Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Is makeup mandatory in the office?

As you've seen, the change from office to work-at-home has inspired a new level of casualness in my wardrobe. But that's not all...I've also drastically changed my makeup routine from what it was just a few months ago. Which got me to makeup mandatory in the workplace?

It certainly felt like it for me. Even though I didn't start wearing makeup regularly until college (my mom wasn't so keen on it when I lived in her house as a teen), it's become a near-daily part of my life. In almost four years at my last job, I think I went to work without mascara once. I wore my ratty old glasses once, for half of a day after coming back from the optometrist (turns out I had the exact same Costco glasses as our web guy at the time...yippee).

Is makeup mandatory in the workplace?
No, as long as you still keep a professional appearance. Here's how I gauge it: I've never noticed when any of my coworkers or business contacts were not wearing makeup. I can definitely remember noticing makeup on women in the workplace (good or bad), but lack of makeup? Doesn't register. It's certainly possible that every one of my female coworkers wore makeup, but I wouldn't know the difference. And to be honest, it doesn't really matter to me. Now, if you send me an email with 20 million exclamation marks or mix up insure/ensure or aid/aide, that I'll remember. But coming to work without makeup? Whatever.

Why I wear makeup
To me, makeup is part of getting ready and putting my best face forward (literally). I don't think there's anything wrong with my un-made-up face, and I don't have any qualms about going about my day without makeup on, but it just adds a slight spring to my step when I have it on. And regardless of whether it actually affected my work, I felt that I performed better when I thought I looked better.

Now that I'm not an office everyday, I still find that I put on makeup almost everyday. But not nearly as much makeup and not nearly as consistently. It just seems to put me in the right mood and helps me smile a little wider when I know I have pretty gloss on. But I've always been a makeup girl. I like this stuff. I love that Ulta now organizes its bargain brands by item (lips, eyes, face) rather than by brand. I could spend hours there.

Do you think makeup is mandatory in the office? How do your in-office/out-of-office makeup routines differ?


  1. Timely topic, Angeline, there's a big hoopla about a study published by Proctor and Gamble, saying that make-up makes people think you're more "competent".
    Personally, I wear make-up to the office every day. But, I never want to wear so much make-up that the one time someone sees me au natural, it's distinctly noticeable. I'm with you on putting my best face forward, but I don't wear make-up if it's just not practical. I never understood the girls that touched up their make-up before gym class, or showing up to a show rehearsal with a full face. If I'm spending the day cooking and cleaning, even in the presence of family/friends, it's bare-faced for me!
    I'm interested to see the response from other commenters. It's odd that such a "little" thing tends to light such a fire among professional women (and mothers if we're being honest! Make-up wasn't the WWIII in our house, but high heels and dangly earrings sparked the arguments)

  2. I had a work-term in the winter, and tried to do the basic mascara/concealer/blush/powder routine in the mornings. Then my eyes got screwy and it became harder and harder to wear mascara (excess floaters & mucus build-up, fun!). Now, at my second workterm after being off all summer, I don't really care. I put on a little concealer most days, and gel stain for blush. And chapstick. It's a relaxed atmosphere here, so I take advantage of that.

  3. I really like your stance on this issue. I don't really ever wear makeup to the office unless I'm going to be on camera or meeting with a big "client." It makes me feel a little more confident and purposely put together at those times. Mostly I just don't worry about it though. I would rather sleep longer or not have to scrub my face at night to its makeup free state. I don't know if I would go into a job interview without some kind of makeup now but again that's more personal. I am pretty sure I never wore makeup to my first job interview and definitely not to my second either.

    My Mom is totally not interested in makeup and really not interested in clothing and heels on a day to day basis. She is beautiful and always looks great when she needs to go out but I think my sister and I are more interested in clothes because she never thought it was a big deal.

  4. I always wear makeup when I'm in my corporate office. I wear it for the same reason I use a lint roller on my clothes or make sure my clothes aren't wrinkled. It's to have a clean, professional image.

