The Real Cost Of Wearing Makeup

August 6th 2015

Makeup not only costs the average woman hundreds of dollars annually, but it also consumes two weeks per year in time spent getting ready.

In a woman's lifetime, she will spend $15,000 on makeup alone, and that's not even including the amount she will spend on other female hygiene products. These numbers were reported recently by the Atlantic, which looked at the troubling "makeup tax" and why some women simply cannot escape the expectation to look beautiful every morning.

The pressure to wear makeup.

Not all women wear makeup to appear more beautiful, but there's definitely pressure to doll oneself up to attract others.

Wearing makeup is a choice, and certain women choose to wear little-to-no makeup either out of rebellion or because it takes too much time. I spend maybe three minutes applying mascara and eyeliner every morning, but that comes out to 15 minutes a week and an hour per month. It's also a pain to remove makeup every night before bed, so sometimes I just skip my makeup routine in the morning altogether. This has consequences, though, as I may look "tired" at work, and I never want to give that impression. As a female in an interactive role, this is a common worry.

"[F]or many of us, showing up at the office or a bar without at least a swipe of blush and some mascara results in a day spent being asked if we have the flu," wrote The Atlantic's Olga Khazan, who goes on to reference the hilarious recent "Inside Amy Schumer" sketch featuring a boy band, much like One Direction, that serenades Amy with the the song "Girl, You Don't Need Makeup." In theory, they accept her makeup-free, but when she takes it off, they quickly change their tune and tell her that she needs makeup after all.

The impact of makeup on a woman's career

There are mornings where I feel too lazy to look presentable before coming into the office, but again, I worry about the consequences because there's evidence that women who put more effort into their appearance do better at work. A 2006 study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that women "wearing cosmetics were perceived as healthier and more confident than when presented without." The women wearing makeup also had greater earning potential and more prestigious jobs than those who were makeup-free.

"The results suggest that women can successfully employ cosmetics to manipulate how they are assessed, which may be advantageous in social situations where women may be judged on their appearance, such as job interviews," the study reads.

A more recent study conducted by French researchers found that male patrons gave higher tips to waitresses who were wearing makeup.

Attractiveness pays in society

Another recent paper in the Journal of Economic Psychology found that attractive people received significantly higher tips than their less attractive counterparts.

“I find that attractive servers earn approximately $1,261 more per year in tips than unattractive servers,” economist Matt Parrett wrote in the study earlier this year, adding that it's not just men giving beautiful female waitresses extra cash. “The primary driver (of this dynamic) is female customers tipping attractive females more than unattractive females ... female customers tip attractive female servers approximately 3.01 percentage points more on a percentage tip basis."

All of this is consistent with the idea that attractiveness leads to more success at work.

A few years ago, economics professor Daniel Hamermesh published the book "Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful," which argues that good-looking people earn more than less attractive people. According to Hamermesh's findings, over the course of a lifetime, an attractive person will earn $230,000 more than an unattractive person. An individual with average looks will earn $140,000 more than an unattractive person.

"Better-looking workers bring in more for the employers, just as a more intelligent worker will," Hamermesh told The Wall Street Journal in 2011. "Paying them more is still a form of discrimination, but their attractiveness also tends to raise their productivity. That's what makes it so difficult."

Makeup bolsters attractiveness

Makeup is a huge part of what makes a person more attractive. A naturally beautiful woman can be made even more beautiful with mascara, eye shadow, blush, eye liner, lipstick, you name it. This upkeep, however, can dictate a woman's morning and take a hit to her wallet. But as Hamermesh noted, attractive people tend to be better for business, and many women seem to be sacrificing time and money in hopes of getting paid more at the office. Considering the current gender pay gap --- that women earn roughly 78 cents to a man's dollar --- going the extra mile to potentially earn more money is understandable.

For more on the challenges facing women in the workplace, check out this video about the gender pay gap:


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