expected of her. She didn’t feel like she looked any different with makeup on and therefore only wore mascara for the longest time. As time went on, she cut her hair shorter than she’d ever had it in her life. With shorter hair she felt like she had lost her femininity. She began wearing more makeup because she felt like it was a way to gain back the femininity she felt she lost. With her hair being shorter than ever, makeup was one of those tools she felt like she could turn to.

Another said she started wearing makeup to enhance her natural features. She expressed her deep belief that if you look completely different with makeup on then you do without makeup, then you are wearing too much.

After getting these different ideas about why women wear makeup, I decided to ask some of my guy friends why they thought women wore makeup. I wanted to get a diverse opinion.

One of them said he thinks women wear makeup because when they are little they see mommy and princesses do it. In addition, he says it’s a social expectation. He went on to say that regardless of how many times a guy says a girl looks pretty without makeup, girls still get asked if they are tired when they don’t wear makeup. He explained that the reason he thinks this happens is because the look of no makeup is associated with just waking up or going to bed. He thinks that if men aren’t expected to wear makeup, women shouldn’t have to wear makeup either.

Another said he thinks girls wear makeup because it makes them feel pretty and because they want to feel confident when they go out in public. Another said he feels like girls wear makeup as a mask and that it’s a social expectation.

What I found interesting about most these responses is how many times they mention social expectations. I found study after study that has proven that women who wear makeup are found more attractive by men and women alike, as opposed to women who don’t wear makeup.

In the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, there was a study done that involved 4 Caucasian women who would be evaluated by different groups. Groups were split up and presented with the women’s facial photographs either with or without makeup. Women presented wearing makeup were perceived as healthier and more confident than when presented without. Participants also awarded women wearing makeup with a greater earning potential and with more prestigious jobs than the same women without makeup.

The result of that study suggests that women can successfully use cosmetics to manipulate how they are assessed.

What makes that study so interesting to me, is thinking back to what one of my friends told me about why she thinks women wear makeup. She said it’s because it enhances our natural features and make us appear more professional. She proceeded to tell me that in her education class, that women have been told to wear makeup, so that they are taken more seriously.

I can relate to that experience in the fact that while I was on my mission, the sister missionaries were encouraged to wear makeup as well, for the same reason–so that we would be perceived as more professional and have a cleaner appearance.

The reason women wear makeup is something that’s done for a variety of reasons. This includes social expectations or personal feelings. However, let’s take a look at some of the psychology behind makeup and why we wear it a certain way. On PsychologyToday.com, I found this well-written article addressing foundation and why we use it even out are skin tone. There is a study that was done that finds that “because it evens skin tone, [it] therefore may give a stronger impression of health and symmetry[.]”

When it comes to eye makeup, it has been concluded that “women rated eye makeup as the number one product enhancing other women’s facial attractiveness […] Adults are often viewed as beautiful when they have features [similar to] young [children], including large eyes. […] exaggerated youthfulness tends to have [a] greater appeal”

When it comes to blush, “it’s because when women are most sexually viable […] or when they are aroused, they blush more easily. The application of artificial blush may mimic this [process]” and to make them more appealing.

Researching more into the psychology of makeup, I found an article on the same site, that was research backed, that addresses the way women wear makeup today. In the article, it says women target features that make sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Since women’s fertility is linked to youth and health, why not use makeup to appear youthful and healthy?

In the same article, they addressed the question of why most men don’t typically wear makeup the same way women do. They have concluded that from an evolutionary standpoint, that men have different demands when it comes to reproduction. Instead of exaggerating youth and health to showcase their fertility, men focus instead on displaying wealth or resources, which are considered potentially valuable assets for women choosing partners.

When interviewing one of my roommates, I asked her why she thought men typically don’t wear makeup anymore. She expressed that because of society, men don’t wear makeup and unless society and the way a culture sees makeup changes, then it will continue to be that way.

Today, there is a movement started by a man named Jake-Jamie. He is the author of his own blog titled “The Beauty Boy.” He believes that men should be able to use makeup openly and now men all over the world are supporting the cause on social media by using the hashtag #makeupisgenderless.