    I use makeup to get a "natural" look--brown shades on my eyelids, peachy-pink lips, lots of concealer. It's very obvious when I don't have makeup on because I have uneven skin tone and dark circles under my eyes. Maybe women who have a more flawless face can get away with not wearing makeup?

  5. article about a study that found that women who wear makeup appear more competent:

    it increases "perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness."

  6. Great topic! I generally work from home so I don't have to even get dressed haha! But when I have styling clients I feel like I have to look like I know what I am talking about so makeup is a part of that, saying that, I'm careful not to go over the top - clean, simple 'no-make-up' makeup is the best

  7. @ ashley - I hope people don't get all fired up! But it would be interesting if they did. I am with you...I don't really understand makeup at the gym or at the beach, but I do know that I've been lazy enough to not take off my makeup for an evening workout. :)

    @ neurp - I can see how that effect would be present, but I just really don't notice if people are wearing makeup or not! That probably says more about me than makeup, though.

    @ caitlin - I'm the same...usually if I know I'm not going out or if I'm just meeting up with friends, I won't wear makeup. But if I am leaving the house to meet with business contacts or do volunteer work (potential networking opportunities), I put on some concealer and blush.

  8. Make up completes me and shows i've made an effort.
    I feel like if i show up without make up it means I woke up late or did not care enough, so i try :)

  9. I just posted on my blog about that study! Interesting results it got. I wear makeup every day to work, hang out with friends, church etc. I do still have oily skin at the same time that I'm starting to fight the wrinkle fight, and I have perpetually dark under eye circles, so I echo the commenter who wondered if girls with better skin can go without makeup? I am SO JEALOUS of women with good skin.

    I do a "full face" but a natural face - mineral powder for foundation, a little blush, grays/browns on my eyelids, mascara without eye liner, and either chapstick or lipstick. Because my makeup look is so "standard" and never really changes from Monday to Friday, I get more of a confidence boost for important meetings from dressing up more than usual with my clothes and heels.

  10. I'm sorry, I can't see how that nytimes makeup article *isn't* about how society has created unrealistic correlations between beauty and competence.

    I've just been introduced to your blog and I'm interested in it thus far - but I fear that this post lacks the important statement that makeup is more than just making yourself feel good. How about asking why it makes you feel good?

    I can't justify wearing makeup to work, because to me it perpetuates the expectation that women present themselves as flawless, ageless, wrinkle-less, and therefore, in my opinion, interesting-less.

  11. It's weird to me the idea that makeup is supposed to be professional. How is drawing on your orgasm face supposed to equate to dressed-up? Weird society.

  12. It really depends on the woman! Some of my colleagues could really stand to meet a concealer/blush/lip balm, while others would just look rediculous. I can see how, for a certain type of woman, makeup might improve how others perceive her, but saying "all women MUST wear makeup (or men must NOT wear it!!!)" is a big, fat, stupid generalization.

  13. @ Lorena - Do you only wear makeup to work or other places as well? I'm curious since you say "makeup completes me."

    @ Beka - I haven't actually read the study yet (can't access the article from my computer on the NY Times website...weird). Like I mentioned before, I really don't think it is just those with good skin...I think the flaws we think we have to cover are more apparent only to ourselves and most women look perfectly fine with no makeup.

    @ anonymous - Nothing to be sorry about--this post wasn't meant to comment on the article (which I haven't been able to access or read, so I really have no comment on that yet). You pose a great question, and I can't say that I've really stepped back and thought about the why, but I can say that I often feel just as good without makeup on (which I do more and more often these days). I applaud you for taking pride in your appearance as nature intended...I wish more women would do that.

    @ anonymous - It does seem weird, right? We've fought so long and hard to be seen and recognized for our work and abilities rather than our looks, so why this holdout? Society changes come slowly, but I really hope it comes around.

  14. I really appreciate all the diverse views and opinions in these comments. Through this dialogue, I realized I've fallen into the trap of thinking that makeup = beauty, rather than holding on to the beauty we were born with. Like I said in the post, I *don't* think that makeup is mandatory to look professional, but I could definitely be setting a better example.


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