Differential Effects of Makeup on Perceived Age

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Department 1



Makeup accentuates three youth‐related visual features – skin homogeneity, facial contrast, and facial feature size. By manipulating these visual features, makeup should make faces appear younger. We tested this hypothesis in an experiment in which participants estimated the age of carefully controlled photographs of faces with and without makeup. We found that 40‐ and especially 50‐year‐old women did appear significantly younger when wearing makeup. Contrary to our hypothesis, 30‐year‐old women looked no different in age with or without makeup, while 20‐year‐old women looked older with makeup. Two further studies replicated these results, finding that makeup made middle‐aged women look younger, but made young women look older. Seeking to better understand why makeup makes young women look older, we ran a final study and found evidence that people associate makeup use with adulthood. By activating associations with adulthood, makeup may provide an upward bias on age estimations of women who are not clearly adult. We propose that makeup affects social perceptions through bottom‐up routes, by modifying visual cues such as facial contrast, facial feature size, and skin homogeneity, and also through top‐down routes, by activating social representations and norms associated with makeup use.



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