When Jake-Jamie started this #makeupisgenderless movement, he took an opportunity to explain how he got into makeup and why he started wearing it. This is what he says:

“I’m a man, and I wear makeup. Why you ask[?] Because it makes me feel good, complete, confident[,] and ready to take on the world[.] I started experimenting with makeup around the age of 19 when I began having terrible acne breakouts. It seriously knocked my confidence, so I turned to [makeup] and I have never looked back. Honestly, makeup has changed my life.”

He goes on to explain that he continues to wear makeup regardless of no longer having acne. He could see the power of makeup and how it can transform the way you look and feel. He expressed his frustration at researching products and ways to apply makeup because he could only videos by women and drag queens. He started his own channel and movement to help banish the taboo.

In a study published last year in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, researchers found that depression is two to three times more prevalent in people with acne than people with clear skin.

We already know that women can wear makeup to cover their acne and lesser this chance of depression, but men don’t have anything besides medicine and trying to use facial wash, things that could take time, if they work at all.

Male, female, gay, straight–anyone should be able to wear makeup. Straight men can wear makeup and already do. You typically don’t hear about it because they feel the need to keep things quiet due to the stigmas of society.

Acne affects more than 85 percent of teenagers, according to the study. So why should girls be the only ones allowed to have something to aid in hiding their imperfections? Little do you know, male actors have been doing the same thing for awhile.

[Slide] This photo is an example of Vince Vaughn while filming ‘True Detective.’ As you can see, he is clearly having makeup applied to his face. Because of the intense high definition filming and harsh lights, makeup is needed to make imperfections less visible while still making him look natural. This is common for actors, not just on set, but on the red carpet as well.

Bringing things back to Jake-Jamie and his movement, he said “[It] is not about Men wanting to be Feminine, it’s just about creating the best possible version of [themselves].”

Jake-Jamie knew a straight man by the name of Philip who expressed his desire to cover imperfections on his skin. Philip wanted to experiment with makeup to try and cover up the things about his skin that bothered him, but because the taboo society has placed on makeup, he stayed away from makeup. He began to notice more and more men wearing makeup and decided to finally try it out.

Phillip said:

“I definitely have more confidence wearing makeup, I used to keep it a secret but now I’ve started to open up. I was so dubious about telling people but much to my surprise, my male [friends] told me that they secretly wear a little makeup too.”

It’s in our human nature is to strive for perfection and for ways to express ourselves. Makeup will always be something that’s around regardless of whether you choose to wear it or not. Religious and prominent leaders have traditionally shaped the way makeup is perceived. Let’s try to change the perception of makeup ourselves and let’s take away the stigmas culture has placed on it to make it something genderless and less taboo.


  1. Manjoo, Farhad. “Everyone Should Wear Makeup. That Includes Men.” Slate Magazine. N.p., 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.
  2. Jake-Jamie. “ABOUT ME.” The Beauty Boy. N.p., 05 Feb. 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.
  3. Nash, Rebecca, George Fieldman, Trevor Hussey, Jean‐Luc Lévêque, and Patricia Pineau. “Cosmetics: They Influence More Than Caucasian Female Facial Attractiveness.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology. Blackwell Publishing Inc, 30 Mar. 2006. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.
  4. Ph.D., David Ludden, Gleb Tsipursky Ph.D., Jesse Marczyk Ph.D., and Robert Burriss Ph.D. “5 Research-Backed Reasons We Wear Makeup.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.
  5. “Cosmetics History and Facts.” History of Cosmetics – Origin, Invention, Facts. History of Cosmetics, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.
  6. “Tour Egypt.” Ancient Egyptian Eye Makeup. Tour Egypt, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.
  7. “Egyptian Make Up.” Egyptian Make Up. History Embalmed, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.

One thought on “Why Do Women Wear Makeup?

  1. I remember when I was 10 a girl from school dragged me into the shelter and told me to wear makeup, curl my hair, undo my top button etc. It made me feel so ugly and insecure, but I was also too insecure and inexperienced to actually do all of those things.
    I really believe now that women should do what they individually want to do, whether that be wearing makeup or not, but it’s important to be aware of the fact that society conditions us to think women are more attractive with makeup I guess.
    What I think is unacceptable is women being TOLD to wear makeup, like in the workplace and stuff. Why are our faces not acceptable without it?
    Really great and interesting post!



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