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Makeup and Its Application Simulation Affect Women’s Self-Perceptions


Appearance modification is ancient, universal and influences other and self-perceptions. It has been rarely addressed how expectation of appearance modification would affect women’s self-perception. We analyzed self-assessments of women without makeup and after having makeup professionally applied at four increasing levels (light, moderate, heavy 1, and heavy 2 makeup). In the simulation phase, women were treated with colorless cosmetics. Fifty Brazilian women (Mage = 24.26 years; SD = 5.53) rated themselves on attractiveness, health, self-esteem, femininity, satisfaction with appearance, age, dominance, confidence, and competence in all experimental conditions. Women in the simulation phase considered themselves more feminine, healthier, and with higher self-esteem than without makeup. In the real makeup phases, these ratings were higher than in the simulation phase. Appearance satisfaction and attractiveness did not differ between simulation and the real makeup phases, both being higher than without makeup. Confidence increased only in real makeup phases, but there was no effect on competence. Thus, real appearance modification and/or an expectation thereof can differently affect specific domains of self-evaluation.

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We are grateful for English proofreading and helpful suggestions made by Prof. Catherine Salmon and valuable comments of the reviewers. We thank Vult, Natura, and FAPESP for supporting the acquisition of cosmetics and material necessary for data collection, and Anhembi Morumbi University for granting space, professors and students who were part of the study. We are also grateful to the participants and researchers who donated their time for this to become a reality.


This work was supported by the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) [Grant Number 130699/2018–7]; Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) [Grant Number 2018/16370–5]; and the Programa Unificado de Bolsas de Estudo para Apoio e Formação de Estudantes de Graduação (PUB-USP).

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NA drafted the manuscript and collected the data; AM helped in critical revision of the initial manuscript, data collection organization, and manuscript revision; RH, LS, and CS collected the data; MV contributed to study conception and design and critical revision of the initial manuscript; JM initially collected the data; and JVV helped in study conception and design, drafting of manuscript, critical revision, data analyses, and project supervision.

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Correspondence to Anthonieta Looman Mafra.

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All the authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Approval was granted by the Ethics Committee of University of São Paulo.

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Anchieta, N.M., Mafra, A.L., Hokama, R.T. et al. Makeup and Its Application Simulation Affect Women’s Self-Perceptions. Arch Sex Behav 50, 3777–3784 (2021).

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  • Self-evaluation
  • Attractiveness
  • Self-esteem
  • Cosmetic usage
  • Appearance