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Women who wear makeup seen as more competent: study

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Easy, breezy, beautiful, trustworthy CoverGirl?

Women who wear more makeup at work are perceived as more competent, likeable and trustworthy by their colleagues, according to a new Harvard study.

The study, which was also designed by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, flashed the images of 25 women – of different races and ages and wearing different levels of makeup – to more than 250 people. The main conclusion was that people judge women who wore noticeable lip and eye makeup as more competent than their démaquillée counterparts.

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This didn't surprise the researchers, since it's commonly held that being made up helps many women feel and appear more confident. But one finding did stand out: The correlation continues even when a woman sports heavy makeup.

"If I call to mind a heavily competent woman like, say, Hillary Clinton, I don't think of a lot of makeup. Then again, she's often onstage so for all I know she is wearing a lot," Richard Russell, an assistant professor of psychology at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa, told The New York Times.

When news of the study came out, feminists took to the blogosphere quicker than it takes to put on some lip gloss and eyeliner.

Jezebel pounced, headlining their article: "Your Lack of Mascara Is A Sign Of Your Utter Incompetence."

The writers at Feministing were equally outraged.

"We already know we live in a culture where women are judged by what they look like – you don't need a multi-institution study to tell you that. Just walk down the street or into a meeting with or without makeup on," wrote Samhita. "Not only will it make a difference on how you are perceived, but most likely on how you perceive yourself. As women, we know all too well the cost of not living up to what we are supposed to look like."

Most of the indignation stemmed from the pro-makeup slant of the study. And if you're thinking that the results seem about as credible as pair of fake eyelashes, well, your intuition might be on to something.

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The study was funded by Procter & Gamble, the owners of CoverGirl, Venus razors, Olay and other women's beauty products. Will their next study find that smooth legs help women become executives?

Do you think more highly of women who wear makeup?

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About the Author

Madeleine White is the Assistant National Editor for The Globe and Mail. She has been with the Globe since 2011 and previously worked in the Globe's Video and Features departments, covering topics ranging from fitness and health to real estate to indigenous education. More

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